2015 Subaru Impreza Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
July 6, 2015

The 2015 Subaru Impreza is tough, practical, and relatively attractive, offering a small all-wheel-drive package for those who need it without the big fuel-economy penalty it used to bring.

The 2015 Subaru Impreza remains the only model in its segment to offer standard all-wheel drive. The Impreza is a family of compact cars that comes as either a five-door hatchback or four-door sedan.

For 2015, the Impreza gets a refresh that includes new front-end styling, improved infotainment, new advanced-safety options, and better fuel economy.

All these things should make this subcompact family even more attractive to those in need of all-weather ability.

Review continues below

The mild redesign given to the 2015 is subtle, and it includes modestly different headlights, grille, and bumper. Together, they inch the Impreza closer to the look of the larger Legacy sedan. Sedan models also now receive a trunk-mounted lip spoiler as well as an LED-lit third brake light. The overall shape is familiar from last year; both the hatch and sedan have an upright look with purposeful, chunky styling elements.

The interior remains large for the class, with rear seats that fold flat for better cargo handling. There's also a useful variety of bins, trays, cubbies, and cup holders, along with a pair of 12-volt power outlets. For 2015, Subaru promises thicker side glass, which should address our one real complaint with the cabin; past models let a bit too much road noise in on some surfaces. The 2015 cars also are supposed to have improved interior materials.

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 now standard in both the Premium and 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 gives the Impreza a five-star overall safety rating. 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. 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. For 2015, Subaru has made the rearview camera standard equipment on all models, while the EyeSight system from the Legacy and Outback is now available; it uses front-mounted cameras and sensors to add adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and pre-collision braking functions.

The 2015 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. Aha Radio is included with any car optioned with the navigation system.

Fuel economy also gets a boost for 2015, with the most fuel-efficient CVT models now maxing out at 28 mpg in the city and 37 highway. The five-speed manual comes in at 25/34 mpg, while Sport models with either transmission drop one mpg in both the city and highway ratings.

8

2015 Subaru Impreza

Styling

Subaru has restyled the Impreza this year, and added more luster to its cockpit.

While not necessarily the most stylish car on the road, this generation of Impreza also no longer looks awkward or dowdy. The brand has returned to its trapezoidal grille shape, and added "hawkeye" headlights–making it look more closely related to the larger Legacy sedan and Outback crossover.

For 2015, the Impreza sedan and hatch both get new front-end styling. The grille, front bumper, and headlights have all been replaced with similarly shaped pieces; the changes are subtle to be sure, but they inch the Impreza models closer to the Legacy/Outback look for more parity among the brand's models. Sedans also get a standard trunk-mounted lip spoiler as well as an LED-illuminated third brake light.

Along the sides, exaggerated wheel arches nod to the Outback, but also serve to break up the height of the flanks. The only disappointing area of the Impreza is the side view of the front fenders, where the wheels appear a size too small for the tall cowl and substantial front overhang. The 2015 model gets a new side-view mirror design that's supposed to improve aerodynamics; higher trim levels include turn-signal repeaters integrated into the mirror caps.

Underneath, if you care to look, there's been more attention to smoothing air turbulence, and a longer undertray also reduces air drag, which helps with that other issue: gas mileage.

To our eyes the four-door sedan isn't quite as good-looking as the hatch; it looks tall and stubby from some angles, while the five-door hatchback is quite neatly styled at the rear. A number of Impreza details echo other cars—the front hood line has a touch of Chevrolet Cruze, the taillights a hint of the latest Honda Civic, the sharply defined bumper edges recall the Chevy Volt. Overall, the form is far crisper and more coherent than the 2007-2011 Impreza it replaces.

Straightforward and functional would be a good way to describe the cabin design. The Impreza has neither the fashion-forward shape of the Ford Focus hatchback nor the clean lines of the Mazda3. But it’s also no longer the wallflower at the ball, and it's lost the gawkiness of the last generation.

A half-oval cowl in front of the driver covers the speedometer and tachometer, with a square digital display screen between them. At the top of the center of the dash, an eyebrow cowl shades a wide multifunction display where less mission-critical data is displayed in larger and easier-to-read type. Modest matte silver accents divide the top dash and door surfaces from the vertical lower portions.

Overall, the Impreza offers a sensible, no-nonsense cabin with few extraneous frills or electronic distractions. Only in a few places does the design come off as cut-rate; the plain, flat silver gear-shift surround is one, the plain black radio surround is another. For 2015, Subaru also promises improved interior materials, and we're hoping attention was paid to those cheaper-looking pieces.

Review continues below
7

2015 Subaru Impreza

Performance

The Impreza's acceleration is by no means earth-shattering, but handling is competent, and all-wheel drive is standard.

All standard Imprezas (we except the WRX and WRX STI performance variants, which are covered in a separate review) receive a 2.0-liter horizontally opposed 'flat' four-cylinder engine that produces 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. That power moves through either a five-speed manual or continuously-variable (CVT) transmission to one of Subaru's famous symmetrical all-wheel-drive systems.

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, as well as the Premium, Sport Premium, and Sport Limited.

The CVT is electronically controlled to keep the engine operating at maximum efficiency regardless of what the driver asks the car to do. For the most part it's quite responsive, and the company has largely avoided the usual downside of CVTs; the engine rarely races up to peak revs without a corresponding increase in road speed. Although the one thing we'd like to see changed is its very slow ramp-up of revs when a quick burst of power is needed.

All CVT models except the base Impreza 2.0i offer paddle shifters behind the wheel (they're optional on Premium models, standard on the Limited trim level), and that helps when you anticipate needing that extra spurt. They let drivers “shift down” one or two simulated ratios in a “six-speed manual mode.”

Handling is responsive and drama-free, but it doesn't quite win in the fun-to-drive category (that would go to the Mazda3 or Ford Focus). Despite new electric power steering, the Impreza retains decent feedback at the wheel, though it’s not quite as eager and agile as the Mazda 3. (A quicker ratio for 2015 might resolve this issue, but we won't know until we get behind the wheel of the updated model.) Brakes are progressive, as is typical for Subarus, but haul the car down from speed without fuss. The boxer engine also gives all Subarus a low center of gravity, and the Impreza is flat in cornering, accelerating neutrally out of corners with little discernible understeer—unlike virtually all of its front-wheel-drive competitors.

Two all-wheel-drive systems re offered in the Impreza; one with the CVT and one that's paired with the manual. Manual cars get a more basic viscous coupling in the center differential, while the CVT is backed by an electronically controlled hydraulic clutch that apportions torque front to rear.

Review continues below
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2015 Subaru Impreza

Comfort & Quality

Ample interior space and supportive seats are met with a moderate amount of road noise inside the Impreza.

The current Impreza generation makes better use of its interior space–both for passengers and cargo–giving it a leg up on previous models with similar exterior dimensions.

Materials were improved at the beginning of this generation, with soft-touch materials now covering the majority of the dashboard and center console, and controls are mostly simple and intuitive, with large round ventilation knobs and a particularly neat optional navigation system integrated into the radio. The 2015 refresh promises improved materials yet again, which we're hoping means the few remaining cheap-feeling pieces will be gone.

There's enough room in the Impreza to seat four average-sized adults comfortably, though it'll take a squeeze to put someone in the rear middle seat. The seatbacks of the front seats have been scalloped to create extra legroom for passengers in the rear, and ease of entry and exit benefits from that update, too. So while it might not be wide, the rear seat has a lot of room front-to-back, which is also very helpful when the seats are folded and the rear is loaded, especially with the hatchback model.

Subaru has put a lot of thought into cargo capacity and versatility in the Impreza. Its rear seat folds fully flat, and the five-door model accepts many standard roof carriers. Also, befitting its practical, hey-let’s-go-kayaking-and-spelunking-today image, Subaru enlarged the hatch and trunk openings with last year's redesign, to accommodate a medium-sized dog carrier or a mountain bike with its front wheel in place (the headliner is even scalloped to allow two mountain bikes, standing upright with the front wheels removed.

There's also a useful variety of bins, trays, cubbies, and cup holders, along with a pair of 12-volt power outlets.

A peeve we noted in an earlier drive is that you need to reach through or around the steering wheel in order to cycle through the different modes on the central multifunction display; it's hard to operate when the car is moving, and should be moved to the steering wheel or main dash.

One exception that has kept the Impreza from a higher rating here is wind noise from around the door mirrors, long a Subaru weak spot, and tire roar, which is excessive on certain surfaces. The 2015 model should address all of that, with added sound deadening, thicker side glass, and reshaped side mirrors that improve aerodynamics. We'll update this section as soon as we get a drive in a 2015 Impreza.

Review continues below
9

2015 Subaru Impreza

Safety

The Impreza is one of the safest compact sedans you can buy; EyeSight's now available.

The 2015 Impreza performs well in safety testing, putting it toward the very top of its class. This year, Subaru has added more standard safety equipment and is offering some advanced-safety tech as well.

In addition to the usual set of airbags, Subaru has includes a seventh airbag to protect the driver’s knees. A brake-override system is also included. For 2015, the rearview camera is now standard across all trim levels, and higher trim levels will be available with Subaru's EyeSight Driver Assist Suite; it uses front cameras and sensors to add adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and pre-collision braking.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has given the current Impreza an overall five-star rating–with top scores in all tests, save for a four-star rating in frontal impacts. At the time that this review was updated, the federal government still hadn't officially carried over the Impreza's four-star frontal and five-star overall scores; although front-end styling has been tweaked for 2015, it likely does not affect the body structure, so we expect those scores to apply to this model year as well.

The Impreza is an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick+ choice, meaning that it's received a top score of 'good' across the board in all tests--including in the new small-overlap frontal test. Top Safety Pick+ status requires some form of front-collision-avoidance tech and automatic braking.

Subaru also improved outward visibility in the latest Impreza by slimming the pillars; and with a relatively high front seating position and somewhat low shoulder line, there's good visibility in most directions.

Review continues below
8

2015 Subaru Impreza

Features

Subaru's new touchscreen infotainment system is now offered in the Impreza.

The 2015 Subaru Impreza is available in five different trim levels–base, Premium, Sport Premium, Limited, and Sport Limited–with each offering a decent amount of features for the money.

All-wheel drive, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, a USB port, an auxiliary jack, and iPod controls are all standard on every Impreza model. This year, Subaru also adds cruise control, a rearview camera, and touch-screen infotainment to that list.

The new base infotainment setup uses a 6.2-inch touch screen and includes Subaru's STARLINK smartphone integration. It's included on base and Premium models. The Limited models step up to a 7.0-inch screen and add satellite radio, voice control, and twin USB ports.

Options include the Lineartronic CVT, the Navigation package, a power moonroof, a 17-inch alloy wheel package, and an all-weather package with heated front seats and exterior mirrors and a wiper de-icer. The new EyeSight safety system is available on Limited models and also includes a function that uses the fog lights as cornering lights.

Premium models add to the base model popular equipment like alloy wheels, six-speaker sound, 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. A navigation system is one of a few options.

There's also an appearance-oriented Sport Premium model that has a leather-wrapped steering-wheel and shift knob, as well as the 17-inch wheels.

Review continues below
7

2015 Subaru Impreza

Fuel Economy

Gas mileage is very good if you consider its standard all-wheel drive; otherwise, the Impreza's numbers look average against some high-miler rivals.

The 2015 Subaru Impreza continues with better fuel-economy ratings than any other all-wheel-drive vehicle currently available on the market. CVT-equipped versions get a slight bump thanks to minor improvements for 2015.

The most fuel-efficient CVT models now max out at 28 mpg in the city and 37 highway. The five-speed manual comes in at 25/34 mpg, while Sport models with either transmission drop 1 mpg in both the city and highway ratings, likely due to higher-rolling-resistance tires.

The Impreza is clean enough to earn the designation of Partial Zero-Emission Vehicle, or P-ZEV—the label for vehicles that follow California’s stricter emissions standards; and Subaru has decided to offer the P-ZEV engine in all 50 states, not just where it's required.

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December 25, 2015
2015 Subaru Impreza 5-Door CVT 2.0i Sport Limited

Fun, but puny

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I love everything about this car except the fact that it wasn't available in WRX trim. Such a great little car, but so under powered from a dead stop. Fingers crossed for a future rerelease of the WRX Wagon.
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August 31, 2015
2015 Subaru Impreza 4-Door CVT 2.0i Limited

I really like this car

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Handles corners beautifully with its low center of gravity. Ride is comfortable and controlled. Handles road imperfections very very well. Gas mileage overall is 33mpg; impressive for a 4 wheel drive. Quality... + More »
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April 14, 2015
For 2015 Subaru Impreza

2015 better Subaru than my 2009 Subaru.

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I was hesitant to give up 20 plus horse power trading in my 2009 Impreza Sport for a 2015! Similar models the Outback Sport from 2009 and the Sport Premium fom 2015, but the transmission (6 speed CVT)) blew my... + More »
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