How much "sport" does a boxer-four give this zippy sedan? It’s hard to deny that the Subaru Impreza has earned its place in the hearts of gearheads everywhere.
As an enthusiast, it’s hard to deny that the Subaru Impreza has earned its place in the hearts of gearheads everywhere. For the younger generations the “hot” versions of the Impreza, namely the WRX and STI, were the cars that one guy at school had that you always wanted, the cars you drove in every video game and the poster on your bedroom wall. Much like the heroic muscle cars of the 60s, the Impreza will be long admired by those who remember the impacts the car has made on our automotive culture. That said, for those who need to be a little more practical while still wanting to capture some of the performance and excitement offered by the big-boy models, the standard Impreza might be a tempting option. So to find out how much of this excitement has been infused into the latest iteration, I jumped into a 2014 Subaru Impreza Sport Sedan for a week.
Subarus have always been cars that I’ve like; but the latest generation Impreza has proven to be an exception. Unlike most other Subaru’s, at first glance it tends to blend in quite well with a more conservative look, but upon closer inspection it becomes obvious that it’s still a Subaru. Subaru has paid particular attention to the styling at the front and rear of the car and it shows; the front fascia looks low and aggressive with a fat round lip at the bottom edge of the bumper. A very tasteful rear spoiler that honours the car’s performance history flanks the rear deck lid. My tester came with nice 17” alloys and low profile Yokohamas. The Impreza still fits the part; it’s sporty looking, but not to the point where every teenager in a ’98 Civic is going to want to line up with you.
Now, despite the name “Sport”, behind the wheel my Impreza Sport feels a lot more like a well-rounded compact sedan than anything sporty, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. While still on the rough side, the 2.0L boxer engine is the most refined boxer engine I’ve experienced to date. It does have enough of that signature Subaru sound to keep most boxer fans satisfied. The engine puts out 148 horsepower, and in the city I found the Impreza torquey enough to easily hustle through traffic, but lacking in top end power for highway passing. My tester came equipped with the optional CVT transmission and paddle shifters. As expected, when left to its own devices the CVT makes the car feel significantly underpowered; however, the paddles are quick to respond making it easy to intervene and make better use of the power. Despite having to work a little hard to get moving, the Impreza turned out respectable fuel economy numbers, especially when taking into account all the extra weight and moving pieces added by the AWD system. I averaged 7.9L/100km in my rush hour commute.
Given the Impreza’s sporty nature I had expected the driving dynamics to be barrels of fun, but the steering is not nearly as responsive as the new Mazda3 or the Kia Forte. In fact, while certainly competent, I found taking the car through some curves rather boring. There is an upside though, the softer handling does help make the ride quite pleasant and that is a very welcome trait for a commuter like me. Now, while I didn’t find the car to be all that exciting in normal conditions, during my test week we did experience some torrential downpours and being late October, this meant side streets covered in slippery wet leaves. This is where I began to appreciate what the Impreza really offers; the phenomenal symmetrical AWD system. Despite the slippery mess on the roads, I was able to confidently rush through curves while the system worked flawlessly to keep my grip on the road. The centre display can even be set to display a diagram of each wheel and indicates the traction and power at each wheel. It’s gimmicky, but entertaining none the less.
Geeky center display aside, there are no other surprises inside the Impreza. I’ve never found interior design to be a strong point for Subaru, and the Impreza is no exception. Typically Subaru, the inside is very utilitarian; there are plenty of storage cubbies, visibility is great and the seats in my Sport model did prove quite comfortable. I do think Subaru needs to start thinking about stepping up its game in the interior department as competitors like Kia and Hyundai have really began to raise the bar for interior quality in the compact segments.
With an MSRP just over $25,000 my mid-range Sport tester may prove to be a good percentage of Impreza sales. The Sport package includes the techy information center display screen, a power moonroof, foglights, spoiler, leather wrapped wheel and gear shift knob, as well as some handy cold weather features like auto climate control and heated front seats. Basically, it includes everything you’d need to be comfortable, but nothing more.
After driving the Impreza for a week I do clearly see where it fits into the market. It’s certainly not the right compact car for everyone; if you’re looking for refinement, features and flash, the fully loaded and more luxurious Hyundai Elantra Limited or Honda Civic Touring can be had for only a few hundred dollars more than the Impreza. Where the real value in the Impreza lies is with its infamous AWD system. For a rural commuter or for the winter adventure types, the combination of fuel economy, practically and an unbeatable AWD system may prove very difficult to match.
2014 Subaru Impreza Sport Sedan Gallery