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Review of: 2017 Subaru Impreza 4dr Sdn CVT Touring

7.4

2017 Subaru Impreza: All-wheel drive at a decent price

By Jil McIntosh

Feb. 23, 2017

For 2017, the Subaru Impreza morphs into its fifth generation, and with a couple of firsts. It’s the first to use Subaru’s new global platform, which will eventually underpin all of the company’s models. It’s also the first Impreza to be built in the United States, rather than solely in Japan, rolling off the assembly lines at Subaru’s plant in Indiana.

It’s also available as a hatchback, but I had the sedan. Pricing begins at $19,995 for the 2.0i Convenience, and travels through the Touring, Sport, and new Sport-Tech trim, topping out at $30,095 for the top-line Sport-Tech with Technology Package. Add $900 to each trim for the hatchback model.

A manual transmission is included on the Convenience, Touring and Sport but can be optioned to a CVT, while the gearless automatic is the only choice on the Sport with Technology and the Sport-Tech trims. All models, regardless of trim or transmission, come with all-wheel drive.

I had the Touring, which starts at $21,895. I also had the optional CVT for $1,300, bringing my ride to $23,195 before freight and taxes.

Pros & Cons

  • + Visibility
  • + all wheel drive
  • + 2nd row legroom
  • - Road noise
  • - Not particularly powerful
  • - Unsupportive front seats
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  • Walkaround

    The Impreza’s redesign makes for a sedan that’s handsome, but isn’t a standout; it looks good but still blends into the rest of the crowd. Sixteen-inch rims are standard on the Touring, with 17- and 18-inch wheels reserved for the upper levels. The Touring receives a few exterior touches not added to the base Convenience trim, including wiper de-icer, active grille shutters, fog lights, and automatic headlamps.

    There’s a lot of glass here, including that big back window, and visibility is excellent all around. Subaru says it has added flat wiper blades and redesigned the trunk lid to better open up the sightlines as well.

    The badges on the trunk indicate the car’s AWD configuration, and also its PZEV rating. It stands for Partial Zero Emission Vehicle, an emissions standard originally set by California’s Air Resources Board. PZEV vehicles meet it through some extra air scrubbers and their catalytic converter configuration. Subaru used to offer it as an option on some vehicle lines, but it’s now standard on most.

    7.0Good
  • Interior

    There are still a few little quirks in the cabin, but overall, it’s well-done and roomy for the car’s size. Even my Touring, just one step above the base, featured stitching on the dash and steering wheel, along with metallic trim.

    The seat comfort isn’t bad, although the chairs are not as supportive as some and get hard after a while. Legroom in the rear is good, and the seats fold easily to increase the trunk space.

    Automatic climate control is included on the Touring and up, and it’s operated by big dials that by themselves are easy to use. But the temperature and mode settings show up in the odd little screen that perches high atop the dash, and there’s a bit of disconnect—and some time taken away from the road—between reaching low for the dials, and looking high for what they’re actually doing.

    Small-item storage is handled by an open cubby at the bottom of the centre stack, and a covered box on the console, right behind the easy-to-find buttons for the heated seats. Backlighting is generally good, but the passenger’s window button could use some illumination at night.

    7.0Good
  • Tech

    The Convenience and Sport models use a 6.5-inch infotainment screen (higher trims get an eight-incher) that packs in smartphone integration through Apple CarPlay and Android Audio, as well as Aha Radio, USB with iPod functionality, and steering-wheel-mounted controls.

    All trim levels also include a rearview camera, but you have to move up above my tester to get satellite radio, navigation, or a premium Harman Kardon sound system.

    The optional Technology Package, available only on Sport and Sport-Tech trim lines and not on my tester, includes EyeSight, Subaru’s stereoscopic windshield-mounted camera that operates such functions as lane departure, adaptive cruise control, and forward collision mounting. Blind spot monitoring is also added only to higher trims above my car, as is pushbutton start, and a proximity function that lets you unlock the door by grabbing the handle, without the need to push the key fob.

    6.5Okay
  • Driving

    Regardless of trim level, all Impreza models use a 2.0-litre horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine that makes 152 horsepower and 145 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s received a considerable overhaul, with about 80 per cent of its components replaced, and now uses direct injection.

    Despite the makeover, it’s still nowhere near the top of the segment for power, which takes a bit to build up for passing. The Impreza gets you where you want to go, but don’t think for a second that you’re going to be nodding to the guy beside you in the WRX. The attached CVT sits about the middle of the road for these gearless automatics: it isn’t whiny or rubbery, but it doesn’t make the experience any sportier, even if you use the wheel-mounted paddles to “shift” between its pre-set points in manual mode.

    The famous all-wheel system is the star here, and clad with winter tires, my tester simply looked at a hefty snowfall and said, “I got this.” The “symmetrical all-wheel” name refers not to the torque split, but to the system’s mirror-image layout on either side of the chassis. Impreza models equipped with the manual transmission use a viscous-coupling centre differential, with 50/50 torque split front to rear. CVT-equipped ones use a multi-plate transfer clutch and divide the power 60/40 under normal conditions, but send up to 50 per cent rearward when necessary. The Sport-Tech also adds active torque vectoring, exclusive to that trim.

    Fuel consumption is officially rated at 8.5 L/100 km in the city and 6.4 on the highway, while I averaged 8.1 L/100 km.

    The steering is well-weighted and accurate, and the car is smooth and flat around corners. Feedback is also excellent, and you know exactly what’s under the wheels. But despite the new platform’s extra rigidity, the Impreza’s cabin lets in more road noise than some of its competitors, and while its lighter-weight feel is nice when rounding curves, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a rearview mirror shake this much when going over highway expansion joints.

    8.0Very good
  • Value

    It’s not easy to cross-shop the Impreza, because its base price of $19,995 often falls between those of competitors’ model sizes: the Toyota Corolla starts at $16,390, for example, while the Camry begins at $25,170. Kia’s Forte rings in at $15,495, while the Optima starts at $23,695, and the Subaru falls between Ford’s Focus at $17,398 and its Fusion at $23,688.

    Features and trims will make a difference, of course, but what sets the Impreza apart from such rivals as the Honda Civic, Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda3, and Volkswagen Jetta is that all-wheel drive system. None of the others have it, and that unique-in-the-segment configuration is what makes it popular with a number of buyers.

    8.5Very good
  • Conclusion

    So it’s a bit underpowered, it’s a bit quirky inside, it’s a bit noisy. And you know what? For the price of my tester—less than $24,000 before freight and taxes—I got a car that did an incredible job of defeating winter and was, overall, nice to drive. This isn’t the most spectacular makeover I’ve ever seen, but it’s a good one, and it’s going to make a lot of friends among AWD fans. You don’t always have to be flashy to make a good impression.

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