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

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
Fast Facts

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Timothy Cain
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  • 05lgt 05lgt on May 31, 2017

    Dear Subaru, WRX THIS!

    • JDM JDM on Jun 03, 2017

      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.

  • Syncro87 Syncro87 on Jun 13, 2017

    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).

  • Mike Some Evs are hitting their 3 year lease residual values in 6 months.
  • Tassos Jong-iL I am just here for the beer! (did I say it right?)
  • El scotto Tim, to be tactful I think a great many of us would like a transcript of TTAC's podcast. 90 minutes is just too long for most of us to listen. -evil El Scotto kicking in- The blog at best provides amusement, 90 minutes is just too much. Way too much.
  • TooManyCars VoGhost; I was referring more to the Canadian context, but the same graft is occurring in the US of A and Europe. Political affiliation appears to be irrelevant.
  • The Oracle Going to see a lot of corporations migrating out of Delaware as the state of incorporation. Musk sets trends, he doesn’t follow them.