Several years ago, if you wanted a mainstream compact car with all-wheel-drive, the options were quite limited and the go-to vehicle of choice was the Subaru Impreza. With one of the best all-wheel-drive systems in the industry and a sticker price that competed quite well against front-drive counterparts, it was an easy decision for many consumers. This is the 2020 Subaru Impreza Sport-Tech 5-door, and we’ve spent a week with it to see how this stalwart plays in an industry that has quickly moved to crossovers that are comparably sized and priced.
In addition to the market moving from cars to crossovers, consumers have also been moving away from hatchbacks. This has led to announcements from other manufacturers such as Ford, General Motors, and even Toyota that certain models won’t exist past 2021. Fortunately, Subaru Canada has not made any such claim and buyers can still opt for both sedan and hatchback variants of the popular Impreza.
Exterior wise, the conservative design of the Impreza lacks the “wow factor” that the previously mentioned Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla Hatchback (reviewed here) also have in spades. Typical for Subaru, it’s a clean design but lacks any sort of excitement and is now getting long in the tooth, while rivals are focusing on swooped lines and curves everywhere.
Inside, owners are treated to the typical Subaru layout, infotainment system and materials. Everything is ergonomically placed and easily within reach. Most people will not need to open their owner’s manual to figure out how to use the infotainment system or HVAC controls. On our Sport-Tech tester, soft touch materials are used throughout and the seats are covered with leather. Those who love black interiors will really love the Impreza Sport. While some silver trim pieces, red stitching and aluminum pedals break up the monotony, there is a sea of black everywhere. It’s a simple design, and design-wise, the Mazda3 (reviewed here) and Toyota Corolla Hatchback both have interiors that look stunning and more modern.
Head and legroom is fine for my six-foot-three frame, and smaller occupants will have no problems sitting behind taller drivers for extended periods of time. It’s important to remember that this is a compact, but space efficiency has been executed well enough that it’s easy to forget this. The Impreza has 588-liters of cargo capacity, and with the rear 60/40 split seats folded down, this number jumps to 1,565 liters.
All Subaru Imprezas have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard, however our Sport-Tech model has an eight-inch touchscreen versus 6.5-inch screens found on lower trim levels. The infotainment system is extremely simplistic in layout and navigation, but it’s still a bit cartoony to look at and lags behind the competition. The eight-speaker Harmon Kardon sound system is nothing to write home about which is disappointing as I expected much higher quality over the standard six-speaker system.
The Impreza gets one engine choice across the board, a 2.0-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine, with 152 horsepower at 6,000RPM and 145 lb-ft. of torque at 4,000RPM. This engine is far from a tire shredder and with the standard CVT, the Impreza takes around nine seconds for a 0-100km/h run. The transmission shifts smoothly enough but lacks a sense of urgency even with Sport mode engaged. There is enough passing power, just plan accordingly since you are pushing the scales at 1,405 kilograms. Selecting Sport mode keeps the transmission in a more urgent setting, but does nothing to change the steering feel or suspension. Ride quality is smooth on city streets with only the biggest of potholes giving those inside something to complain about. The steering has more than enough feel and heft for the average consumer, as well.
Even with the CVT, fuel mileage was not optimal with our Impreza tester, though noting that our test vehicle was brand new and not fully broken in. Subaru Canada rates the Impreza at 8.4L/100km city and 6.6L/100km on the highway. Factoring in that our test took place during a heat wave with generous air conditioning use, we averaged 9.5L/100km in mostly city driving. Unlike the performance-oriented WRX and WRX STI, the Impreza gets away with requiring regular 87-octane fuel.
One aspect that the Impreza Sport-Tech excels in is safety. Subaru’s EyeSight system is class leading technology that incorporates adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision braking, pre-collision throttle management, lane keep assist and lead vehicle start alert. This is all in addition to reverse automatic braking, blind spot detection and all-wheel-drive. Buyers with harsh winter conditions should strongly consider this car, for its reputed longevity and the brand’s strong focus on the safety aspect.
The four-door Impreza sedan starts at a very aggressive $19,995, with a manual transmission in base trim. Choose the hatchback tested here, and $1,000 gets added to the price tag. Our tester here is the top-trim Sport-Tech with EyeSight, and comes in at an eye-watering $31,695, with the only option being your choice of exterior colour. From a value standpoint, things look great, until the Impreza is compared to what other manufacturers are bringing to the table at this price point.
The Subaru Impreza’s biggest competitor comes from its slightly lifted sibling, the Crosstrek (reviewed here). As cars have lost flavour with consumers, the subcompact crossovers have taken over the spotlight. That said, other rivals such as the Mazda3 with all-wheel-drive are still strong players, and buyers will be cross-shopping against small crossovers like the Hyundai Kona and Kia Seltos. As it stands, even as this generation ages, the 2020 Subaru Impreza Sport-Tech 5-door is a great choice for buyers requiring all-wheel-drive that may not want to step up to a crossover just yet.
2020 Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE