By KBB.com Editors
In 2002, Subaru made the wise decision to expand the U.S. lineup of its runabout Impreza. Despite the addition of hotter, turbocharged variants, the sporty appeal of the standard Impreza remained intact. Six years later, the same formula is still working, and the 2008 Impreza is better in nearly every way. The basic 2.5i trim has a decent, if slightly rough-around-the-edges, 2.5-liter engine that offers more torque than most of the competition. The all-wheel-drive system for which Subaru is renowned is standard on the Impreza 2.5i. As before, the Impreza is available in both sedan and 5-door wagon form.You'll Like This Car If...
The Impreza remains a great choice for those looking for a reliable and capable all-arounder. All-wheel-drive provides secure handling in nearly all road conditions, and is a must-have for many in less temperate climates.You May Not Like This Car If...
If you're looking to stand out, this may not be the car for you, as the new 2008 Subaru Impreza still seems to lack any truly defining visual characteristics. For those used to the overall precision, fit and finish of a Honda or Volkswagen, the Impreza may be slightly sub par.What's New for 2008
An entirely redesigned chassis and body set the 2008 Subaru Impreza 2.5i apart from its predecessor. In sedan form, a dual exhaust helps create a sportier appearance. And, interior design and materials are now clean, well made and solid throughout.Driving It Driving Impressions
The relatively rough engine doesn't do the slightly overweight 2008 Subaru Impreza 2.5i any favors, and is partially responsible for its slow acceleration. The chassis and suspension feel solid and stable over rough roads, and the car has predictable day-to-day handling. However, it simply doesn't offer the same level of precision and feedback found in much of the competition, including the faithful and simple Honda Civic. The steering is a touch too light for back-road blasts, and limits communication with the pavement. Inside, the dash layout is logical, and all buttons and knobs are well placed for quick reference. The seats are comfortable but lack the side support we'd like for fast curves.
For the money, you can't beat the safety offered by Subaru's all-wheel drive system. Even on dry pavement, this feature offers additional grip around curves and an added sense of security.
Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC)
Capable of reacting and controlling the situation quicker than an unsuspecting driver, Subaru's VDC works by applying the brakes, adjusting the engine output and controlling the all-wheel-drive system as needed to keep the car pointed in the right direction.
Subaru has definitely stepped things up in terms of interior quality. Most materials are high grade to the touch, and the dash layout is simple, logical and borderline stylish. Gone are the gaudy colors and cheap plastic trim, and options now include a touch-screen GPS system, satellite radio and a six-disc, 10-speaker stereo. These accessories work reasonably well, but sometimes lack the refinement and intuitive nature of those offered by others.Exterior
Compared to its predecessor, the redesigned Impreza has much cleaner lines and a more palatable appearance overall. This is not necessarily a good thing, though, as it is now dangerously close to lacking identity. While many may have considered previous generations homely, they were without question recognizably Subaru. At first glance, the vague shape of this new Impreza could be mistaken for a new Saab, Hyundai or a Kia.Notable Standard Equipment
The laundry list of standard equipment for this car is, for the most part, par for the course in 2008 vehicles. Of note is standard all-wheel-drive, a feature not found in most of the competition, even optionally. Disappointingly, the 2.5i doesn't offer rear disc brakes as standard equipment – a decision likely necessary to keep the all-wheel drive Impreza price-competitive in the segment.
The 2008 Subaru Impreza 2.5i is available with Subaru's Premium Package, as well a Satellite Radio and Navigation package. The former adds rear disc brakes, along with the Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) found on the higher-end WRX trim, larger alloy wheels, and some interior and exterior goodies. The navigation system does its job without any problems, though it requires getting used to a few quirks.Under the Hood
Subaru's Impreza has featured a segment-defying flat-4 engine since its inception. While still a four-cylinder, the engine generates ample power and substantial torque from its larger-than-average 2.5-liter displacement. Now equipped with electronic throttle control and i-Active variable valve timing, the Impreza engine has done a decent job staying current. The power is sent to all four wheels via Subaru's all-wheel-drive system, which limits the power being sent to wheels with little or no traction and redirects it to those that need it the most.
2.5-liter Boxer 4-cylinder
170 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
170 pound-feet of torque @ 4400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/27
The 2008 Subaru Impreza 2.5i is reasonably priced considering its features, with the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of the sedan starting at around $17,500. A fully loaded 5-door with automatic transmission checks in at about $22,500, including both optional accessory packages. These prices put the Impreza squarely in the range of the Mitsubishi Lancer and Volkswagen Jetta, for instance. For a little more money, the Audi A3 is a tempting alternative, as it also offers all-wheel-drive, significantly better fit and finish and all the advantages (real and psychological) of a premium-badged vehicle. As for resale, the Impreza 2.5i is expected to retain a better-than-average resale value over time, higher than the Lancer and the A3, and on par with the Jetta.