Leftfield Economy Car: Subaru Impreza

November 30, 2009
(Starting at $17,495) (20 city/27 highway)

Do you need a car that is inexpensive and durable but cant stand the thought of being just another person in a Civic, Corolla or (horror!) Focus? Would it also be nice to have the security of all-wheel drive but are pretty sure you cant afford the cost of entry or the fuel economy? Well, guess again.  Subaru may have an answer for you.

Subaru isn't just for dirty hippies and high school art teachers anymore. Subaru has gone a bit more mainstream (although you wouldn't necessarily know it by looking at the quirkily styled five-door Impreza) and even in this economy its sales are growing. Part of that success has been down to the Subaru Impreza and no I am not talking about the iconic WRX.

While most car enthusiasts rave about the Impreza WRX or STI with the turbocharged engines these vehicles are not always the most practical thanks to insurance, maintenance and fuel economy concerns. Thats where the basic Impreza with 170 horsepower boxer engine comes in. It may look a bit odd but what else do you expect from Subaru? Oh yeah, some driving enjoyment.

When equipped with the five speed manual the 2.5i Impreza is a joy to drive. The full time AWD gives sure footed handling in all weather and the shifter moves smoothly from gate to gate. I actually find that this basic model shifts better than the unit in the WRX, which is a pity. At least for the drivers who pony up all that extra cash for the performance version. (The 2.5i is also available with an ancient 4-speed automatic for $1,000. Time to catch up and offer at least a five speed auto Subaru.)

Smart shoppers will pony up the extra $1,000 for the Impreza premium model which gives the car a ten speaker audio system (base model has 4 speakers), auxiliary iPod jack, leather wrapped shift knob and steering wheel as well as aluminum alloy wheels.

While the added leather padding may not sound like much of an extra any softness is welcome in the Imprezas cabin. Straightforward and to the point, the interior of the Impreza redefines the term plain. Its more than that. Its barren. It is where style flips back on its head, breakdances and then explodes into anti-style. This dashboard was not designed it was built just to serve the purposes for which it is required. Okay, it's ugly too.

At least all the gauges, dials and knobs are easy to understand and read. There may not be very many pleasingly tactile sensations on hand in the Impreza but its lack of pretense is refreshing in a world full of gimmickry. The center console has two big cupholders and the cargo area of the hatch is cavernous making you wonder why anyone would buy the boring sedan.

Subaru has never done things the easy way or the way other car companies do them. That is why it has endeared itself to a loyal cult of buyers who come back and buy more year after year. So if you fancy yourself just a little bit different do you really think you would look out of place behind the wheel of a wacky Subaru? They are just a little less wacky now.

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