The Subaru Impreza has been a bestseller for years, and it set sales records in 2010 while others struggled. That's because of how much it offers for the money, including standard all-wheel drive. It packs in a lot, for its size and price. The 2011 Impreza is in its fourth year of this generation.
All Subarus are highly capable cars, and the Impreza is the backbone of the line. It deserves to be a top choice in foul weather or on rough roads. But it's an easy car to live with even in the best of conditions. It's comfortable and easy to drive. The interior is simple and straightforward, and everything is easy to operate. Cargo capacity after the 60/40 rear seats are dropped is excellent.
The Impreza is solid and safe, the ideal size for running around town while holding its own on the freeway with trucks and big SUVs. Fuel economy is EPA-rated at 20/27 mpg with manual, 20/26 mpg with automatic.
The Impreza comes in 4-Door sedan and 5-Door hatchback versions.
For 2011, the turbocharged Impreza GT has been discontinued, as attention has turned toward the hot WRX, which we review separately.
The four-door sedan looks traditional, while the styling of the five-door is sporty and somewhat edgy. The 5-door costs $500 more, but it offers more utility than the sedan with its larger cargo capacity, easier parking with its shorter overall length, and even better cornering with less rear overhang. Many people nonetheless prefer the lines of a simple sedan.
The Impreza Outback Sport comes only as a five-door. It's prepared for travel on unpaved roads and can easily carry gear for outdoor work or activities, from sports to dogs. Outback Sport includes 17-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires, a raised suspension, foglights, all-weather package, and cargo tray. The new 2011 Outback Sport Special Edition adds a power moonroof and removable TomTom navigation system, the audio system upgrade including Bluetooth and USB, iPod and satellite radio capability, and it's value priced.
The Impreza has a smooth highway ride and responsive cornering, thanks in some part to its relatively long wheelbase (103.1 inches), and the low engine placement, an advantage of the horizontally opposed position of the four cylinders. This lowers the center of gravity and improves the balance, contributing to agile cornering. What's more, the Impreza shares the quick WRX steering rack, with 2.8 turns lock-to-lock, and a tight 34.8-foot turning circle. You can definitely feel it, and it's good.
Out on the highway, there's plenty of speed from the 170-horsepower engine, with 170 pound-feet of torque at 4400 rpm, for good acceleration. There's no lacking in power at any rpm range.
The standard 5-speed manual gearbox works well. The optional 4-speed automatic works okay, too, including when you have to floor it, passing trucks or slower traffic on a two-lane highway. Most cars have 5-speed automatics nowadays, but the Subaru engine has enough flexibility in its power band to work well with a 4-speed.