- Ride and handling
- Standard AWD
- Easy loading, flat cargo floor
- 37 mpg, in an all-wheel-drive car
- Tepid performance with CVT
- Road noise
- Sedan styling
The 2016 Subaru Impreza is the compact car to choose when you require all-wheel drive for year-round traction but don't want or need the gas-mileage hit that comes with boxy SUVs and rugged trail ability.
The 2016 Subaru Impreza is a line of compact hatchback and sedan models, but you might actually end up weighing these models against crossovers and SUVs. That's because they're the only ones in their segment to include standard all-wheel drive, even on the least expensive models.
While the closely related 2016 Subaru XV Crosstrek shares essentially the same sheet metal and body—and much of the same feature set—as the Impreza hatchback, it focuses more on ruggedness and trail-ability, so we cover it under a separate review.
Last year, the Impreza received a refresh that included new front-end styling, improved infotainment, new advanced-safety options, and better fuel economy. In all, the refresh makes this subcompact family, which essentially carries over into 2016, even more attractive to those in need of all-weather ability. Next year, the Impreza will be all new with a model that made its debut at the New York International Auto Show.
That refresh was visually subtle, and included just some new headlights and a redesigned grille and bumper. They inch the Impreza lineup a bit closer to the look of the larger Legacy sedan, and the trunk-mounted lip spoiler helps Impreza Sedan models look a little more proportionally fit; sedans tend to look a little taller (some might say more homely), while hatchbacks are sportier and a little more cohesive in their design and styling.
In all standard Impreza models (we also cover the high-performance Subaru WRX and STI models, no longer as closely related, in a separate review), a 2.0-liter flat-4 engine makes 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque, transmitting it to all four wheels. You can get a 5-speed manual gearbox on some of the more affordable models, yet upper trims make Subaru's continuously variable transmission (CVT) mandatory. We actually prefer the manual here; while the CVT works just fine, it can be a little sluggish to bring revs up when needed for a short burst of power (although it yields better fuel economy). Handling is responsive and drama-free, and braking is reassuring, although we'd choose a Ford Focus or Mazda 3 over the Impreza if driving enjoyment (and not AWD) were the priority.
The cabin is very well designed, with rear seats that fold flat for better cargo handling, and a surprising abundance of rear legroom. There's also a useful variety of bins, trays, cubbies, and cup holders, along with a pair of 12-volt power outlets. Last year Subaru added thicker side glass, and while that made the cabin a little more hushed than before it can still be a little loud on coarse surfaces.
The 2016 Impreza is perhaps the best pick in its class for safety. A rearview camera standard equipment on all models, while the excellent EyeSight system is now available; it uses front-mounted cameras and sensors for adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and automatic emergency braking functions. In IIHS testing, it has earned the Top Safety Pick+ accolade, with a top-tier "Good" score in the tough small-overlap frontal test as well as all other categories—including a "Superior" rating for that EyeSight suite. 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 federal government has also given the Impreza a five-star overall safety rating.
The Impreza is available 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 6-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. Aha Radio is included with any car optioned with the navigation system, and the entire lineup now gets some far more impressive 6.2- and 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment systems.
The Impreza has great fuel economy—28 mpg city, 37 highway, 31 combined with the CVT, or 25/34/28 mpg with the 5-speed manual—when pitted against other all-wheel drive competitors. Stacked against other compact cars, which are typically front-drive only, the Impreza isn't as impressive.