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2011 Subaru Impreza Performance

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While the Impreza sedan and five-door models bear more than a slight likeness to the high-performance WRX and STI models, their performance is more pedestrian. That's not to say it isn't good next to other inexpensive small cars; it's just a different competitive set—more the likes of the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra than serious sports cars and sport sedans.

All the Impreza 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 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, though, and has an annoying tendency to downshift early.

Unlike their rally-bred WRX and STi siblings, the regular Impreza sedan and hatch have suspension setups that are tuned more for commuter duty than high-speed hairpin handling. On each of these models, you'll find more accurate, better-weighted steering than is typical among inexpensive small cars, but there's a lot of give and body roll that keeps the standard Impreza and Outback Sport from having enthusiast appeal.

Standard all-wheel drive and good steering give the 2011 Subaru Impreza models a confident driving feel, but its powertrains aren't so responsive.

On the other hand, Subaru's excellent all-wheel drive systems, included in all Impreza models, do add to these cars' driving dynamics in some situations—allowing them a more surefooted feel out of sharp, slick corners, for instance.

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