Every time I sit inside this particular Impreza, I'm reminded of the cramped, ugly quarters of my dad's 2003 Hyundai Elantra GLS. The cabin has the same small, econo-car air and already suffers from a dated look, even though the Impreza was redesigned for 2008. There's a square radio, unimaginative swooping plastic dash pieces, basic temperature-control knobs, rental-car quality cloth seats, and a dreadful 80-watt, four-speaker base audio system. I don't think anybody would consider this interior on par with offerings in the Honda Civic and Mazda 3, both of which start at almost $2000 less than the $16,995 base Impreza.
Driving the Impreza doesn't make up for those shortcomings either. Subaru lists our 2.5i's boxer four-cylinder as having 170 hp at 6000 rpm (and 170 lb-ft of torque). Yet even with a five-speed manual, the Impreza has sluggish acceleration and does not feel like it offers 170 hp. And I noticed that the Subaru sometimes idled noticeably rough when the air conditioning was on. I guess the dynamic selling points of the car would be standard all-wheel drive and ABS. If buyers want rear disc brakes, fog lights, and body-color mirrors and door handles, they'll need to opt for the $1500 premium package. At least satellite radio and a touch-screen navigation system are an option - for $3500.
David Yochum, Assistant Editor