Thursday, September 22, 2011

2011 Subaru Impreza Features and Review

Subaru Impreza

Subaru Impreza

Subaru Impreza

Subaru Impreza

Subaru Impreza

Subaru Impreza

Subaru Impreza


Subaru Impreza

Subaru Impreza

Subaru's compact Impreza upholds the most rudimentary tenets of A-to-B transportation: capability, comfort and utility. Its cabin feels thoroughly basic, and a few must-have features are missing, but I suspect that months or even years after buying one, the car's workhorse qualities will make many drivers glad they chose it.

With two body styles, four engines and multiple trim levels, there are more than a dozen Impreza variants. All come with standard all-wheel drive. Stack them up here, or compare the 2010 and 2009 Impreza here. I drove an Impreza 2.5i Premium hatchback with an automatic transmission.

Familiar Shape
The Impreza has a a clean — if forgettable — design, and unlike some rivals, even the base 2.5i trim has dual tailpipes and body-colored mirrors and door handles. The sedan has aged better than the hatchback, whose frosted taillights became passé around the same time MySpace did. Alloy wheels go on all but the 2.5i trim, while the gussied-up Outback Sport adds two-tone paint and a raised, heavy-duty suspension. (In Subaru tradition, the Outback Sport is based on the Impreza; it shares only its name with the larger Outback wagon.) The turbocharged Impreza 2.5GT, WRX and WRX STi add a functional hood scoop.

The Outback Sport and WRX STi come only as hatchbacks; all other trims are available as hatchbacks or sedans. Though both cars share the same wheelbase and turning circle — a decent 34.8 feet — urban drivers may want to go with the hatchback, as it's 6.5 inches shorter from bumper to bumper than the sedan.


Plain, Purposeful
You can't expect a sub-$20,000 interior to match up to what you see in glossy car ads, but the Impreza's feels low-rent, even for this league. Materials are plain — an unpadded center armrest, acres of shiny dashboard plastic, a cardboard-grade headliner. Little things, from the keyless entry remote to the wiper stalks, are of a tinny, cheap quality. A telescoping steering wheel, which a lot of competitors offer standard, requires stepping up to a turbocharged model, and the stereo's old-school readout displays only the first few words of song titles. For similar dough, there are more upscale cabins out there — like the Mazda3, Honda Civic and Volkswagen Jetta.

The Impreza finds its redemption through practicality. Everything just plain works: The tall windows and narrow pillars offer excellent sight lines. The gauges are cleanly organized, with a dummy-proof blue light that indicates when the engine is too cold for you to crank up the heat. The seats have supportive cushioning and a respectable grade of cloth, and my test car's optional seat heaters worked quickly and stayed hot all day. I'm driving a Lexus RX 350 this week, and its tepid seat heaters have me missing Subaru's.

Headroom up front is good, even with the optional moonroof. Taller drivers may want more rearward seat travel; I'm 5-foot-11, and I drove with the seat all the way back. A height-adjustable driver's seat is standard. Bear in mind the Impreza's WRX and WRX STi trims have shapelier seats, so my impressions of cushioning and fabric quality don't apply there.

The backseat has decent headroom and, for this class, adequate legroom. The seat cushions are rather low to the ground, though, and taller passengers will find their knees pointing up. Amenities are limited, too: Non-turbo models lack a center armrest, and the rear seats don't recline or move forward and backward. Behind the backseat in the hatchback is a competitive 19 cubic feet of cargo space. The seat folds down simply in a 60/40 split to form a flat, ledge-free load floor, but maximum cargo volume is 44.4 cubic feet — on the low end in this group.
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