Compact Hatchback Comparison: 2017 Subaru Impreza 5-Door
The grown-up of the group
Starting Price: $19,215 | Price yours
Above Average: Ride comfort, roominess, all-weather confidence
Below Average: Acceleration, athleticism
Consensus: A smart, practical, responsible choice
Like your outdoorsy friend with all the right gear and experience, the Subaru Impreza has long been the level-headed adventurer of the compact car segment. Standard all-wheel drive is its signature piece of equipment, while a proven reputation for safety and reliability serves as its confidence-inspiring track record. Exceptional passenger and cargo room only reinforce the Impreza’s focus on practicality.
And while the Impreza’s unique mix of strengths has long made it easy (or necessary) for some buyers to forgive its relatively superficial shortcomings, a total redesign for 2017 means still fewer compromises. As it demonstrated during our 350-mile comparison test, Subaru’s compact car is now quieter on the highway and boasts a much more refined interior, two obvious areas of opportunity in its predecessor. The Impreza was one of the first cars in the segment to offer advanced driver assist and safety features like adaptive cruise control and automatic collision mitigation braking, and we’re glad to see the tech offering grow to include a much improved infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support.
The newly redesigned 2017 Subaru Impreza still isn’t among the most stylish or most fun-to-drive options in the more youthful compact car segment, but that lower profile is actually a large part of its appeal for many buyers. Of course, standard all-wheel drive, proven longevity and excellent resale value remain its key strengths.
2017 Subaru Impreza
Slightly heavier and more softly sprung than the others, the Impreza soaked up the rough patches on our route better than any other car in the group. Combined with comfortable front seats and improved interior noise levels, the Subaru demonstrated impressive long-range comfort.
Getting up to highway speed takes some patience, however. Not only was the Subaru the heaviest car in this group, it was also the least powerful. Pulling into fast-moving traffic and passing on two-lane roads definitely required a bit more care and planning than in the Mazda3 and Honda Civic, especially.
Our test vehicle was equipped with Subaru’s EyeSight safety and driver-assist technologies. We took full advantage of the adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist, letting the Subaru do some of the throttle and steering work on the highway. Fortunately, we never tested the pre-collision braking.
Whether on muddy backroads or slick city streets, the Impreza is at its best relative to the competition when faced with challenging conditions. When skies are sunny and roads are dry, the Impreza drives like an average compact car. It accelerates, brakes and turns just fine, but not with the same levels of refinement found in the other cars in the test. In slow-and-go driving we noted a slight hiccup on deceleration, seemingly related to the Impreza’s continuously variable automatic transmission. It’s not a big thing, but it was hard to ignore once we noticed it. Excellent outward visibility and a tight turning radius make the Impreza a particularly proficient parking-lot shuttle.
While the WRX and WRX STI variants of the Impreza are performance legends, the more mainstream Impreza in our comparison neither inspired nor rewarded the kind of vigorous driving that made the Mazda3 and Civic so much fun. The aforementioned power and weight issues are a factor, but it’s mostly a function of personality. The Subaru feels like the adult here, and that’s exactly what many buyers are looking for.
The Impreza’s newly refined interior is among its most welcome improvements. And while it isn’t as visually exciting or contemporary as the other cabins in the test, the materials, design and layout combine in a space that’s comfortably familiar and functional -- a perfect reflection of the brand itself. The front seats sit higher in the Subaru, which aids visibility, enhances the feeling of control and supports easier vehicle entry and exit.
Like any infotainment system that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, the Impreza’s Starlink system starts with an advantage. But those systems don’t replace all the functionality of a vehicle’s infotainment capabilities, so you still want a system that’s comprehensive, easy and reliable. Subaru’s Starlink infotainment system has proven to be all of the above in our experience. And in addition to a variety of useful built-in apps, the Impreza’s suite of Starlink Connected Services (think GM’s OnStar) includes features like automatic crash notification and remote vehicle lock/unlock services.
Rear Seat Room
The Impreza and Civic had the roomiest back seats in our test, both of them roomy and comfortable enough to accommodate full-size adults on lengthy road trips.
While the Civic Hatchback scored a perfect 10 in our cargo area evaluation, the Impreza followed right behind in a close second place on the strength of impressive room behind the rear seats. But one of the key strengths of hatchbacks is that they turn into cavernous little cargo vans with the rear seats folded down, and the Subaru doesn’t disappoint there, either.
All-wheel-drive systems are more efficient than ever, but there’s nevertheless more friction and more weight involved. As a result, the Subaru Impreza is both less powerful and less efficient than the Honda Civic in our test. But using the EPA ratings, we’re looking at a difference of about 5 dollars per month. As noted in the Highway Driving section of this review, it’s the power deficiency that’s the bigger issue.
The 2017 Subaru Impreza isn’t just a good value, it’s our 2017 Best Resale Value Awards champion in the Compact Car category. Combined with competitive pricing and low ownership costs, the new Impreza is also among the category’s 5-Year Cost to Own standouts.
Photo Gallery: 2017 Subaru Impreza 5-Door