By on February 2, 2017

2017 Subaru Impreza Sport Exterior, Image: Subaru

2017 Subaru Impreza

2.0-liter BOXER four-cylinder, direct injection, Dual AVCS (152 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 145 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm)

Five-speed manual w/ all-wheel drive, continuously variable transmission optional

22-28 city / 30-38 highway / 25-32 combined (EPA Rating, MPG, Trim/Transmission Dependent)

Base Price: $19,215*

As Tested: Premium Sedan – $24,410*; Sport Hatchback – $27,060*

* Prices include $820 delivery charge.

The Impreza has been the oddball of the economy car bunch since its inception, so it’s fitting that Subaru launched the next-generation compact at the unique and peculiar Pantai Inn in La Jolla, California.

The Pantai Inn features rooms decorated with Balinese art and other luxurious features, but those rooms lack some basics, such as digital TV reception and usable electrical outlets. Old Imprezas were similar to the Pantai Inn, with high-value features like all-wheel drive provided as standard, yet missed some staples — like fuel economy.

But this is a different Subaru, and an even more different Impreza, which the company has transformed thanks to its new Subaru Global Platform. The new car is more Kimpton than Pantai, as it still retains unique characteristics — like the aforementioned all-wheel drive — but refocuses on mainline amenities, such as fuel economy and comfort. Additionally, the new platform brings a significant change to how the Impreza drives, which provides a nice preview of what’s to come for the rest of the automaker’s lineup.

Styling cues are more reminiscent of the Impreza’s competitors and less of Imprezas of generations past. That’s no mistake. Subaru is pushing the Impreza into the mainstream — and successfully so. Sales have tripled since the Impreza’s departure from the “bugeye” generation in the early 2000s.

2017 Subaru Impreza driving, Image: Subaru

The new platform fits in well with Subaru’s new mainstream goals, as it provides a foundation for the hybrid and EV powertrains Subaru needs to survive upcoming CAFE requirements (if they happen) and to keep sales growing. Changes from the new platform are clear in the Impreza’s longer wheelbase and a longer, wider body, providing more room in the cabin.

The chassis is now 70-percent stiffer, says Subaru, which was evident after tackling the first corner. These changes come by way of improvements to how the chassis is formed, along with better connections between the subframes and the body. The new platform also brings with it a new crash structure that improves energy absorption by 40 percent.

Front sheetmetal is familiar, an evolution of the current model, and the Impreza’s sides are more prominent and sculpted while the rear takes on a shape that is a bit more generic. The taillights spread out to the trunk and take on an appearance you could easily mistake for a Camry or Accord. This part is no mistake, as Subaru is looking to keep its current sales march going; taking on a rear end look that wouldn’t be out-of-place on a Camry is sure to help.

Inside, improved materials abound while a new center stack layout makes better use of the space available. Infotainment, available in 6.5- and 8-inch screen sizes, is higher up the dash and pushes the previously top-mounted vents off to the sides. Those vents offer better airflow than the earlier Impreza and the upgraded HVAC system appears to have fixed one of my biggest gripes — a noisy blower motor. The new motor is better insulated and provides for a more comfortable experience when running at full blast.

2017 Subaru Impreza Base Interior, Image: Subaru

Quarter windows are still present and, along with thin A-pillars, continue to offer an open and airy experience. The third brake light has been moved from the package tray to the top of the rear window, which opens up more visibility when looking back. The Premium trim we tested was very plain on the inside, with lots of black in immediate view and beige on the upper pillar trim and headliner. The dash felt right for the class, but the center console felt harsh and scratchy. The Sport trim was better, with some red accents thrown in on most panels and red stitching marrying the seat fabrics.

2017 Subaru Impreza Sport Interior, Image: Subaru

Seats were comfortable in all models and the expanded center console offered midsize sedan utility without cutting into knee room. Rear seat leg and head room are plentiful, even for someone of my 6’2″ stature. Higher trim levels offer keyless ignition with push-button start — a nice convenience, surely — but instead of producing a unique steering wheel trim panel for these models, Subaru decided to create a plug to go over the space where the ignition cylinder resides on the lower trim models. It stands out and looks a bit tacky.

2017 Subaru Impreza Steering Wheel Trim, Image: © 2016 Bozi Tatarevic

My other gripe with most Subaru models is Starlink. The system in my WRX is slow and likes to lock up every so often. It appears Subaru has finally gotten the message and improved all the systems. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all trims. Even the base 6.5-inch unit is faster and better looking than any of the current Starlink solutions. A larger, optional Harman Kardon unit is nicely designed and produces better sound, but I don’t personally find value in the upgrade.

Eyesight is available on all models minus the base 2.0i trim, and worked well in our test. Adaptive cruise is responsive and works well in traffic, and Subaru continues to offer emergency braking, now with a newly added feature that allows it to work in reverse. Lane Keep Assist was true to its name, but it had a ping-pongy effect as it bounced from line to line until the car was manually centered. The Eyesight system, while a worthwhile safety and convenience feature, takes up significant real estate at the top of the windshield for its camera.

Steering feel is sharp, but its 13:1 ratio electric assisted system is far from sporty. An updated 2.0-liter horizontally-opposed four-cylinder, named FB20, is now fueled by direct injection and runs an increased compression ratio of 12.5:1. You would expect direct injection and an increased compression ratio would bump up the Impreza’s output, but the new motor only sees a 4 horsepower increase (to 152 horsepower) and torque remains unchanged at 145 lb-ft.

Instead, Subaru must have tuned the new FB20 for better fuel economy; the Impreza is sluggish off the line but rated for 28 mpg city and 38 mpg highway when teamed with its continuously variable transmission. Both trims offered by Subaru during the launch drive returned slightly over 30 mpg as I navigated my way on curvy roads over changing elevation. Once the car is moving, there’s enough power for a reassuring ride and the CVT is quick to respond. Those looking for small kicks to the backside will be happy Subaru’s CVT features seven simulated gears, though I didn’t find much use for the included paddle shifters. While fairly noisy when spinning at higher revs, the CVT is compliant and quiet at low speeds. The other transmission option, a five-speed manual, was not available during the launch, but don’t expect the high fuel economy returned by the CVT thanks to it being down a cog versus most of its competitors.

2017 Subaru Impreza Engine Bay, Image: © 2016 Bozi Tatarevic

Handling is better than average for its class, and some of the improvements — such as moving the rear sway bar from the subframe to the body — are noticeable. The Sport model handled a bit better than the Premium trim, but that’s likely more a result of 300-treadwear-rated tires than the improved dampers on the Sport. Braking capability is a more than enough for this package and did not fade or overheat even as we descended down a few thousand feet of elevation. Most trims continue on with 10.9-inch front rotors and dual-piston calipers while the Sport trim receives Crosstrek-sized 11.6 inch rotors.

Pricing starts at $19,215 with destination for the 2.0i manual model, but the Premium sedan trim I tested came in at $24,000 due to the inclusion of the $1,400 Eyesight/Moonroof package. The Sport hatch model aimed higher, with a price hovering around $27,000 as tested with the Moonroof/Eyesight/Harmon Kardon package. All models are available in both body styles and the hatchback is a bargain coming in only about $500 over the sedan in most trims. The manual transmission will not be tied to the base model, as it’s also standard kit for Sport-trimmed sedans and hatchbacks.

The new platform is expandable, so we’re likely to see a hybrid or EV powertrain coming soon, and we can also expect to see the WRX and STI make the move to the new platform during its next product cycle update in 2020.

The Impreza can now stand toe-to-toe with its competitors when it comes to fuel economy and interior quality, while still maintaining its unique position by retaining all-wheel-drive. Sales will surely show it.

[Images: © 2017 Bozi Tatarevic, Subaru]

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37 Comments on “2017 Subaru Impreza First Drive Review – Riding the River to Mainstream...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Don’t forget that you can actually get the manual trans in higher trim models.

    Want fog-lights and heated seats and other bells and whistles? Subaru might be your only bet in a reasonably priced car.

    Although I wish they had upgraded to a 6 speed, but only if the top ratio was actually HIGHER.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Yeah, some of the 5-speed manual transmissions are actually well-spaced and well-geared enough that they all but negate the need for a 6-speed. The Jetta / Golf and their 5-speed manuals are two examples of this.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      No thanks. Don’t want to fix head gaskets and can get nice Mazda3 with 6spd and high fuel efficiency

    • 0 avatar
      syncro87

      I drove a 2015 or 16 (can’t remember, but the gen prior to this new one) Impreza 5 door with the 5 speed manual. I thought it was geared pretty short for midwest flyover highway use. This was one of the main reasons I took the car off my short list. It wasn’t Honda Fit ridiculously bad, but I seem to recall the gearing being not my favorite.

      The Jetta 1.4 TSI (like the maroon one a forum commenter recently bought) had better gear ratios, a far better top highway gear. Of course, with a relatively punchy turbo engine, you can get away with that.

      Hopefully the new gen Impreza has a better top gear for highway cruising. Traffic routinely goes 75+ on the interstate in these parts. It’s annoying to be buzzing along in top gear, wishing you had one more.

      Hopefully someone posts an impression of a manual new-style Impreza. It’s on dealer lots. All the reviews are CVT.

      The only manufacturer that “gets” 5 speed ratios currently is VW, that I’ve found. Everyone else seems to come from a land where top speeds never exceed 55 mph.

      What I really want is an Impreza 5 door or Crosstrek with the Honda 1.5T engine and VW’s 5 speed manual out of the Jetta. Pretty much my ideal Frankencar at that point.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    From the picture this could be any companies entry level sedan just change the from logo, and really this car looks better as a hatchback than a 4d sedan. I am sure they will sell a bunch.

  • avatar

    Hmm, maybe I missed it but:

    1) Road noise and cabin quietness?
    2) Ride quality (again, it’s North America…I have to deal more with crappy roads than curves)?

    Two big questions for this class that I don’t really see answered here. Perhaps you can provide the answer in the comments?

    • 0 avatar

      The cabin is a lot quieter than the outgoing model and I would say on par with its competitors. The only noise that really stood out was the CVT if it was really wound up. Wind noise is also much lower and not very noticable.

      The ride strikes a good balance between comfort and response. I had no issues with either of the cars tested when going over potholes, bumps, and gravel and did not feel uncomfortable.

      • 0 avatar

        Perfect! Thank you! It would be most interested in this car with the manual…I’m hoping Subaru saw fit to allow the engine to rev at a reasonable level on the highway.

        • 0 avatar

          The manual was not available to test at launch and you might be disappointed with the ratios if you’re looking towards fuel economy.

          For example, the Sport hatch is rated for 27/35 MPG with the CVT and only 22/30 with the 5MT.

          In comparison, my 2016 WRX with 6MT is rated for 20/27.

          • 0 avatar
            colognecapri

            Also, the fact that manual Subarus have a mechanical center differential 50/50 torque split full time awd while the automatics have an electronically controlled mostly front wheel drive torque split except when slip is detected which has to penalize the manual in mpg to some degree.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Still noisy? Or a characteristic of CVT?

  • avatar
    hreardon

    Saw one the other day, looked sharp.

    Hopefully it’s substantially better in the road/wind noise department than its predecessor, especially at 70-75mph. Previous incarnations were uncomfortably loud.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    Nice to see there is still an affordable AWD option in the market. Good to hear noise is under control this time, our ’02 Impreza wagon felt like a loud tin can.

  • avatar

    I really need to drive this, I dig it in the wagon/Sport form.

  • avatar
    Fred

    Less NVH and a better interior go a long way to get me in a Subaru. Since I’m retiring to the Sierras, if I don’t feel safe in my fwd Acura wagon I might consider getting one. Bonus points for keeping the 5 door and manual alive.

  • avatar
    slap

    Drove a 2016 Impreza last year. It felt way underpowered with the CVT. I’ve owned 4 cars with about 140HP, and it felt far more anemic than any of them.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    The interior looks at first blush like an absolutely vast improvement over the 2015 version, which is a truly awful penalty box if ever there was one. The headliner in that car is *CARDBOARD*. Cardboard! The thing makes my Sonata feel like an S-Class for 3k more. Hopefully this is going to be more competitive.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Toyota and Subaru have some of the crappiest headliners ever devised and it’s obvious they went to the lowest supply bidder for theirs.

      • 0 avatar
        PeriSoft

        I was gobsmacked. The headliner in my Sonata isn’t any alcan-freakin’-tara or anything, but it’s a reasonable, textured, soft fabric. The Impreza’s is just… yeah, it’s basically just bleached cardboard. You can see the fibers hanging off it randomly because it’s so coarse. Crazy.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    I’m really torn; I would prefer the Civic for 1.5l as my next, having driven a Honda for 20 years. More or less reliable, cheap parts, pretty well known with mechanics. The sedan is my choice; the hatch has looks that repels women.

    But I prefer the packaging and practicality of the new Impreza. Sight lines are good, ergonomics and reach are good, seats are comfortable. I was really surprised how much I like the new Impreza. It’s like the rest of the field is going off and doing weird new things, and the Impreza is what a car was all along.

    Totally different car, but I wish there was something that was a combination of the two. Mazda3 is out of the running, back seats too small. VW also out, owned one before and the whole ethics things.

    • 0 avatar
      HahnZahn

      I’m selling back my TDI (second one, been driving a TDI for about 14 years now) and getting an Impreza wagon. VW has finally caught on a bit to some incentives – they were offering $5000 (!) off some Wolfsburg Golfs just this week, but I’m just done with finicky engineering. It’s just too much of a gamble with VWs.

      I also agree to an extent about the Civics. Test drove a sedan late last year, but would really only be interested in the hatchback. I sorta like the looks of the new hatch, but am not sure it’ll stay cute as I ease on toward 40. But Consumer Reports has also really knocked the reliability of the new Civics – apparently worse than VW. To be fair, that includes smaller complaints and not necessarily big power train-related problems, but they do give the expected reliability of the new Impreza a thumbs up, and their reviews of it have been really good.

      • 0 avatar
        mshenzi

        I’m about to make the same move, after turning in myTDi Golf. The Impreza 5 door’s frame, underlying handling, and vastly improved interior really impressed me. I’d prefer it had another 20-30 hp, but it felt liveable-with.

        I liked how the Civic hatch drove– that’s a nice motor– but the looks are a thing (and I vaguely remember turning 40…), the interior layout had some hiccups for me, and I don’t like that it’s even longer than the Impreza, which is already a size up from the Golf. Drove a Niro Touring a few days ago and liked it better than I expected, esp the interior, but in the end it felt basically set up to be driven sedately. Mazda3 had best engine/handling combo, but is still noisy even after improvements, and somehow the packaging didn’t work for me. Cruze hatch was lotsa lukewarm.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Looked at these at the car show. Was quite impressed and they’re assembled right up the road here in Purdue country. Definitely on my list as a possibility. And my daughter who teaches elementary had the local dealer’s kids as students couple years ago. Maybe I can parlay that into a better deal.

  • avatar
    n_tesla

    My daughter bought the Sport 4 door just like the picture at the top of this article. She’s replacing her hand me down BMW 330. She drove the Civic, Accord, Corolla and Camry. She thought they were “nice”, but thought the Subaru was way more fun to drive. Her brother bought a Crosstrek Premium last year. The new Impreza is a big improvement in NVH. Visibility is great. I’m happy they are both driving cars with Eyesight. There are too many people texting and driving these days.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Random musings:

    TTAC has another “sedan deathwatch” on the front page today.

    I believe, and I bet Tim Cain could prove, that Subaru sells far more vehicles with hatches than it does with trunks.

    I could not tell you the last time I saw a Subaru sedan on the road, although the desert southwest doesn’t really call for AWD.

    And yet, Subaru has chosen to provide, and TTAC has chosen to run, a press photo featuring a sedan.

    I don’t know what to make of that.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      You would like Hooniverse, they have a hatchback on the cover.

    • 0 avatar

      I chose the photo up top from the set that Subaru provided as I liked it the best. Nothing more than that.

      You are correct on the hatch outselling the sedan. I believe the number was 3 hatches for every sedan sold for the last generation Impreza and they expect the trend to continue.

      • 0 avatar
        Fred

        I did not know that. Shows that Subaru owners are still a bit different. Well at least the ones who like their center of gravity closer to the ground.

        • 0 avatar
          mshenzi

          I’ve got a big dog who rides in the back of our hatchback, and something or other has me folding down the rear seat most every week. I’ve driven a hatch or small wagon for 30+ years, vastly prefer the layout to sedans.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    I had a 2013 Impreza Sport hatchback with the manual transmission.

    It was a really fun car to drive, slow, but still fun, and really fun in the snow.

    Traded it in because we needed a bigger back seat for car seats, it burned oil, and it had ridiculous resale value so I didn’t take too much of a bath on it.

    The car I traded the Impreza in on, a 14 Camry V6, has over 100 more horsepower and yet gets BETTER gas mileage than my Impreza got. 22/30 mpg is pretty terrible for how slow these are. In hindsight, I don’t know what I was thinking buying one, I think you have to REALLY want AWD to justify one of these.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      AWD for many is a security blanket thing. I live in one of the worst snow belt areas of Upstate, NY and have never once got stuck with any of my FWD GM sedans with all season tires.

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    “Impreza’s longer wheelbase and a longer, wider body” and a CVT. I guess I should just get that Grand Cherokee. Cars are dead.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Glad to hear the NVH is improved (though from what I read of the current platform that might not be saying much). 2020 for an updated WRX is a long time to wait though.

  • avatar
    WRC555

    I wonder how much it costs to equip the CVT Impreza with a sport mode button like the one in my Forester XT. It basically allows switching to a different engine mapping on the fly.

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