Impreza: Our test car held its own on the back roads without being ferociously sporting or supremely capable. A new control-arm rear suspension replaces the old strut-type setup (a modified version of the old front strut/control arm setup remains), and while it offers greater composure and improved wheel control (as well as an increase in luggage capacity due to its more compact packaging), it also seems a little too softly sprung for its task. On dry roads, moderate understeer rears its head, but dirt brings about a nicely tail-happy balance that likes to sort itself under throttle. Ride quality is soft and impact harshness muffled, but body control suffers; the chassis tends to take a while to settle out after large road undulations.
Lancer: At low speed, the Lancer feels more involving than the Subaru, but the harder you press it, the more distant it becomes. Ride quality diminishes at high speed, and unfortunately, the hydraulically boosted steering offers none of the Lancer Evo's feedback (or any semblance of its gloriously quick ratio), and it suffers from more kickback than the rack on the Subaru. The Lancer's more aggressive ride quality and more raucous engine tend to make driving at any speed a little more fun than it would be in the Impreza, but its shorter-travel suspension and less compliant dampers can't cope as well with poorly paved roads. Chalk this win, too, up to the Subaru: It may not feel quite as lively, but it's ultimately more capable.