Review: 2017 Subaru Impreza is more brains than brawn
The new 2017 Subaru Impreza was unveiled at the New York International Auto Show in 2016 before entering production shortly afterwards. The Impreza made a solid first impression on us during a product launch in California last year, but recently we had the chance to get properly acquainted by spending a full week (and several hundred miles) behind the wheel.
The Impreza is Subaru's "bread and butter" vehicle, sitting at the lower end of the company's lineup, and built upon the modular Subaru Global Platform (SGP) that will underpin all future Subaru models.
The good news is that, for what it is, the 2017 Impreza definitely impresses. It's confident, quieter, and has a wealth of safety technology included. Tempering that, though, is a lackluster engine and not so impressive interior.
The Impreza is all new for 2017 and that means lots of changes. The most telling is the car's new platform design, which is wider and longer than the previous generation. This both improves interior roominess and the vehicle's drive dynamics. Subaru kept the sedan and wagon body options, which we are grateful for, and has upgraded the engine to produce more power in order to accommodate the slightly heavier build.
The engine is a 2.0-liter boxer-style four-cylinder that outputs 152 horsepower (113 kW) and 145 foot pounds (197 Nm) of torque. All-wheel drive is standard through either a five-speed manual transmission or an automated continuously variable transmission (CVT). The EPA rates this engine with the CVT at 28 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway (8.4 and 6.2 l/100km). The manual transmission gets slightly lower MPG returns (24 and 32 mpg, 9.8 and 7.4 l/100km). Our real-world time in the CVT model gave similar results to the EPA, with a 32 mpg (7.3 l/100km) overall return.
What wasn't as impressive was the engine's output in some driving situations. During regular around-town driving, the 2017 Impreza does well with good acceleration and great maneuverability. Getting up to freeway speeds can seem like a bit of a strain for the engine, especially if the on-ramp doesn't have plenty of space for acceleration. Once at freeway speeds, the transmission tended to complain when urged to pass another vehicle. Previous generations of the Impreza have had these same issues, so repeat buyers are not likely to be phased by this downside. Still, competing compacts are often underpowered (e.g. Nissan Versa), though much sportier options are out there too (e.g. Ford Fiesta). It's also worth noting that only the Impreza is offered with AWD in this segment.
Off the pavement, and in inclement weather, the 2017 Subaru Impreza lives up to the automaker's reputation as a confident drive. Adding to this is a much-improved chassis that stays erect and smooth in hard cornering and long sweepers. Those confidence builders are a big reason many people love Subaru vehicles, and the Impreza keeps that firmly in place.
The interior of the 2017 Impreza is well-designed, but continues with the Subaru brand's penchant for less impressive materials and monochrome color schemes – hard plastics and plain surfaces abound. Instrumentation is well-placed and easy to read, though, and buttons and controls are easy to find and use, and seating is comfortable enough. In short: it's adequate, not stellar.
Knowing that, we were impressed with how roomy the front seating of the 2017 Impreza is. Tall folks and those with long legs will likely find it one of the better choices in the compact class for head and legroom. The rear seating is less accommodating, but still adult-sized and useful. Longer-legged adults will not be as happy back there, of course, but headroom remains very good for the class. The rear seats gained the most from the Impreza's slight upsizing with this new generation.
Cargo space is also good, though nowhere near best-in-class. The sedan sports only 12.4 cubic feet of storage in its trunk, which is less than the top three segment sellers. The hatchback is much more useful for cargo, but also falls short of some competitors for space. It does have a slightly higher loading height, which makes it easier for most adults to utilize that space.
Parents will be impressed with the 2017 Impreza's child safety features. Installing child safety seats, whether using the LATCH system or seat belts, is very easy in this new Impreza. LATCH anchor points are just behind velcro-covered ports and are forward, so no "lean and press" is required to shove the seat into its locks. Over-seat anchors are easily accessed for seat belted seats and the seat belt receivers are spaced wide, so struggling around a safety or booster seat is not required. Kudos to Subaru for making this a priority.
On the technology front, the 2017 Subaru Impreza is unusually high-tech for the segment. The Impreza comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for its infotainment. The touchscreen interface is mostly well-executed, with easy-to-use menus and good connectivity.
Driver aids are where Subaru's technological prowess really shines, though, and the Impreza can be optioned with just about anything. Adaptive cruise control and advanced safety technologies are included with the EyeSight system upgrade and do very well for themselves. Subaru's system is one of the best in the business and now adds lane keeping assist as part of the package.
These and other included safety technologies are in keeping with Subaru's reputation for high safety marks, which are reflected in crash test results. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rates the 2017 Impreza with a 5-Star overall rating and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Impreza its best "Top Safety Pick+" score.
In all, we were impressed with the 2017 Subaru Impreza. The base price for the car is US$18,395 and a well-outfitted Impreza Premium like our test model can be had for US$22,000.
Product Page: 2017 Subaru Impreza