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2018 Subaru Impreza Review

2018 Subaru Impreza Review
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The 2018 Subaru Impreza offers all-wheel drive for all of us in a comfortable, refined, tech-savvy package.

The 2018 Subaru Impreza is a compact sedan or hatchback that ventures off the beaten path, literally and figuratively.

It's available as a sedan or hatchback, with an automatic or manual transmission, and standard all-wheel drive. Some of its competitors offer one, or more, of those things but very few offer all of those.

These compact cars boast good road manners, a comfortable, roomy interior, good fuel economy, and a superlative safety record. Only an interior that’s just average and the lack of a more powerful engine option hold the 2018 Impreza back. 

The Subaru Impreza is offered in base, Premium, Sport, and Limited trim levels, all marketed by the automaker as 2.0i in reference to their 2.0-liter flat-4 engines. After a comprehensive redesign last year, the Impreza adds headlights that turn on and off with the windshield wipers on Premium and higher trim levels.

The Impreza five-door hatchback is the basis for the brand’s popular, high-riding Crosstrek covered separately.

All versions of the Impreza use a 2.0-liter flat-4 rated at 152 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque that’s short on passing power but furnishes acceptable around-town power. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is optional. All-wheel drive, a Subaru hallmark, is standard across the line with little detriment to fuel economy. Imprezas with the CVT earn a commendable 30 mpg combined or higher, although the manual transmission is considerably thirstier, according to the EPA.

All Imprezas have a comfortable interior with good stretch out-space for outboard passengers. Hatchbacks are particularly commodious for cargo and offer a convenient roof rack that begs for a pair of mountain bikes, a kayak, or some snowboards. Even the base trim level is well-finished inside, but no Impreza’s interior design is especially imaginative. All models boast good infotainment and standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Subaru offers a suite of high-tech safety gear like automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control as optional equipment on most CVT-equipped Imprezas. Branded as EyeSight, the technology works well and is available at a lower price than in most competitors—although some rivals have started making this gear standard. We hope Subaru will follow soon.

Styling
The 2018 Subaru Impreza’s conservative exterior styling isn’t a stand-out, but it should age well.

Clean lines with minimal design flair give the 2018 Subaru Impreza a conservative look that should age well. We’ve awarded it a point above average for its attractive, if not thoroughly eye-catching, exterior. Its interior is functional and finished nicely, but not particularly interesting.

The Impreza line is offered in sedan and hatchback variants, which share styling from the front doors forward. Big headlights that sweep back into the fenders flank a low, broad grille adorned with a hint of chrome. The sedan’s rear features a tall trunk lid with upmarket LED taillights. Hatchbacks share the same design cues, but their extended roof line and extra side windows aft of the rear doors are more graceful elements.

Impreza base trims ride on chintzy hubcaps. Alloy wheels are standard on Premium and higher grades and we particularly like the 18-inchers on the Impreza Sport.

The Impreza’s symmetrical dash puts all controls up high. Wide climate system vents flank a standard 6.5-inch infotainment screen on base and Premium trim levels. A more advanced 8.0-inch system takes up the same amount of real estate on Sport and Limited trims, which also have stitched dash and door panel surfaces.

Performance
Good handling and a comfortable ride are 2018 Subaru Impreza assets, but more power would be nice.

The 2018 Subaru Impreza’s road manners are above the class average, but its flat-4 engine struggles to keep up with a full load of passengers and their gear. Overall, we’ve rated it a 5 out of 10 for its performance.

Unlike rivals with more powerful engine options, all Imprezas leave the automaker’s Lafayette, Indiana, assembly plant with the same 2.0-liter flat-4 rated at 152 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque. Those figures are on the low end for a compact sedan, although so is the Impreza’s 2,975-lb base curb weight.

The standard 5-speed manual’s shift action is ropy and its clutch engagement point takes some acclimation. The better, and far more popular, choice is the continuously variable transmission (CVT) that’s among the best of its breed. Premium and higher trim levels feature a 7-speed manual shift function that simulates a conventional transmission and all versions go into a “stepped” mode that does the same automatically under hard acceleration.
The CVT does its best to harness the naturally aspirated engine’s limited power. Around town, the CVT provides the Impreza with sprightly off-the-line acceleration and limited engine room roar into the cabin. Highway passing is another story, where the transmission pushes the engine into higher revs with little actual gain in acceleration. A hint more power and a broader torque curve would transform the Impreza and better match its balanced chassis.

The standard electric power steering provides a modicum of feedback and is weighted nicely. A fully independent suspension and the confident balance provided by the Impreza’s all-wheel-drive system combine to provide a smile-inducing experience on a twisty road. It’s the classic slow-car-fast scenario played out in a modern car.

Even more fun is the Impreza Sport with its 18-inch alloy wheels, retuned suspension, and brake torque vectoring that grabs the inside wheel’s caliper in hard turns to help the vehicle rotate more predictably for crisper, tighter cornering.

Sedans and hatchbacks handle alike, although the five-doors have a hint more road noise.

Subaru’s all-wheel-drive system is transparent in its operation, but these low-riding cars are not really intended for severe off-road use. That’s a duty better performed by the Impreza’s hiking boots-inspired Crosstrek sibling.

Comfort & Quality
The 2018 Subaru Impreza’s interior is comfortable for the long haul, especially in the popular hatchback configuration.

Utility is a prime reason consumers buy a Subaru and the 2018 Subaru Impreza is, well, impressive. The hatchback version handily outsells its sedan sibling and its 21 cubic feet of cargo space is worth a point above average. We’ve also awarded a point for the Impreza’s comfortable front seats, which brings it to a 7 out of 10 on our scale.

Base and Premium trim levels don’t wow with their interior materials, although soft-touch surfaces adorn the dashboard and front doors. Step up to the Sport and Limited and you’ll be rewarded with stitched surfaces that dress things up considerably. The Sport’s carbon fiber-like interior trim is a nice touch, too.

Whether wrapped in fabric or leather, the Impreza’s front seats offer terrific support. Unfortunately, only the Impreza Limited features a power-adjustable driver’s seat; other models settle for manual adjustment.

Row two is on the roomy side for a compact car with 36.5 inches of leg room and 37.2 inches of head room even with the optional power moonroof. Ingress and egress is particularly good through all five apertures, including the trunk or hatch lids. The sedan’s trunk is rated at a so-so 12.3 cubic feet, but the hatchback’s 20.8 cubes grow to a hefty 55.3 cubic feet when the rear seat is folded forward.

Safety
Top crash-test ratings and a wide range of advanced collision-avoidance gear help the 2018 Subaru Impreza score very well.

It’s not often that a new car aces our safety scores. The 2018 Subaru Impreza earns top marks from federal and independent testers and offers a wide range of advanced safety gear at a reasonable price.

Every version of the 2018 Impreza comes standard with a rearview camera, seven airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control. Automatic transmission Premium, Sport, and Limited trim levels can be further upgraded with the brand’s EyeSight suite of safety tech that includes adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, active lane control, and rear cross-traffic alerts.

Those features help the Impreza earn the Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS, albeit with a few asterisks. The halogen headlights on base, Premium, and Sport trim levels rate only “Marginal” compared to the “Acceptable” and “Good” scores posted by the two levels of LEDs available on the Limited.

The Impreza aces the IIHS’ most demanding tests, including a new passenger-side small-overlap frontal test that’s a requirement for this year’s top award.

The NHTSA, meanwhile, gives the Impreza a rare five-star award across the board.

Features
The 2018 Subaru Impreza is well-equipped and priced right as long as you don’t go too crazy with optional extras.

The 2018 Subaru Impreza comes standard with all-wheel drive and a bevy of convenience and technology features that don’t push its base price higher than key rivals. That’s enough for a point above average and we’ve provided another for the line’s high-quality infotainment system with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. It earns a 7. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The 2018 Impreza range starts with the base trim, which comes with power windows and locks, air conditioning, cruise control, and a 6.5-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth. That’s not decadent, but neither is a sub-$20,000 base price that undercuts most rivals.

The next step up the ladder is the Impreza Premium that adds alloy wheels, two additional audio speakers, heated seats, a subscription-based safety connectivity system that can call emergency responders if it detects a wreck, and a host of styling add-ons. The Premium trim can be upgraded with a moonroof and the automaker’s EyeSight suite of collision-avoidance tech, but only with the CVT.

The Impreza Sport is more than just a trim package. Its 18-inch wheels are joined by unique suspension and steering tuning, brake-based torque vectoring, upgraded interior trim, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment. EyeSight and a moonroof are also on the options list.

Topping the lineup, the Impreza Limited starts with the Premium’s suspension settings and throws in leather upholstery, a power driver’s seat, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, LED headlights, keyless ignition, and a few minor bits. EyeSight, a moonroof, and baked-in navigation are optional.

Every trim level can be ordered as either a sedan or, for $500 more, as a hatchback. The 5-speed manual transmission is standard on base and Sport trim levels and unavailable elsewhere. All in, the priciest Impreza runs about $29,000.

Fuel Economy
The 2018 Subaru Impreza can be very fuel efficient with the CVT.

Most versions of the 2018 Subaru Impreza are highly rated for their fuel economy, but picking the manual transmission means you’ll be stopping at a lot more gas stations.

The thriftiest 2018 Impreza is the sedan with the CVT: 28 mpg city, 38 highway, 32 combined, per the EPA. The hatchback is slightly less aerodynamic, which drops its figures to a still respectable 28/37/31 mpg.

Impreza Sports ride on 18-inch alloy wheels for better handling but also a higher rolling resistance that drops fuel economy slightly. Sedans come in at 27/36/30 mpg and hatches are rated 27/35/30 mpg.

The 5-speed manual does the Impreza no favors. The base trim level comes in at 24/32/27 mpg for the sedan and 24/31/26 mpg for the hatchback. The Sport’s bigger wheels again hurt its rating, to the tune of 23/31/26 mpg for the four-door and just 22/30/25 mpg for the hatchback.

Our advice: stick with the automatic, which works very well to keep this little engine at its brightest and its least thirsty.

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