Reviews

2014 Subaru Impreza Driving Impressions



The Impreza is definitely a Subaru. The small 2.0-liter flat-4 is no racer, but with its efficient twin-cam heads it develops 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. And while those may not be big numbers, remember that the base Impreza sedan weighs just 2944 pounds.

Impreza scores an EPA-estimated 27/36 mpg City/Highway with the CVT. Those are impressive numbers and all the more so considering Impreza comes with all-wheel drive and compares well against some of the best front-drive compacts: Ford Focus (26/37 mpg), Toyota Corolla (29/37), and Honda Civic (28/39). (All figures for base engine and automatic transmission.) Also in its favor, the Impreza qualifies as a Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV) in all 50 states.

One characteristic we did not like is the artificially sudden throttle tip-in from a standing start. It may make the car seem faster than it is, but it was annoying and unnecessary.

Our drives in the Impreza demonstrated one great plus. At Interstate speeds, it accelerates crisply and is delighted to cruise calmly and steadily at high speeds.

We found the continuously variable transmission a big improvement over earlier CVTs, including Subaru's own early version. The transmission has lost that feeling of being dragged around by a rubber band. The transmission still varies its ratio in response to engine speed, but it doesn't do this as numbingly, promoting more direct control of acceleration and speed.

Our Premium five-door had steering column-mounted paddle-shifters, the left-hand paddle for downshifts and the right-hand paddle for upshifts. Anyone used to the kind of vehicle control provided by a manual transmission, but not wishing to thump a clutch pedal every few seconds, will find these paddle-shifters a must. And the Subaru transmission doesn't play games. Within reason, you get the shift you asked for.

The transmission has another brilliant provision. With the console gearshift lever in the right-hand position, the CVT will make fully automatic shifts aimed at maximum fuel mileage. You can still paddle shift in this fully automatic mode, the transmission waiting a period before shifting to the most efficient cog. But if you insist on absolute paddle-shift control of the transmission, you merely move the gearshift lever to the left. From then on, when you make a paddle shift, the transmission holds that gear in play until you select another gear. This allows downshifting to control your car's speed descending a grade, because the downshift order stays in effect. If you want to, you can paddle-shift down two or three gears, presuming you will not over-rev the engine. This may be useful for downshifting into corners in wet weather or snow.

Whether equipped with the 5-speed or the CVT, all Impreza models feature Incline Start Assist, which helps prevent the vehicle from rolling back when moving away from a stop on an incline.

The Impreza's electronic steering delivers nicely firm steering effort, while contributing a 2-percent savings in fuel efficiency. And the Impreza's cornering and stability are surprisingly good even at relatively high cornering speeds. The suspension keeps the car remarkably flat and stable. However, when taken to its cornering limit, a large amount of body roll takes place. We found the Impreza much more pleasant at a sporty pace than at a racy pace.

The braking system has all the expected supporting systems: Electronic Brake Distribution, ABS and Brake Assist. The brakes have fairly good feel and performed powerfully even in very wet conditions.

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