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The 2014 Subaru Impreza lineup may look like a conventional pair of economy-minded compact cars: a four-door sedan and a five-door hatchback. But its standard all-wheel drive sets it apart from more mainstream competitors that don't offer AWD outside crossover utility vehicles, and it lets the Impreza tackle more adventurous outings--not to mention handle winter weather with greater aplomb--than the average Honda Civic or Ford Focus.
The current car is in its third model year after an extensive redesign that gave it crisper styling, better fuel efficiency, additional features and options, and even more competitive pricing. It's now closer to the mainstream compact market than ever before, though it's more often compared to the second tier of competitors--the Volkswagen Jetta and Golf and the Mazda 3--than it is to the market-leading Toyota Corolla.
The redesign from 2012 yielded an exterior that's almost exactly the same size as the model it replaced, yet Subaru has made better use of the space, with a new seat design that has more passenger space and now folds flat. There's also a useful variety of bins, trays, cubbies, and cup holders, along with a pair of 12-volt power outlets. Our only complaint about the interior is that you hear a bit too much road noise on some surfaces.
In all standard Impreza models (the higher-performance WRX and STI models are covered by a separate review), a 2.0-liter horizontally opposed ('flat') four-cylinder engine makes 148 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque, transmitting it to all four wheels through either a five-speed manual gearbox or, for better gas mileage, the second generation of Subaru’s Lineartronic continuously variable transmission. The five-speed comes standard in lower-end models, but it's largely our preference between the two; the CVT is offered in all trims and standard in the high-end Impreza Limited. Handling is responsive and drama-free, but it doesn't quite win in the fun-to-drive category (that would go to the Mazda 3 or Ford Focus).
The federal government has given the Impreza five stars; while in IIHS testing it's earned the group's Top Safety Pick+ accolade, with a top-tier 'good' performance in the tough small overlap frontal test. You'll find all the other safety equipment that's expected in this class, and with the recent redesign Subaru slimmed the pillars for better visibility.
The 2014 Impreza remains offered in base, Premium, Limited and Sport Limited models. Premium models add popular equipment like cruise control and fog lamps. The Limited trim level adds 17-inch alloy wheels and the CVT with six-speed manual mode and paddle shifters as standard, plus leather seat upholstery, automatic climate control, auto on/off headlights, an AM/FM/CD stereo with HD radio, and some trim options. One of the few options is a navigation system with a 6.1-inch screen. For 2014, Aha Radio is included with any car optioned with the navigation system, and a rearview camera comes as part of the Limited package.
- Attractive styling
- Responsive, drama-free handling
- Standard AWD
- Easy loading, flat cargo floor
- 36 mpg, in an all-wheel-drive car
Next: Interior / Exterior »
- Interior trim still feels cheap
- Road noise
- Mandatory AWD
- Lack of advanced infotainment options