You can call the all-new 2017 Subaru Impreza a lot of things, but for heaven’s sake, please don’t call it a WRX. Regardless of whether you’re learning how to hoon an all-wheel drive car for the first time or are a veteran boxer engine builder, it is important that you are able to differentiate between the two vehicles. Over the past few years, Subaru has worked tirelessly to distance the turbocharged performance platform from the far more pedestrian-friendly and fuel-efficient Impreza entity with mixed success.
Now in its fifth generation, Subaru’s entry-level contender is facing rising global demand as well as a call for fresh design cues and engineering, both of which the Impreza wholeheartedly answers (earning it this year’s most prestigious award for Japan Car of the Year). When we say this car is completely overhauled and excellent, we mean it, too: Subaru spent over a billion dollars creating this car, translating to us getting a platform that is over 95% new.
This also marks the first time in history that an Impreza is being built in America, as the zero-landfill Subaru of Indiana plant now proudly produces the award-winning wagon and sedan. With over 54% of all projected Impreza buyers residing here in the U.S., the move to market this utilitarian all-wheel drive machine to American millennials makes for a strong argument as to why the vehicle is being manufactured state-side. There’s a lot for buyers to like too, as the new Impreza is without question the biggest, strongest, smartest, stiffest, and most efficient model to date, with Subaru-grade reliability and safety backing it all up.
So with class-leading versatility and quality on the front burner, and a Sport version on deck for anyone wanting a little more agility, the answer to the Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3, and Honda Civic warms up for another knock-down slug fest with the best that the segment has to offer. In order to illustrate exactly how much this machine matters to Subaru, we have drafted this cheat sheet around a few cornerstone areas and technical notes that make the Impreza pop.
1. It’s rigid and completely open road-ready
While the regular model of the new Impreza is without question the most stiff version to date, it’s the Sport model that takes turn-in fun and steering feedback to the edge of WRX and back. Rigidity has been increased by at least 70% across the board on all models, power steering calibrations are now derived from the latest BRZ, and Subaru’s bulletproof Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system backs things up for peace of mind and added performance fun.
Once a Sport model is outfitted with 17- or 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in all-season performance rubber, both footwork and ride firmness gravitate even closer to WRX levels, due primarily to the sport-tuned Stablex suspension and a thinner tire sidewall. Unlike traditional sway bar layouts, anything above a base model gets a unique rear bar that mounts directly to the chassis for a 50% drop in body roll. This is a bit more expensive and labor intensive from a manufacturing standpoint, but it also pays off in spades when it comes to control, especially once paired with the active torque vectoring system found on Sport models.
2. Safety doesn’t mean tech dependence
With its stiffer chassis, redesigned seat belts, adaptive fog lamps, re-calibrated brakes, 40% boost in crash absorption rates over the outgoing model, more planted suspension, and torque vectoring, safety isn’t just tied into autonomous sensors. Visibility has also been increased significantly, with slimmer A and B-pillars leading things off, and plenty of rear glass offering solid backup views.
There’s also some nifty quarter glass up front for increased cornering visibility, and even though this is the largest Impreza in history, its taught dampers are engineered to be far more nimble than one might expect from something devoid of WRX or STI badging. With the outgoing model riding high atop an IIHS Safety Pick+ rating, we have little doubt that the new Impreza and all seven of its standard airbags will earn top marks with the government and drivers alike.
3. But do take the tech and optional upgrades
Even though the driver display on a mildly outfitted Premium sedan features nifty 3D graphics, both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and is quite informative, you’ll want the larger 8-inch STARLINK touchscreen and upgraded upper screen graphics. Opting for the Eyesight safety package will also get you active safety tech like adaptive cruise, blind spot detection, lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alerts, automatic pre-collision braking, as well as both lane departure and sway warnings.
The full-color digital top-mount screen is informative, easy to read, and even easier to navigate. Here, drivers can track fuel economy, autonomous safety warnings, wheel angles, and symmetrical power deployment, and it doubles as a sharp vehicle diagnostic display. Add in the fact that Subaru has finally gotten a a big ticket speaker supplier on board, and you will be bumping down the road to the tune of a Harman/Kardon premium audio system, as you check weather, gas prices, and various apps along the way.
4. Efficiency and simplicity foster reliability
The naturally aspirated 2.0-liter boxer that you find nestled low within the new Impreza’s engine bay has been refreshed to offer a little more oomph and a splash of added efficiency. Sporting a higher 12.5:1 compression ratio over the old 10.5:1 setup and a 26 pound weight reduction, this direct injected motor offers 148 pound-feet of twist and 152 horsepower, which should be plenty for the average driver. The attached Lineartronic CVT has now been outfitted with seven shift points and paddles as well, and even though there is some whine to be heard, it is a great improvement over the CVT transmissions of old.
All of this means you get a 32 mile per gallon average out of the normal sedan and 30 from the five-door Sport model, as well as zero turbo headaches, a set of active grille shutters, and the ability to run any model on Regular 87 octane. While we were unable to get our hands on a manual version for testing purposes due to production timing, it is worth noting that while this chassis will receive the old five-speed snoozer, Sport models will come outfitted with an STI short-throw shifter to spice things up a bit, reinforcing Subaru’s claim that it still sells three times as many stick-shifts as any other automaker.
5. Stylistically less really is more
Watching the Subie sedan and five-door hatch slowly evolve into a slightly larger, far more concise automobile, we get the feeling that it finally has begun to realize what it wants to be when it grows up. It doesn’t harbor strong sentiments about being overtly eye-catching or polarizing like its Civic rival, or as subdued and somewhat hybrid-looking as the Corolla, because neither of these extremes appeal to the Impreza sedan.
Instead, it embodies a more balanced approach when it comes to channeling Subaru’s latest take on design language, serving as a mid-sized lightning rod, from which all other cars residing beneath the six starred emblem will follow. We are particularly fond of the clean lines and restyled fascia of the five-door version, which looks far more purposeful than the two-tone Impreza hatch many of us recall from years past. This model’s sharply stitched touches, sport pedals, roomier cabin, unique floor mats, red gauges, leather steering wheel, push-button start, and gloss black accents make for a very attractive interior. The only question now is will buyers opt for a $27,000 Subaru Impreza Sport hatch over the $21,000 turbo Honda Civic hatchback or an equally priced NISMO Sentra?