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The compact sedan segment is full of cheap, tech-laden, or luxurious offerings. As perennial favorites in the class, Japanese manufacturers Mazda and Subaru bring practical, capable, and affordable models for a wide-ranging clientele to the table.

From a bird’s-eye view, the 2022 Mazda3 and 2022 Subaru Impreza are similar. Both are roughly the same size and weight, have seating for five, come in either four-door sedan or five-door hatchback configurations, and have rather unremarkable three-year, 36,000-mile warranties. It’s only when you look closer that the list deviates.  

2022 Mazda3 vs. Subaru Impreza interior amenities

A red 2022 Mazda 3 parked indoors.
2022 Mazda3 | Getty Images

One area where the two cars stand apart is interior quality. The Impreza has clunky plastics outlined in imitation chrome flanked by fake carbon fiber accents. Of course, it isn’t a Mercedes, but even the base model Mazda3 has a handsome dash and trimmings to match. Although it sports the plastics to fit the price point, the cockpit is much nicer.  

The Mazda3’s infotainment system is larger, at 8.8 inches, versus the Impreza’s 8-inch system, but both come standard with Apple Car Play and Android Auto.

There may be a slight learning curve for Mazda’s redesigned system, and Subaru’s simple-to-use unit includes more traditional knobs and buttons. Still, the Impreza’s smaller screen above the infotainment unit is somewhat redundant.

Both models have ample interior cargo room in the hatchback arrangements. Although the Subaru nixes the Mazda narrowly on rear legroom, adult passengers may feel cramped regardless.

2022 Mazda3 vs. Subaru Impreza safety and reliability

The Mazda3 has top safety ratings from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Every trim level for the Mazda comes standard with a mass of tech to keep you on the road. Automatic high-beam headlights, adaptive cruise control, automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, and lane-keeping assist systems ensure driver confidence.

Yet, the Subaru sits right beside its competitor in the safety category, boasting a top safety rating from the NHTSA and IIHS. Automatic transmission models of the Impreza host Subaru’s impressive suite of driver-assistance tech, including forward-collision warning with automated emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear-cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, and lane-keeping assist. According to Car and Driver, however, those wanting a stick-shift won’t get these features.

Regarding reliability, Consumer Reports places the Subaru Impreza much higher on the list of their recommended cars than the Mazda3. Consumer Reports claims, though, for driver satisfaction, the Mazda3 wins out with lower presumed repair bills.  

2022 Mazda3 vs. Subaru Impreza performance figures

The Subaru Impreza features only one engine option. The 2.0-liter flat-four boxer unit delivers noisy and lazy acceleration with 152 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque squeezed through a continuously-variable transmission (CVT). Nevertheless, buyers can get a 5-speed manual gearbox to make the experience interesting.

The Mazda3 also offers a 2.0-liter engine. The base inline-four cylinder puts out 155 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque, but there are sportier options, including a turbocharged version of the same engine. Still, more expensive trim levels come fitted with a 2.5-liter inline-four cylinder rated at 186 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque in the naturally-aspirated version and 250 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque in the turbo version.

Subaru no longer has the all-wheel-drive (AWD) niche cornered. AWD is available in the Mazda3, but it’s an optional extra, and the selection of higher-price trim levels is required. Moreover, drivers who want AWD cannot have the 6-speed manual, Car and Driver states. It’s only offered with front-wheel-drive.

Each car has a 13.2-gallon fuel tank, but the Mazda3 will get you further as it asserts an EPA-rated 28 mpg city and 36 mpg highway. The Impreza only offers an EPA-rated 23 mpg city and 31 mpg highway with the manual gearbox, but the automatic version does marginally better.

Which should you buy?

When choosing between the 2022 Mazda3 and the 2022 Subaru Impreza, the price you’re willing to pay will be the deciding factor. The Mazda features better creature comforts in its base model than the Subaru. While the Impreza’s Premium, Sport, and Limited trim levels ditch some of the plastic-y interior appearances, if you’re looking for a luxury model in the compact sedan segment, get the Mazda3.

Although you can’t get the manual transmission with AWD and the larger engine, the Mazda is a driver’s car that mixes performance and practicality. At a starting price above $22,000, it’s more expensive than the Subaru but comes better equipped as standard. However, if you want something cheap to hoon around the backroads with AWD and a stick shift, you can have the 2022 Subaru Impreza—depending on where you live—for just over or under $20,000.


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