By KBB.com Editors
The Subaru Impreza is a uniquely reliable and capable compact car. It's one of the most affordable all-wheel-drive vehicles available, delivering added confidence in dicey road conditions, and features an interior that outclasses many of its competitors'. Priced only marginally more than similarly equipped models from Toyota, Mazda, Ford, VW and Honda, the Impreza's standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system for which Subaru is renowned is certainly a plus in snow-bound climates and gives the affordable Impreza a leg up on its front-wheel-drive competitors.
The 2011 Impreza is a great choice for those looking for a reliable and capable compact car. The all-wheel-drive drivetrain provides secure handling in nearly all road and weather conditions, potentially a must-have for those living in less temperate climates.You May Not Like This Car If...
If price and fuel economy trounce all-wheel-drive stability and control, you'll probably want to look at the Honda Civic, Mazda MAZDA3, Nissan Versa or Volkswagen Golf TDI. Like the Impreza, the Suzuki SX4 also offers all-wheel drive plus a lot more features for less money.What's New for 2011
The Impreza Outback Sport SE gains a new navigation system featuring a removable TomTom GPS unit. All models except the base car get a new radio that includes Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, iPod integration, a USB port and satellite radio capability. The turbocharged 2.5 GT model has been discontinued.Driving It Driving Impressions
The 2011 Impreza's 2.5-liter engine is a bit rough around the edges and doesn't do the fairly heavy Impreza any favors when it comes to rapid acceleration. It does, however, manage to deliver fairly good fuel economy and good low-end torque. The Impreza's suspension is bit on the soft side, and offers none of the precision and feedback found in much of the competition, including the faithful and simple Honda Civic or the sporty MAZDA3. The steering is a touch too light for back-road blasts, limiting communication with the pavement, although the car remains stable and composed under nearly all day-to-day driving conditions. 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.Favorite Features
For many, all-wheel drive is a must to make it through the wet seasons, snowy winters or just loose rural terrain. Even on dry pavement, this feature offers additional grip around curves and an added sense of security.
Now available in all but the base Impreza, this system features a cool TomTom removable GPS unit that you can pop out and take with you.
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 available features such as the TomTom navigation system with removable GPS unit (standard on Outback Sport Special Edition), Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio and a power sunroof make this entry level car feel decidedly upscale. A long list of dealer-installed accessories include a powered subwoofer, sliding center armrest, various cargo organizers and nets and a short shift kit for manual transmission models.
Where the first generation Impreza had a quirky but lovable look, the newest version seems a bit cliche. With more than a passing resemblance to the first generation Mazda MAZDA3, the 2011 Impreza 2.5i wagon is now dangerously close to lacking identity. The Outback Sport trim spices things up considerably, with larger wheels, two-tone paint and more body cladding to banish the bland. On the plus side, the Impreza's all-wheel drive offers year-round security and many trims offer such useful winter necessities as heated side mirrors and windshield wiper de-icer. However, unlike the Forester and Outback, the Impreza Outback Sport does not ride much higher than the standard Impreza, limiting its ability to go off-road or through deep snow.Notable Standard Equipment
The laundry list of standard equipment for this car is, for the most part, par for the course in 2011 vehicles. Of note is standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, a feature not found in most of the competition, even optionally. Other standard features include an AM/FM/ stereo with single CD, cruise control and remote keyless entry. The 2.5i Premium adds 16-inch alloy wheels, a power sunroof, AM/FM stereo with single CD, six speakers, Bluetooth, iPod connectivity and USB and 3.5mm auxiliary audio input jacks, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. The Outback Sport SE adds 17-inch wheels, heated seats, navigation, roof racks, two-tone paint and power moonroof. All Imprezas include front side- and front and rear side-impact airbags, Incline Start Assist (manual transmission), traction and stability control and four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes.Notable Optional Equipment
The 2.5i Premium offers the Special Edition Package that adds a power moonroof, fog lamps and the All Weather Package featuring heated seats, side mirrors and windshield wiper de-icer. Premium models can be outfitted with Subaru's navigation unit and a rear backup camera. Most options are bundled into dealer installed accessories and include items such as a stereo upgrade (tweeters and a powered subwoofer), additional cup holders, remote start, all-weather floor mats an iPod tray and various cargo and roof rack attachments.Under the Hood
Subaru's Impreza has featured a segment defying flat-4 engine since its inception. While still a four-cylinder, the engine gets ample power and substantial torque from its larger-than-average 2.5-liter displacement. Now equipped with electronic throttle control and i-Active, Subaru's version of variable valve timing, the Impreza engine has done a decent job staying current. The power is sent to all four wheels via Subaru's Symmetrical 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.
170 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
170 pound-feet of torque @ 4400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/26 (automatic), 20/27 (manual)
The base 2.5i is reasonably priced considering its features, with the sedan's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting just over $18,000 and the wagon selling for about $500 more. The Outback Sport starts just under $21,000 with the five-speed manual transmission (the automatic adds another $1,000 to the bottom line.) These broad ranging prices put the Impreza squarely in the range of the Volkswagen Golf or Jetta, MAZDA3 Touring and the Suzuki SX4. As for resale, the Impreza is expected to hold its value well, with five-year residual values better than the Suzuki SX4 and Mazda MAZDA3 and just below the Volkswagen Golf.