By on May 30, 2017

2017 Subaru Impreza 5-Door, Image: © Timothy Cain

2017 Subaru Impreza 5-Door

2.0-liter flat-four, DOHC (152 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 145 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm)

Continuously variable transmission, all-wheel drive

28 city / 37 highway / 31 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

8.4 city / 6.5 highway / 7.5 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

29.4 mpg [8.0 L/100 km] (Observed)

Base Price: $19,215 (U.S) / $21,690 (Canada)

As Tested: $24,910 (U.S.) / $29,790 (Canada)

Prices include $820 destination charge in the United States and $1,695 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

There have been times when Subarus were good enough.

On top of being good enough, these Subarus were equipped with all-wheel drive as standard equipment. As a result, an increasing number of people purchased these Subarus, cars which didn’t excel in very many areas but which featured the all-wheel-drive system deemed so desirable by consumers in certain regions.

To be fair, not all Subarus were sold purely on the merits of being all-wheel-drive cars that were merely good enough in other ways. Forester XTs and WRXs, for example, weren’t simply decent AWD vehicles. Setting aside its desirable AWD system, the Subaru Outback has long been a high-riding wagon in a world largely devoid of high-riding wagons. Subarus have often been blessed with impressive crash test results, as well.

But was the Subaru Impreza — not only way back in first-generation form but even in its fourth iteration from 2011-2016 — an attractive proposition if not for its AWD appeal? Sure, it was good enough, but not by much.

Yet as of the 2017 Subaru Impreza’s launch, as of the arrival of this fifth-generation Impreza, the Subaru Impreza is finally strong enough to stand on its own two feet. Albeit still with four driven wheels.

There’s a powerful sense of change as soon as your left arm relaxes on the driver’s door cushion. Stricken in the past with all the textural delicacy of aisle 7 at Lowe’s, this 2017 Impreza’s armrest is a veritable pillow.

2017 Subaru Impreza Hatchback, Image: © Timothy Cain

It’s not just the soft touch materials that serve to upgrade the Impreza’s interior. The infotainment cluster is straightforward and swift. The HVAC system is controlled with chunky climate buttons that offer pleasant resistance.

The feature count isn’t short, either. For less than $25,000, the hatchback Impreza includes a sunroof, heated seats, and Subaru’s EyeSight package, which includes adaptive cruise, pre-collision braking, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist.

Quite naturally, the huge leap forward in interior quality is joined to a commensurate increase in overall refinement. The 2017 Impreza is not a Lexus-like cocoon of silence; it’s likely not even the quietest car in its class. But the absence of road hum, traditional flat-four burble, wind noise, and vibration in the cabin means the Impreza is no longer a comparatively unrefined laggard in America’s compact car segment.

2017 Subaru Impreza Hatchback, Image: © Timothy Cain

Pair the interior upgrades to the major reduction in NVH to the properly comfortable rough-road ride quality and the fifth-gen Impreza begins to make more sense as a genuine rival for class leaders. So stiff is the structure that Subaru seemingly did not struggle to build a car that could both absorb the worst of a coastal Nova Scotian road and rash mid-corner inputs. Even the steering is quick enough, though there’s a gummy feel that strictly limits communication.

Speaking of a loss of communication, the Subaru Canada-supplied tester that came our way (in Canada-spec “Sport With Technology Package” guise) linked Subaru’s 152-horsepower 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder to a continuously variable transmission.

Subaru USA’s mid-grade Premium trim and top-spec Limited Imprezas aren’t available with the five-speed manual — that’s reserved for base and Sport models.

2017 Subaru Impreza interior, Image: © Timothy Cain

Continuously variable transmissions in 2017 are typically far less offensive than they once were, and this Impreza’s CVT is a fair example of improvement. There are nevertheless moments when the Impreza’s tachometer sustains an annoying rpm for an annoying period of time, annoyingly.

More than sapping power, the CVT stands in the way because it saps charm. The new 2017 Subaru Impreza has what it takes to be a fun car to drive. But with modest power and this transmission, it’s merely mature.

Mature? That’s enough for most car buyers. Most car buyers will be more likely to take note of a spacious cabin, a large cargo area, and decent affordability rather than CVT-limiting fun. At 97.5 cubic feet with the sunroof, the Impreza is 3-percent larger inside than the Honda Civic Hatchback and 4-percent larger than the Volkswagen Golf. It’s bigger than the hatchback versions of the Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Kia Forte, Mazda 3, and Toyota Corolla, too. And while the Impreza’s cargo hold isn’t technically as large as some of its main hatchback rivals, the aperture that leads into that cargo is vast.

With power being sent to all four wheels, fuel economy isn’t up to the standards of the class leader. The CVT-equipped 2017 Impreza 5-Door is rated at 28 miles per gallon city; 37 highway, 31 combined at best. Honda’s more powerful Civic Hatchback is an EPA-rated 34-mpg car, combined.

2017 Subaru Impreza 5-Door, Image: © Timothy Cain

Yet in the 2017 Subaru Impreza’s world, do competitors and class leaders matter? Not only do the Impreza’s supposedly direct rivals not come standard with all-wheel drive, the core versions of the Civic, Corolla, Cruze, Focus, Forte, Golf, and 3 don’t even offer all-wheel drive.

To many, it’s a component set unnecessary across much of America; a feature deemed frivolous by legions of winter drivers who prefer to invest in a good set of Bridgestone Blizzaks. But that doesn’t change the fact that Subaru has marketed Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive so successfully that — unnecessary or not — all-wheel drive is now broadly appraised as expedient.

Sure, the 2017 Impreza doesn’t offer the ride and handling balance of the Volkswagen Golf, the communicative nature of the Mazda 3, the built-in popularity of the Honda Civic, the reputation of the Toyota Corolla, or the value card of the Kia Forte. Unlike the situation enjoyed by the Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze, there’s not a Subaru dealer on every corner, either.

But the 2017 Subaru Impreza is now better than good enough. Consequently, while U.S. sales of passenger cars continue to slide, Subaru is on track to sell more Imprezas than ever before.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net and a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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45 Comments on “2017 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Premium 5-Door Review – Not Just Competitive Because There Are Four Driven Wheels...”


  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    Subaru says the latest 2-liter engine, introduced for this model year, has had 40 percent of its parts updated. It offers only a bit more power than the older version, which itself was a rather coarse and peaky powerplant. Were you able to notice any improvement with the engine in this car? Revability? Smoothness? Improved torque curve, perhaps?

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      There’s less typical Subaru noise and an overall increase in refinement. Still not a quick car by class standards but not underpowered in 98% of scenarios. Biggest difference: the last one didn’t sound or feel like something in which you’d want to accelerate. This car doesn’t give that sensation.

      • 0 avatar
        mshenzi

        I’ve had one for about 3 months now, and agree with Tim’s description of the driveline. I wish it had another 20-30 hp, and REALLY wish the WRX had migrated onto this chassis right away. But the underpinnings of it are a whole different animal from past Imprezas– I like the way it turns in and its stiffness keeps it very composed when you toss it around. The interior is a vast upgrade from earlier ones, too. I never found the pre-2017 Imprezas competitive against their peer set, but chose this one after taking my time to shop lots of options.

        Quibbles: the Eyesight system on mine has gotten spooked by conditions a few times, seeing a mix of bright light/shadow/leaves as an obstacle to warn you about, or being unable to read conditions in rain/fog and therefore turning itself off for a few minutes. The main optional audio, an HK system, sounds OK not great, (there’s a fancier one available as a dealer installed option if you haven’t already got the package that includes the HK). And the interior noise is better than before, but as the weeks turn into months I notice the noise level more.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Every 5 years or so, Subaru comes out and says, “we have fixed our leaky engines”. And yet, they come back leaky again and again. Although, they might move leak timing little farther.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    And then comes Consumer reports and busts Impreza as worst used car pick for 7-12 year old cars. It gives it bad reliability. Interestingly enough, Crosstrek reliability is highly rated.

    • 0 avatar
      djsyndrome

      Because no Crosstrek is seven years old yet?

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Bingo. Impreza data probably has historic EJ25 engine troubles lumped in, Crosstrek has only existed with an FB series engine. Time will tell how they hold up. The first few years exacerbated the oil-usage tendencies of boxer engines with 0W20 oil and low tension rings, seems that they’ve resolved that (?).

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        Not exactly. Even relatively recent Imprezas it says have issues with 7 and over years old being worst compact used cars. In fact, Crosstrek has 4 years with all green and Impreza has some red and a lot of yellow in last 2 years.

        I agree with CR on long term reliability. Any Subaru is not a great pick for long haul. If I bought one, I would get rid of it in 6 years.

        • 0 avatar
          djsyndrome

          Does Impreza include WRX and STI? Up until 2015 WRX was usually lumped in w/ Impreza

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          “Crosstrek has 4 years with all green and Impreza has some red and a lot of yellow in last 2 years.”

          Must be some kind of self-reporting bias then (Crosstrek owners loving their cars so much nothing could possibly bother them?).

          “If I bought one, I would get rid of it in 6 years.”

          This is a pretty sound strategy IMO. Their super strong resale value makes it a very viable one.

  • avatar
    carlisle

    CVTs. The bane of all potentially decent cars.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Subaru stays on my radar because of the “be there come heck or high water” nature of my contract.

    I still keep wishing for a 6th gear in the manuals but I know the’d likely give it the same ratio as the current 5th.

    • 0 avatar
      VW4motion

      FYI,
      Wife and I have a 2017 Forester 2.5i. We have been averaging about 29 mpg around town and our last trip to Yellowstone from SLC we averaged 35.7 mpg. I was not trying to get high mpg. Had the cruise set at 85 a few times. As to be expected the vehicle is new with only 8000 miles and have not had one issue.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenn

      “I still keep wishing for a 6th gear in the manuals…”

      The 2018 Crosstrek will come with a 6-speed manual as standard equipment on Base and Premium trim levels (in the U.S., at least). We’ll have to wait and see what gear ratios have been chosen.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I think Subaru did a commendable job. I’m already seeing these new ones around town.

    I am also seeing a disproportionate number of brand-new Jettas and non-GTI / R Golfs. So maybe VW is on the upswing, too?

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Sounds quite promising. Typical of most Subarus, the powertrain is the least appealing aspect of the car. Unfortunately, that is a major component.

    The previous generation has recently been dumped on, but it made some large leaps over the 2010 Impreza in the areas of interior volume, interior quality, and fuel economy. The 2010 was a very poor car from my view, the 2011 became something worth considering.

  • avatar
    7402

    The Impreza is a good deal for what it is. For buyers who can cough up an additional $4,200 (a sizable leap in terms of percentage, I realize), the Forester is MUCH more car. The real buyer error is springing for the Crosstek, basically a lifted Impreza with cladding, for an additional $3,300; those buyers are better off going for the Forester.

    • 0 avatar
      djsyndrome

      Why stop there? The Outback is far better than both and only a few bucks more.

      People shopping the Impreza are usually doing so based on price. If they had 20% more to spend on a larger vehicle, they would.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        People buy compacts for a reason. They are easy to drive nimble creatures, besides being cheaper and more fuel efficient.

        • 0 avatar
          mshenzi

          Ditto what Slavuta says. When I bought the Impreza I wasn’t looking to get into something bigger. I’d have preferred it to be a few inches shorter, in truth. I’ve driven Outback and Forester recently, and find the new Impreza lots more nimble, fun and engaging to drive, despite being down on power. The WRX they’ll eventually build on this platform should be a hoot.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      $4200 is huge and as a CUV rather than low-slung hatchback, the Forester is a different type of vehicle. The spacing in price between Impreza, Forester, and Outback seems proportional and about right.

      I agree on the Crosstrek, it’s priced so close to the Forester I don’t understand how they move so many. Subaru apparently did its homework. On paper the Forester seems like a no-brainer given the modest upcharge, but I’m wondering if a lot of it is image–the Crosstrek is new and looks less stodgy than the Forester with its 20-year old nameplate and comes in happy extroverted colors. I’d hazard a guess that the mean age of Crosstrek buyer is notably lower than the Forester.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      There is a huge difference in consumer reports ratings between Impreza and Crosstrek. And Impreza is on loosing side.

  • avatar
    5280thinair

    My wife has a 2nd generation Impreza with the 2.5L. Gas mileage is really pretty poor for that size of car, so I understand why Subaru went to the 2.0L some time ago, but the loss of horsepower and torque is an issue that would argue against us replacing her car with the current Impreza. As others have mentioned, a 6-speed manual with a higher top gear is really needed too.

    And for the “forget AWD, just get some snow tires” brigade, having both is really useful in some situations. Some years ago we ended up crossing southern Utah in a near blizzard in that car with snow tires on, and on uphill stretches we were by far the fastest vehicle out there. FWD cars with snow tires who did fine on flatter sections struggled with traction in the steeper grades while we shot right past them.

    • 0 avatar
      statikboy

      I had that exact experience in BC/Alberta Rockies a few months ago but in my case driving a ’97 Civic with Blizzaks and some unknown power-sapping issue. So YdrivetrainMMV. Likely the people you and I were passing just thought we were idiots for driving so fast in those conditions.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatic

      That’s why I only drive rwd cars with snow tires.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    The Crosstrek seems to be the unofficial state car here in Northern Michigan. We do get a good amount of snow and have slippery roads for a solid 5 months of the year. The weather, low average incomes relative to other parts of the country, and Subaru’s relatively low prices do seem like a winning combination if one is a Subaru dealer.

    Their resale values are off the hook, too. I’ve twice had friends opt for new Foresters or Imprezas over used examples because they were actually CHEAPER than asking prices at local lots. Seriously. I don’t get it. But I go the FWD with dedicated winter tires and do just fine, so what do I know.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      The Impreza residuals are about 10% less than a Forester or about 53% after 3 years. Loosing half its value in 3 years is not very good, but the Subaru named it would be poor.

      Funny how Toyota could have good residuals on a Avalon and people think the sister car from Lexus must also be good?

  • avatar
    make_light

    The 08-11 Impreza interiors were so bad, inexcusable even, that the next generation felt like a luxury car in comparison. I’m glad this model continues in that direction.
    My Forester XT lease is up next year, and I’ve considered downsizing to this Impreza. But the cost becomes silly at the upper end of the model range. A loaded ’17 Impreza (leather, eyesight, nav, premium sound) comes in just under $30k. For that price, you can get a new CX-5 also well-equipped, only missing the driver nannies (which I don’t care about anyway). You may lose the Eyesight, but the CX-5 seems notably more spacious, refined, powerful, and stylish. It makes a loaded Impreza a tough sell.

    • 0 avatar
      djsyndrome

      In contrast, when we moved from our ’08 Impreza to our ’14 Forester (same interior as 4th gen Impreza), we felt it was a step backwards in interior quality. Seat fabrics were scratchier, lower dash scuffed way more easily, gauges harder to read, no gated shifter.

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      I chose my CX-5 over an XT Forester. Aside from window height, power and sunroof, the XT lost most other comparison points.

      As for the Imprezza, it’s on my list as a potential car for my daughter in 2 years.

    • 0 avatar
      mshenzi

      Without trying hard, I was able to get a fully loaded, top-trim, ’17 Impreza for nearly $2K off that sticker. It’s a softening market, even for Subaru.

      CX-5 seems rather nice if you want (or don’t mind) the extra size, but bigger for the sake of value can become a trap if you don’t actually want bigger.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    English, please.

    The proper usage is simple:

    “2017 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Premium 5-Door Review – Not Competitive Just Because There Are Four Driven Wheels…”

    But while better, that’s still not great. A good writer knows when to reword things.

    “Subaru Impreza – Being Competitive Takes More Than Just Four Driven Wheels”

    There.

    Communication. It’s important.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    “Continuously variable transmissions in 2017 are typically far less offensive than they once were…”

    Is that codeword for “well, they’re coming from everyone no matter what we do, so we can’t really talk smack about them anymore if we want to keep review units coming”?

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      It’s where the market is headed if not quite fully arrived. Truthfully I’m not sure what the public lamenting is about. It took a day or so to learn not to expect shift points in my Outback.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve Biro

        I have to agree. You learn how to work the CVT in about a week and don’t think about it anymore. Early CVTs could be miserable. Today, one can generally lump complaints into the “I’m not used to this so I don’t like it” category.

    • 0 avatar
      syncro87

      We have owned a couple of CVT cars, and I used to be a hater.

      My take is that the CVT does pretty well when you pair it with an engine with some power. Wife’s turbo Civic, for instance, the CVT is pretty transparent.

      Our 2014 non turbo Civic, though, was painful with the CVT. The little engine was too weak, and it exacerbated the bad qualities of the CVT.

      The turbo Subarus do a lot better than the NA ones with the CVT, as well, in my opinion.

      Crosstrek, for instance…painful. Feels very slow, CVT keeps revs up, not a good feel from the driver’s seat. Throw 30 more horsepower at that car, it would be fine.

      I drove an Accord with CVT, it wasn’t bad. Larger engine than our old Civic.

  • avatar
    brettc

    I like the design of this generation, but Subaru really needs to address the lack of power. Although it seems most Subaru drivers don’t care about acceleration based on my experiences behind Subarus on every on-ramp…

    Too bad you can’t get a WRX hatch any longer. For about the same money as the Impreza you can get a Golf wagon with more power, 4Motion and a 6 speed manual if desired.

    Reliability is a concern too. A friend just had to have the short block replaced on her 2014 Forester due to high oil consumption. She just bought it used in December of 2016.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Our 2012 was a oil burner, blue puff and piston slap on cold start too! We traded it on a 2015 Terrain SLT AWD and the wife it is her best car ever!

      Within a year received the class action suit letter for reimbursement of repairs or oil used!

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      Remember the old Impreza GT? WRX powerplant in a standard Impreza hatch with a four-speed automatic. It was a surprisngly good package. They should do something like that again… maybe as an option limited to the Sport trim. Heck, I’d even settle for the 2.5-liter NA engine.

  • avatar

    Theoretically, the B&B should LOVE this car. This car is the only type of vehicle that keeps CUVs off the streets (note: I have no issues with CUVs, but many here get quite vitriolic about them). Here in Montreal I’m already seeing many of the NG Imprezas, mostly in hatchback form, because it’s one of the few vehicles that you can buy that theoretically does most of what a CUV does (in terms of shape and space, winter-going capability) while still having the dynamics and price tag of a car).

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Dear Subaru,
    WRX THIS!

    • 0 avatar
      JDM

      05lgt, I agree.

      I own a ’15 Forester XT. I love the power and handling. It’s the first CVT transmission car I’ve owned and I think the Subaru CVT transmission works great for what I use it for, commuting and getting around in the snow. I’ve never use the paddle shifters. The infotainment/navigation center sucks. As does the tailgate.

      My 3 year lease is up this fall and I’ll probably turn the car in and purchase the new 2018 Crosstrek. I really don’t need a car the size of the Forester, and I really want to have a vehicle with Apple CarPlay. The Forester won’t have Apple Car Play for another year or two.

      I have EyeSight. It’s not perfect, but I think it’s better than nothing. And it doesn’t take long to figure out what it’s good at and what it’s not good at.

      No problems with oil consumption.

      There is something about Subaru’s that nobody talks about. And that is its bullet proof AWD system. While lot’s of folks complain about oil consumption and head gaskets, nobody seems to have problems with it’s AWD system. It routinely beats all other AWD systems in tests and seems to last the life of the car. What’s not to love about that?

      BTW, my other car is a Porsche Cayman S, 6 speed. So I’m aware what great handling,shifting and reliability are all about.

      The best part is that I’m a single guy and can drive any car I want. No need to get a wife approved car. That would really suck.

  • avatar
    syncro87

    I test drove this car. My conclusion was that it is pretty good, and about 30 horsepower shy of being really good to great. As the power train stands, it ranks pretty good on my arbitrary syncro scale.

    I live in a pretty flat area, and it felt just adequate. I think it would feel under powered in hilly terrain or at higher elevation than where I live (1,000ft).


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