It was 12:45 a.m. and I was bounding down a very dark two-lane country road. Traffic cleared and I hit the high beams. Whoa! These are really, really good: bright as day, very good reach, very strong, uniform beam. A few days later, I drove a Porsche on the same stretch of road, also at night. I didn’t find its headlights to be any better than the Impreza’s. Very impressive.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
The plain-Jane Impreza plays a very convincing Clark Kent to the WRX’s Superman. It’s pleasant, refined, and generally competent, but doesn’t really do anything special. Power from the normally aspirated 2.5-liter engine is sufficient and refined. There’s a bit more body roll than expected, but it never seems to upset the Impreza’s handling balance. The only real complaint here is with the interior materials, which are much harder than what you’ll find on a similarly priced Mazda 3 or Volkswagen Jetta.
Of course, the Impreza does retain its alter-ego’s all-wheel-drive powers, an important advantage over other compacts in cold-weather driving. Those who live in Sunbelt states might be less eager to drag around an extra differential and pay the price at the gas tank.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
No, this isn’t a WRX, but that doesn’t mean a base Impreza isn’t at least a little sporty. The 2.5-liter offers a decent amount of pep, and despite having only four gears, the automatic transmission is a good match for this car — shifts are executed in a smooth, succinct manner, and it loves to hang onto gears when pushed into “sport” mode. I’d love to have one of these as a daily driver — it’s comfortable, somewhat entertaining, and seeing as I do live in mid-Michigan, the all-wheel-drive system is nothing short of a boon.
If you plan on regularly hauling sizable loads of luggage, groceries, or other cargo, you’ll want to spring the extra $500 for the four-door hatchback model. The Impreza sedan’s largest downfall is its small trunk — a sizable portion of the load floor is raised to accommodate the rear suspension, which does slightly encroach into its usable space.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
Too bad for that four-speed automatic, as it really seems to be holding this Impreza back. No matter how refined your engine or smooth your shifts are, four gears can’t provide the bandwidth of acceleration that I expect without a disconcerting shift down to second gear at 50 mph. My other chief complaint is the interior, which is drab and features some questionable panel fits. Take a look at the instrument binnacle crudely cut into the main dash. It’s a fine example of what GM might have produced 15 years ago.
Other than that, the Impreza is a nice car to drive with the decent steering and handling. This is also probably the only all-wheel-drive system that I’d really want to spend money on at this price point. Most other automakers use a front-wheel-based system that only sends torque rearward once slip is detected. As the Subaru normally sends torque to both axles, there’s a decent chance you won’t encounter that wheel-slip situation in the first place.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
Four score and seven years ago, four speeds in an automatic might have been just fine. But the world has moved on. Just like Eric said, at least the shifts are smooth, but the widely spaced ratios mean either way too many revs or not enough power.
And oh my word, the fuel economy is unacceptable for a car in this class.
Jason Cammisa, West Coast Editor
2010 Subaru Impreza 2.5i Premium
Base price (with destination): $19,190
Price as tested: $20,690
2.5-liter horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engine
Vehicle dynamics control (ESP)
Four-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS)
Tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS)
16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels
AM/FM/CD audio system with Aux input jack
Steering-wheel mounted audio controls
Tilt steering column
Power locks and windows
Remote keyless entry
Options on this vehicle:
4-speed automatic transmission — $1000
Special edition package — 500
– Power moonroof
– Fog lights
– Heated front seats
– Heated exterior mirrors
– Wiper de-icer
Key options not on vehicle:
Navigation system — $3000
EPA Fuel economy:
20 / 26 / 22 mpg
Size: 2.5L horizontally opposed 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 170 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 170 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Curb weight: 3119 lb
16 x 6.5-inch aluminum alloy wheels
205/55R16 89V Bridgestone Potenza RE92A all-season tires