We were just in Los Angeles covering the North American debut of the all-new Subaru WRX. I suppose it was only fitting that the week just prior to leaving was spent driving the new 2014 Subaru Impreza Hatchback. I have been a fan of the flat-four “boxer” engine Subaru’s known for since as long as I can remember, so an opportunity to drive their entry-level compact was a treat I really looked forward to. My editor tends to put us in cars that are slightly out of our comfort level, so while I’m a Subaru fan, this is one I wasn’t used to.
Last winter, I booted around both snowed-in city streets and deserted country roads in the 2013 Subaru WRX, and I immediately established that it would be a serious contender for my next daily driver. Subarus appeal to me for a few reasons – the sound of the boxer engine, their excellent all-wheel-drive system that makes them usable year round, and their focus toward function over form. This Impreza was equipped with the Touring Package, which is not exactly how I would spec mine.
Under the hood was a 2.0L flat four-cylinder that puts out 160 horsepower and 140 lb-ft of torque. It’s not quick by any means, but it’s not exactly a slug either. I personally felt as though the continuously variable transmission (CVT) made the car feel significantly slower than it is. That being said, merging onto the 400-series highways was effortless. Being a little four-cylinder, the top-end passing power was lacking a bit, but with the Impreza’s focus towards efficiency, it’s easy to let slide. The transmission does have paddle shifters that simulate artificial gears, and to be quite honest, they do a decent job of moving the little car along.
The CVT helps keep revs very low unless in full-throttle acceleration, and this returned a highway average of 7L/100km. Even though this is a bit higher than Subaru’s suggested number, it’s worth noting that I drove the car during a very cold week in November. Being a Japanese compact car with no forced-induction, the Impreza does only require 87-octane fuel. Keep in mind that this does not apply to WRX or STI models. The all-wheel-drive system does hurt fuel economy a bit, but in my eyes it’s a worthy trade-off.
Subarus have never been known for beautifully-designed interiors. If that’s a high priority within your shopping criteria, there are alternatives available within the class. What this Japanese automaker does focus on is making everything simple and rugged. Stereo controls are no-nonsense and easy to access – same goes for the climate controls. My Touring Package tester wasn’t as loaded as some of the other cars I’ve tested in the segment, but it got the job done quite well. Heated cloth seats, USB connectivity, Bluetooth audio as well as handsfree calling, cruise control, and remote keyless entry are all present. It’s necessary to step up to Sport or Limited trims to get features such as navigation, leather-appointed seats, and a sunroof. The Touring also lacks automatic headlights, which I feel should be necessary on a car with a price tag greater than $20,000. There are way too many drivers who take the lighting of the instrument cluster for granted and forget to turn their headlights on.
The Impreza is priced right in line with the rest of its competitors, but with this relatively-base model priced at $22,595, some may ask why it should be looked at over rivals such as the new Mazda3, the redesigned Toyota Corolla, or the long-favoured Honda Civic. This is where the Impreza’s trump card comes in. With Suzuki exiting the Canadian market and taking its SX4 with it, the Impreza is the only relatively affordable compact left that offers all-wheel-drive. On top of that, it’s not even an option; it’s standard equipment across the lineup.
The majority of the team here at Double Clutch likes wagons and hatchbacks. Combined, we have owned quite a few of them and put our money where our mouths are. I love the added practicality of the fifth door, which, in the Impreza’s case, ate up as much stuff as I could throw at it. I even took the car on a small Ikea run where I was able to establish that a futon slid right in with the rear seats folded down.
In the brutal winters that Canada is subjected to, cars like the Impreza are where consumers should be. Personally, I would opt for the manual transmission model, but I can completely see why this CVT-equipped Touring Package car is a volume seller. The practicality of the hatchback, the safety and fun around all-wheel-drive, and a competitive price make for one great package. Plus, this is the platform for the new WRX, and that can never, ever be a bad thing.
2014 Subaru Impreza Touring Hatchback Gallery