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TheCarConnection.com researched available road tests on the Impreza to produce this conclusive review and get you the most useful shopping information. And to gauge how the 2010 Subaru Impreza stacks up to the competition, TheCarConnection.com's editors have driven both sedan and hatchback versions and give you their take here in this Bottom Line.
Subaru has made several significant changes to its Impreza lineup over the past two years, expanding the range to accommodate a wide breadth of body styles, engines, and target buyers. In fact, last year Subaru added two models to the Impreza lineup with the introduction of the new turbocharged 2.5GT sedan and hatch models, but this year the only major changes are some model line shifts, minor styling freshening, and additional amenities.
Visually, every model in the 2010 Subaru lineup gets a new grille design. Some models also are available with a new Special Edition package, which adds a host of extras on top of the Premium and All-Weather packages from last year.
Unlike their rally-bred WRX and STi siblings, the regular Impreza sedan and hatch are tuned more for commuter duty instead of high-speed hairpin handling. The driving experience in the 2010 Subaru Impreza is refined for a small car, but not that exciting and is somewhat of a tease considering the fact that all models come with a flat-four "boxer" engine, displacing 2.5 liters, and all-wheel drive. The base engine is rated at 170 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. It’s surprisingly torquey and responsive at low revs, making it especially well suited to the four-speed automatic transmission, though the five-speed manual also brings good performance. The automatic has gears that are spaced too far apart and has an annoying tendency to downshift early. Upgrade to the turbocharged 2.5GT model and you get a more exciting 224 horsepower and 226 pound-feet of torque, but the only transmission option is the outdated four-speed automatic. Still, performance is respectable, with the 0-60 mph sprint taking just 6.5 seconds. Fuel economy is also a disappointment in either version. The base 2010 Subaru Impreza is rated at only 20 mpg in city and 27 mpg on the highway, while the GT is worse at 19/24 mpg.
One benefit of the all-wheel drive is the impressive grip levels, especially in adverse weather conditions. Despite all of this, the latest Impreza has been tuned for comfort, and this is clearly evident in the relatively soft and absorbent ride. The interior is roomy, with decent backseat space, though legroom is a bit tight. Hatchbacks don't have a lot of cargo space, while the trunk in sedans is surprisingly spacious. The Impreza's interior is notably hushed from wind and road noise—which were overbearing on previous versions.
Both the sedan and hatch do exceptionally well in crash tests. In government crash testing, the 2010 Subaru Impreza scores a perfect five stars for frontal crash protection, five stars for front occupants in a side crash, and four stars for rear occupants in a side crash. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), meanwhile, gives the Impreza its highest-possible rating of "good" in the frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests. Standard safety features on all Impreza models include anti-lock disc brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, and active front head restraints to help mitigate crash-induced whiplash. Electronic stability control and incline start assist are included in the Outback Sport or with the Premium Package but not otherwise available on the 2.5i hatch or sedan.
Compared with its rivals, the 2010 Subaru Impreza comes well-equipped with quite a few creature comforts, even in base form. The base 2.5i comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, keyless entry, air conditioning, cruise control, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, a tilt steering column, and a four-speaker stereo with CD player. The 2.5i Premium adds 16-inch alloy wheels, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a 10-speaker stereo with six-CD changer, auxiliary audio jack, and steering-wheel controls. New for 2010 is the 2.5i Premium's Special Edition package, which adds fog lights, a sunroof, and the contents of the All-Weather package (heated side mirrors, heated front seats, and a windshield wiper de-icer). Also available is the Outback Sport. Based on the hatch model, it brings a more rugged look and some enhanced ability, thanks to a raised suspension, larger wheels, and standard electronic stability control. Topping the range is the 2.5GT, which features goodies such as a power glass moonroof and fog lights, as well as 17-inch alloy wheels, a mildly sport-tuned suspension, a hood scoop, and bright electroluminescent gauges inside.