BOWMANVILLE, ON – One of the first Subaru products I ever tested was an Impreza hatchback, just about five years ago. Since then, we have tested every single one of its competitors, in almost every available trim and with just about every powertrain. The Impreza still stands out as one of the best available choices thanks to its standard all-wheel-drive and Subaru’s reputation and dedication towards safety. We attended the official unveil of the latest model at this past year’s New York International Auto Show, and since then we were excited to try the car. I was invited to a specialized media launch to take a quick spin in the 2017 Subaru Impreza lineup, on a closed racetrack setting.
Offered in both sedan and hatchback configurations, the new Impreza implements Subaru’s latest design language in its freshest form. For the first time ever, the sedan actually looks sleeker (in my humble opinion, of course), while the hatch looks like a modestly restyled version of the previous generation model. The sedan I drove was painted in a lovely shade of blue, a bit lighter than Subaru’s signature World Rally Blue, and looked seriously good. The larger 18” wheels and trunklid spoiler on the Sport model set off the styling nicely. The hatch gets new taillights that are reminiscent of the current Outback (reviewed here), and of course, the added versatility.
Despite appearing to be just a mid-cycle refresh, the 2017 Impreza is on an all-new platform. Subaru claims the unitized body structure has been stiffened and includes 70% more rigidity. This means added nimbleness, better ride quality, and much better NVH, all of which are things the old Impreza was notorious for. When out on the track and road course, we were immediately able to see improvements here. The new Impreza is far quieter and feels more refined than the outgoing car. Ride quality is a bit stiffer, but the old car already rode pretty firm.
The Impreza’s powertrain isn’t too drastically changed, using a revised version of the same 2.0L horizontally opposed boxer four-cylinder as the outgoing car. This motor now gets direct injection as well. Horsepower is now 152 (up from 148 on the outgoing car), though what’s really noticeable here is the smoothness in power delivery. The available manual transmission is still only a five-speed where all rivals are offering six, though the take rate for three-pedal Imprezas (reviewed here) is extremely low. The Lineartronic CVT transmission is one of the best in the segment, offering a simulated manual mode with seven available “gears” and paddle shifters.
Handling on the track is very good, with actual feel in the power steering and the added confidence of Symmetrical all-wheel-drive. The significantly improved steering ratio (it’s now 13:1 over the 16:1 on the last Impreza) means direct response and ease of use. We didn’t get too much extended drive time, but the conclusion is that the car handles like a dream and is far more confidence inspiring in the corners, especially at higher speeds. The new suspension also minimizes body roll – Subaru claims it’s 50% reduced over the 2016 model.
Subaru’s EyeSight tech (reviewed here) is offered on higher end trims equipped with the automatic transmission, which means the car receives a Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the IIHS (facility tour here). The Impreza’s EyeSight incorporates automatic pre-collision braking, lane departure or sway warning, adaptive radar cruise control, blind spot detection, and rear cross traffic alert. Things like reverse automatic braking and high beam assist are also available, meaning this mainstream compact now comes with a host of safety features that could previously only be had on the higher Legacy and Outback models.
The new Canadian-exclusive Sport-Tech trim adds a whole bunch of goodies that enthusiasts will want, and it’s the one we drove on the track. A sport-tuned suspension, Active Torque Vectoring (not unlike the system available on the race-bred WRX), 18” machined alloy wheels, and exterior ground effects are all standard issue on the Sport. Interior upgrades here include the 8.0” touchscreen with Starlink infotainment, unique leather upholstery, aluminum pedals, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with red stitching. This model also gets a Harman/Kardon stereo with eight speakers. It’s also important that the new Impreza is the first Subaru product offered with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Pricing for the 2017 Impreza starts at $19,995 for the base “Convenience” trim in sedan form with the manual transmission, with an $800 added cost for the five-door hatchback. There are Touring and Sport models offered in both body styles with both transmission options. Models with the Technology Package and Sport-Tech trims are CVT only, with the five-door Sport-Tech with Technology topping out at $30,995. Priced aggressively within its segment, the Impreza will undoubtedly sell well in Canada.
In a cutthroat compact segment, the 2017 Subaru Impreza comes in with a plethora of safety features, a vastly improved interior, and a direct-injected powertrain. With sales increasing at a healthy rate month after month, the Subaru brand has a lot to be proud of, especially with the rebranding next year of Fuji Heavy Industries to the Subaru Corporation. Those wanting a compact sedan or hatchback have a number of great choices including the Mazda3 (reviewed here) and Honda Civic (reviewed here), but if all-wheel-drive is a requirement, look no further than Subaru.