By Nauman Farooq
The Impreza name has been a vital part of Subaru’s line up since 1992, and is currently in its fifth-generation model – which was introduced for the 2017 model year.
The Impreza had always enjoyed a niche in its “compact car” category, as it was the only one to offer all-wheel drive. Now, however, Mazda and Toyota have also joined in with all-wheel drive variants of the 3 and Corolla models; so is the Impreza still impressive?
Let’s study it in more details, shall we!
Styling: For the longest time, Subaru was very much an engineers company – not a place for creative and daring designs! In fact, from their past catalogue, I can only think of one Subaru model that was drop-dead gorgeous – the SVX – and it was designed by the Italians – Giorgetto Giugiaro, to be precise.
In recent years, Subaru has shown more interest in aesthetic appeal as well, and while they haven’t nailed every single vehicle in their line up –in terms of prettiness- the fifth generation Impreza is quite smart to behold. It is a clean design, not daring by any means, but not offensive either!
It’s available currently as either a four-door sedan, or a five-door hatchback – I tested the latter.
Interior: Step inside, and things improve. Subaru’s of past used to have the most dull interiors. They worked just fine, and hardly anything ever broke, but the design and quality of the plastics left a lot to be desired.
Not so the case with the fifth-gen Impreza – open the door and you’ll see a nicely designed door card with a high-gloss finish to the power window switches and power mirror control. There is a very nicely padded armrest on the door, with similarly well padded seats – in fact, the 2019 Impreza might just have the most comfortable seats of any car in its class. Even the steering wheel looks good – thanks to some silver finish metal inserts – and the amount of buttons is just right, not overly complicated and fussy as in some vehicles.
The infotainment system is an 8.0-inch touch-screen unit, and features functionality for both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. It is a responsive unit, and a huge improvement over the units found in older Subaru models.
Now, if it just gains a controller unit on the center console – think BMW iDrive – it’ll be perfect. Huge props to Subaru for still including a CD player; while most car makers have ditched the CD player, thinking everyone uses music from their smart phones or listen to satellite radio, Subaru has not abandoned the demographic that still has a lot of CD’s in their collection. You know, it might be worth buying this Subaru just for its CD player!
But that’s not the only reason, because if you need a compact car which offers plenty of space for your family and their shopping, the Impreza is quite ideal for the job – especially if you opt for the hatchback model.
Powertrain: The only engine offered is a 2.0L horizontally-opposed (boxer) four-cylinder unit that produces 152 hp (at 6,000 rpm) and 145 lb-ft of torque (at 4,000 rpm). Power is fed through what Subaru calls a symmetrical full-time all-wheel drive system, through either a five-speed manual or a CVT automatic – my tester had the former.
Performance & Driving Dynamics: If the interior is a huge reason to consider buying an Impreza, the powertrain might be the reason you’d opt for something else!
First of all, the motor has very little torque at the bottom end, so it certainly doesn’t leap off the line like a gazelle that just spotted a lion in attack mode. In fact, the lack of performance at the bottom end can get quite annoying!
Rev the motor past 3,000 rpm and things improve, as it starts to get into its stride, and the engine feels good, but you have to work to get it up there. Also, when you’re up there, you find that the five-speed gearbox is not ideal as it revs too high at highway speeds – it needs an extra gear.
If only Subaru offered (even as an option) the turbocharged motor currently found in the WRX model, along with its six-speed manual gearbox, this Impreza would be such a wonderful car.
It certainly is wonderful in other areas, such as handling and ride quality. Subaru is known for great handling vehicles, and this is no exception. The grip is surprising – and that goes regardless of the weather. I was expecting good handling, but I wasn’t expecting a compact car to ride like a luxury car – the Impreza just glides over road imperfections. Honestly, if Subaru ever went into the luxury vehicle game to compete with the likes of Mercedes-Benz and Lexus, it’ll give their cars a run for their money, because Subaru seems to have worked out a magic formula with a suspension system that is tied to the ground for grip, but also floats like a cloud – I loved that about this car.
Fuel Economy: In my test cycle (170 km of highway driving + 130 km of city driving), I averaged 8.5 L/100 km. That’s not bad, but not the most frugal car in its class either – not by a good margin.
Pricing: The base 2019 Impreza sedan is yours from $19,995 (an additional $900 buys you the hatchback). Fully loaded, you’re looking at $31,095. My tester had a sticker of $25,395 (plus freight, PDI, and dealer fees and taxes).
Verdict: The Subaru Impreza is better than ever, and is better than most of its competition in some areas, but not all. It all comes down to what you prioritize in your vehicle. If you want comfort, space, plus excellent ride and handling characteristics, it’ll be perfect. If you want performance, just budget for a Subaru WRX and you’ll have no complaints, ever!