2008 Subaru Impreza 2.5i

The manual transmission, however, is something Subaru needs to work on. Sure, the shifts are long (again, it's not a WRX), but the Impreza begs for a tall sixth gear. The 2.5-liter boxer-four produces 170 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque, enough to move the car along just fine in most driving scenarios. On the highway, however, the motor revs at close to 3200 rpm while cruising at 70 mph, helping to explain the Impreza's thirst for fuel. Fuji Heavy Industries predicts a 20/27 mpg city/highway rating, although I was seeing something closer to 23/27 mpg. That's better than expected, but it's not stellar - and it's certainly something a sixth cog would help.

Aside from its powertrain, there's little to draw attention to the Impreza - particularly on the exterior. The styling, all-new for 2008, isn't unattractive, but it won't steal the spotlight, either. While most of the exterior is shared between the sedan and hatchback models, the sedan gets rather frumpy aft of the rear doors. The LED taillights found on the hatchback are nowhere to be found, replaced by lights that, at best, are simply anonymous.

The interior is similarly inoffensive, but boring as well. Designers tried to liven things up with a colored band that appears to wrap across the dashboard, but our Impreza's interior was a sea of beige - beige plastics, beige cloth, beige headliner, beige flooring, etc. We're not asking for a SoHo lounge, but Subaru could stand to make the car's interior slightly more inviting.

That said, once inside, it's not uncomfortable. The seats are supportive for long hauls, while most controls are well positioned. Fit and finish for most surfaces is fine, but we're perplexed at the use of coarse plastics on the shift knob and steering wheel, the two places drivers touch most often.

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