KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
In 2002, Subaru made the wise decision to finally bring the WRX version of the run-about Impreza model to the US market. The rally-bred, turbocharged WRX trim breathed new life into the model line, and gave the standard Impreza a newfound sporty appeal. Seven years later, the same formula is still working, and the 2009 Impreza line-up is better in nearly every way. With a new, more powerful WRX on the showroom floor, last years WRX gets a new lease on life, reborn as the Impreza GT. The Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system for which Subaru is renowned is standard on all Imprezas, and is certainly a plus in snow bound climates.
You'll Like This Car If...
The 2009 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 conditions, potentially a must-have for those living in less temperate climates. The turbocharged engine found in the Impreza 2.5GT offers plenty of passing power and fun.
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, Saturn Astra or Volkswagen Rabbit. Like the Impreza, the Suzuki SX4 also offers all-wheel drive plus a lot more features for less money.
What's New for 2009
A new trim, the 2.5GT, is added to the Impreza lineup. Although it is powered by a 224 horsepower turbocharged engine, the only transmission available is Subaru's four-speed SPORTSHIFT automatic. The 2.5i premium gains a power sunroof, while all Imprezas now come equipped with four wheel anti-lock disc brakes, traction and stability control.
The 2009 Impreza 2.5GT trim offers ample fun from its gutsy turbo engine, and encourages frequent dips into the throttle. The rougher engine of the 2.5i doesn't do the fairly heavy Impreza any favors, however, and is partly responsible for its slow acceleration. While the GTs sport-tuned suspension does make for a more than capable ride through corners, neither trim offers the 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, 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.
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.
The turbocharged and intercooled engine found in the 2.5GT is just what this car needs. The "whoosh" of power that occurs when the turbo begins making boost is addictive, a characteristic that even the most cautious drivers can enjoy tremendously.
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 navigation system (available only with the automatic transmission), Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio and a 6-disc/10-speaker stereo. A long list of 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 2004-2009 Mazda MAZDA3, the 2009 Impreza 2.5i five door is now dangerously close to lacking identity. The Outback and GT trims spice things up considerably, with larger wheels and more body cladding to banish the bland. And, while many may have considered previous generations homely, they were without question recognizably Subaru. On the plus side, the Impreza's all-wheel drive offers year-round security and many trims feature such useful winter necessities as heated side mirrors and windshield wiper de-icers.
Notable Standard Equipment
The laundry list of standard equipment for this car is, for the most part, par for the course in 2009 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/CD audio system, cruise control and remote keyless entry. The 2.5i Premium adds 16-inch alloy wheels, a power moonroof, 10 speaker audio with six-disc CD/MP3 changer and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. The Outback Sport adds 17-inch wheels, heated seats and exterior body cladding, while the 2.5GT gains 17-inch sport wheels, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, automatic climate control and a power glass 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 is available with Subaru's Premium Package, while all models can be fitted with the Satellite Radio and Navigation package. Most options are bundled into dealer installed accessories and include items such as a stereo upgrade (tweeters and a powered subwoofer), additional cup holders, 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 (and the sprightly 2.5GT gets some additional help in the form of turbocharging). 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, although only the 2.5GT's engine features dual overhead cams. 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 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/27 (manual), 20/26 (automatic)
2.5-liter Boxer-4 Turbocharged
224 horsepower @ 5200 rpm
226 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/24
The base 2009 Subaru Impreza 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 and the 2.5GT pushes the starting price closer to $28,000. These broad ranging prices put the Impreza squarely in the range of the Volkswagen Rabbit or Jetta, Honda Accord, and the Acura TSX. The Audi A3 starts at the high-end of the Impreza pricing, and offers all-wheel-drive, significantly better fit, finish and luxury appeal. As for resale, the Impreza is expected to hold its value well, with five-year residual values better than the Suzuki SX4 and Saturn Astra, and just below the Volkswagen Rabbit and Mazda MAZDA3.