ince its debut 25 years ago, the Subaru Impreza has become the mainstay of the company lineup.
With the advantages of Subaru’s Symmetrical Full-Time All-Wheel Drive and the low-centre of gravity handling benefits of boxer engine architecture, the Impreza spawned everything from high-performance versions like the WRX and STI to the popular crossover-styled Forester and Crosstrek versions.
For 2017, an all-new Impreza, the first to be built in North America, starts with a new global platform - a firm foundation for all future Subaru models.
And, yes, that does include planned EVs and even the upcoming seven- to eight-passenger Ascent
Subaru’s new global platform was engineered for increased strength and an ability to absorb 40 per cent more crash energy. Unitized body rigidity is up by 70 per cent while suspension changes have reduced body roll by 50 percent.
The fifth generation 2017 Impreza is bigger and more family-friendly, riding on a stretched wheelbase (+25 mm). It’s also longer (+40 mm) and wider (+35 mm).
The new dimensions translate into more room inside, especially for second-row passengers who also gain a little seating space from a reduction in rear cargo room, now 589 litres instead of 638 litres.
A flip of the rear seats, however, maximizes luggage space to 1,566 litres compared to the previous 1,485 litres.
A lower roofline and reduced ground clearance benefit the drag coefficient while lowering the centre of gravity even more, which, along with the aforementioned platform changes, makes for markedly improved handling, an ultra quiet ride and a surprisingly civilized ambiance for a compact car.
As the first model built on that new global platform, the Impreza also leads the way with Subaru’s latest design language including the signature hexagonal grille, hawk-eye headlights, prominent wheel arches and more emphatic body sculpting. Increased content levels include its award-winning available EyeSight and other driver-assist technologies.
A revised FB20 2.0-litre horizontally opposed boxer engine has shed weight while adding direct-injection and tweaking fuel efficiency.
A minor bump up in power results in a rating of 152 hp (+ 4 hp) and 145 lb/ft of torque, managed through a standard five-speed manual or a Lineartronic CVT (continuously variable transmission).
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The Impreza comes in four-door sedan of five-door hatchback (+$900) configurations, marketed through four trim levels - Convenience, Touring, Sport and Sport-Tech.
From that broad selection, let’s explore two flavours of the popular Impreza hatchback model, with test-drives of a 2.0i Sport (5MT) and a 2.0i Sport-Tech with Optional Technology Package (CVT).
The 2.0i Sport Five-Door (5MT) is our first Sport tester ($25,295), in Crystal White Pearl, perches in the middle of the trim level ladder, one step above the customer-favourite Touring model.
Its environs are substantially upgraded from entry-level versions with good, grippy, well bolstered and nicely stitched cloth seats and with added content that complements traditional analogue dials and sensible instrumentation - buttons and knobs where you need them (instead of searching and scrolling).
And it’s nice to have an increasingly rare manual choice. The five-speed lends itself to the limitations of the thrifty engine, allowing the driver to flog the powertrain to the max.
The shift action feels good, somehow better than a recent Forester comparison, but with revs hovering around 3,000 rpm at 120 km/h, a sixth gear might be nice, even though any kind of passing urgency requires diligent downshifting.
This powertrain combo is rated at 10.1/7.7L/100km (city/hwy) with my average working out to 8.9L/100km (comb).
The 2.0i Sport-Tech Five-Door with Optional Technology Package (CVT) is our second tester.
The red top-of-the line Sport-Tech model ($30,995) boasts the same basic qualities as my first ride - do-able seating for five, quiet comfort and plenty of headroom, even with a sunroof intrusion.
But it bolsters the package with bigger 18-inch wheels, exterior upticks, leather and all the luxuries, bolstered, in this case, by the Technology Package with the Eyesight system featuring Pre-collision braking, brake assist and throttle management, adaptive cruise, lane departure and sway warning, lane keep assist, lead vehicle start alert, reverse auto braking and high-beam assist.
The CVT (a $1,300 option or included in higher trims) works well enough, shifting smoothly and saving your left leg in stop-and-go traffic, while still offering driver input through a seven-speed manual mode function with paddle shifter operation.
The CVT has a taller top end than the manual, with the engine spinning at 2,000 rpm at 120 km/h, its efficiencies contributing to an improved 8.5/6.4L/100km (city/hwy) rating.
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But, for whatever driving condition reasons, my averages were about the same, at 9.2L/100km (comb).
Those are just two samples of a selection requiring closer inspection.
And Subaru deserves credit for not only improving the Impreza but for holding price increases to a minimum after the 2017 model changes, and then carrying over the same MSRPs for the upcoming 2018 models.
With that kind of dedication to consistency, unique technologies, improved qualities and increased content, the Subaru Impreza impresses more than ever.
2017 Subaru Impreza
Five-door compact hatchbacks (as tested).
Front-engine, five-speed Manual Transmission (5MT) or optional Lineartronic CVT with Subaru Symmetrical Full-Time All-wheel Drive
FB20 2.0-litre (1,995 cc) horizontally opposed boxer, direct-injection four-cylinder (152 hp, 145 lb/ft)
(Regular) 5MT 10.1/7.7L/100km (city/hwy), as tested 8.9L/100km (comb); CVT 8.5/6.4L/100km (city/hwy), as tested 9.2L/100km (comb)
589 litres (rear seats upright) 1,566 litres (rear seats folded)
As tested - 2017 2.0i Sport Five-Door (5MT) $25,295; 2017 2.0i Sport-Tech Five-Door with Optional Technology Package (CVT) $30,995. Prices do not include destination fee ($1,595)