- Torquey engine and hard-to-fluster all-wheel drive
- Very smooth, absorbent ride
- Surprisingly capable handling
- Steering doesn’t feel sharp
- Backseat lacks legroom
- Looks very plain
The comfortable 2008 Subaru Impreza has broader appeal than the former model, without losing its personality—and it’s the only small sedan model in its price range with standard all-wheel drive.
Subaru's new Impreza shares part of its name with the new Impreza WRX, but the more vanilla-flavored Subaru sedan and hatchback are tuned more for commuter duty, not high-speed hairpin handling. As with its predecessor, the new 2008 Subaru Impreza is powered by a unique horizontally opposed ("flat") four-cylinder engine, and all-wheel drive is standard across the model line.
The new 2008 Subaru Impreza is now offered in four-door sedan and five-door wagon body styles--the wagon, which is 6.5 inches shorter but affords more versatility, is covered under a separate review. The Impreza has ditched the bulbous, winged nose that had been applied to the Subaru range, and both cars get framed doors--long a holdout by Subaru--for better noise reduction and a higher-quality feel.
Both versions of the 2008 Subaru Impreza ride on a new chassis with a wheelbase 3.7 inches longer than before, but more rigid and lighter in weight than the last edition. The longer wheelbase, Subaru says, translates into a better ride and more interior room, as well as lower interior noise. Subaru also has positioned the flat-four engine lower in the chassis for better handling, which it indicates is a better compromise of sport and comfort than the prior car.
Those promises translate to a driving experience in the new 2008 Subaru Impreza that feels sophisticated and refined for a small car, but not that exciting. The Impreza has a relatively soft and absorbent ride, and its interior is now notably hushed from wind and road noise. In corners, the body leans quite a bit, but the suspension is well designed and allows impressive grip and poise, so it's a great package for most buyers concerned with good, safe handling and day-to-day comfort.
The 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter flat-four engine is still among the most torquey and responsive at low revs of any four-cylinder engine its size, which makes it especially well suited to the automatic transmission--though the five-speed manual also brings good performance. The only complaint is that it only has four gears and they're spaced rather far apart, which can lead to rough downshifts at times. Fuel economy is a disappointment in the 2008 Subaru Impreza; it comes with ratings of only 20 mpg city, 27 mpg highway.
The 2008 Subaru Impreza sports a much richer, more elegant interior along the lines of the large Tribeca SUV, which also gets restyled for 2008. The interior has more shoulder and hip room, an input for MP3 players, and video jacks for video-game players to operate through the optional navigation system. Seats are more supportive and comfortable than in most other inexpensive sedans, and there's enough space for two average-size adults in the backseat, though knee space and legroom are a bit tight.
A single 2.5i model of the 2008 Subaru Impreza sedan is offered, which includes what's now considered basic equipment on a car of this price, such as air conditioning, keyless entry, power windows and locks, and an MP3-compatible CD sound system. The Premium Package adds four-wheel disc brakes, fog lamps, steering-wheel audio controls, and an upgraded 10-speaker sound system with an auxiliary jack. Sirius Satellite Radio and a navigation system are available together as a package.
Electronic stability control and incline start assist are included with the Premium Package but not otherwise available on the 2.5i sedan. Anti-lock brakes are standard, along with front side airbags and side curtain bags. The 2008 Subaru Impreza does well in crash tests, with top five stars for frontal impact and four- and five-star results in side impact from the federal government, along with top "good" results from the IIHS for both side and rear impact.