When people ask us what’s “in” this year, we have an answer: Premium.
It seems like these things cycle through. One year, it’s performance, the next – gadgets. Safety and autonomous tech are going to be with us now for the foreseeable future.
But this year – especially in smaller vehicles – carmakers are pumping up the quietness, the tech, and the high quality goods. And with so many buyers fleeing to small crossovers, this makes sense.
If you can’t compete with the versatility, you compete with feel-good of an upscale drive.
And next in line for the primo treatment – the all-new Subaru Impreza. So does it take one giant leap for Subie kind?
Well, on the outside, there’s plenty of sizzle. The first thing you notice is that it looks more substantial – riding on a 1-inch longer wheelbase, and filling out the new sheetmetal it’s 1.6-inch longer, 1.5-inch wider and 0.4-inch lower. It also has a more aggressive look that Subie says is the debut of its new design language, with a signature hexagonal grille and hawk-eye headlights.
Being a Limited model, our Crimson Red Pearl tester got some added eye candy with handsome 17-inch alloy wheels, LED steering-responsive headlights and fog lights. It all adds up to a good-looking piece – not ground breaking, but very tasteful.
We should also mention that although our tester was a 4-door sedan, the Impreza continues to be offered in a 5- door hatchback as well. (A bodystyle they stopped on the last WRX).
Given the Impreza’s standard all-wheel-drive and reputation for light off-road capability, we’d probably opt for the hatch for its added versatility – an excellent alternative to a small crossover.
Other than that added hatchfull of usefulness, the cars are identical, so we didn’t feel like we were missing out.
Inside, this is the nicest Impreza ever.
Ok that may not sound like much, as the entry-level was never notable for a flashy interior – but that Premium mantra is totally noticeable here. This is as nice as any vehicle it competes with. The new platform it rides on gives immediate benefits – the Impreza has the largest interior volume in its class – and it does feel spacious.
It also feels luxurious. Our Limited tester goes out of its way to win you over, with goodies like leather trimmed upholstery (ours an attractive but probably a bear to keep clean Ivory), faux carbon-fiber trim, dash panel with silver stitching, 2-stage heated front seats, auto climate control and an 8-inch Starlink Multimedia plus display- which runs Apple CarPlay, a must have for today’s tech savvy buyers.
Our tester also had the optional sweet-sounding 8-speaker, 432-watt Harmon Kardon audio system.
When it comes to information, you’re spoiled for choice – there’s a small display above the multi-media center that feeds you trip computer, weather, audio, even degree incline – but it really comes into it’s own when your using Subie’s excellent EyeSight driver assist technology – more on that later.
Overall, you feel like you’re surrounded by good stuff – with quality soft-touch materials, and a look like someone sweated the details when they put the Impreza together.
Premium describes the drive as well.
The new chassis is notably solid, and the Impreza impresses immediately with its quiet, comfortable ride. Throw it into a corner, and the all-wheel drive fills you with confidence, feeling stable and buttoned down, with loads of grip, and a nice weighted feel to the steering. Very German, in fact.
Subaru has long been touting all wheel drive as the way to go – even if you don’t live in snow country or go off-road – and it really makes the Impreza feel a solid step above its front wheel drive competition.
The engine is Subaru’s familiar boxer 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine, producing 152 horsepower. It’s torquey and responsive in the day-to-day, while the CVT automatic does an excellent job of imitating a traditional automatic. Most competitors offer more power in their upper trim models, and we’re hoping that Subaru will follow suit in give us a model with more juice.
So, if you were looking for a bargain basement WRX, you might be disappointed. We would at least point out that there is a Sport model with torque vectoring that would probably amp up the fun factor a bit, but you get the feeling that wasn’t Subaru’s priority.
Along with that quality feel, the Subie feels exceptionally safe.
A big part of that has to do with the optional EyeSight driver assist technology package, which includes Adaptive Cruise, Automatic Pre-collision Braking, Lane Departure and Lane Keep Assist, Blind Spot Detection and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. It all works flawlessly – this is the car you’d want to have a family member driving.
Neat stuff included the small display above the navi screen that shows when the Impreza locks its radar on the car ahead, adjusts its distance, and even lights up the brake lights on your virtual Impreza as it hits the binders as needed. Fun!
The system also works great in traffic, and if the car ahead of you comes to a stop, so do you. Once the traffic moves again, a tap on the cruise control button and the Subie takes off up to your preset speed.
The Impreza hasn’t forgotten about its affordable roots, however. The basic 2.0i sedan starts at $18,495 (the 5-door hatch goes for $500 more), and includes all wheel drive, rear vision camera, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Premium model rings in at $21,295 and adds notable goods including alloy wheels and EyeSight and Starlink Safety systems.
The Sport model caught our eye, with handsome 18-inch alloys, torque-vectoring system, and body-color rocker spoilers. As enthusiasts, a Sport model with manual transmission would be the ticket. Yours for $22,095.
Our 2.0i Limited Sedan started at $24,095, and was loaded to the gills with EyeSight, Navigation, Harmon Kardon audio, and Moonroof and totaled out at $28,760. Which strikes us as excellent value, for a vehicle that might sway you away from the baby Audi and Mercedes offering.
And we also might add that Subaru’s are at the very top of their class when it comes to holding resale value.
The new Impreza is a much improved car in the areas that needed it, while still keeping that loveable Subish-ness that makes it so adored by its owners.
So are we Imprezzed? You bet.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.