2016 Subaru Impreza Review

2016 Subaru Impreza 5-Door Touring Road Test Review

  

Worth every penny

 

Subaru holds a unique position within the car industry. It has maintained steadfast core values centered on reliability, practicality, safety, and environmental leadership on one hand and extreme performance on the other; it makes its trademark Symmetrical all-wheel drive system standard on all but one of its models; and it's stayed 100 percent loyal to a horizontally opposed "boxer" engine configuration only otherwise used by Porsche (and occasionally Ferrari) that reduces a vehicle's centre of gravity to improve handling. 

For these reasons, as well as improving its average fuel economy, interior refinement, infotainment systems, and overall value proposition, Subaru has more than doubled its Canadian sales since 2009 and almost tripled deliveries since 2005. Yet it's still a more exclusive brand than most competitors that put a higher priority on sales volume. Ask Impreza buyers about their car's popularity and they'll smile, happy they've purchased something you won't see on every corner and more importantly a car that ideally suits their personal image and lifestyle. If you ask me, I think a lot of consumers are missing out. 

 

Just the same Subaru has been using its sales growth and the resultant economies of scale to its advantage, by creating cars that are more premium in refinement and features yet priced closer to the volume sellers. Take the Impreza, redesigned for its fourth-generation in 2011 and only receiving minor revisions since, but still looking good thanks to an inspired original design featuring muscular yet classy four-door sedan and five-door hatchback profiles, a bold hexagonal grille and even more eye-catching lower front fascia, attractive chrome detailing from front to back, and more, while the interior gets a premium-grade soft touch dash top, the same pliable synthetic for the door uppers in front and the rear (the latter very rare), sharp looking metallic trim on the steering wheel spokes, instrument panel, centre stack, lower console, and door panels, plus some impressively upscale electronic interfaces, and the 2.0i 5-door Touring model I'm describing was merely just above base at $22,595 plus freight and dealer fees with a five-speed manual or $23,895 with one of the industry's best continuously variable automatics (CVT), with paddle shifters no less. 

Now that I've mentioned the word "standard" I'd better let you know what comes with the $19,995 entry-level sedan and $20,895 base 5-door, starting with a 16-valve, DOHC, 2.0-litre four-cylinder with active valve control that's capable of 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque, AWD, a fully independent suspension, auto-off multi-reflector halogen headlamps, body-colour mirror caps and door handles, a rooftop spoiler, remote entry, power-adjustable mirrors, variable intermittent wipers, a tilt and telescopic steering column, illuminated steering wheel controls, a 3.5-inch colour multi-information display, cruise control, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, voice activation, a 6.2-inch high-resolution colour touchscreen infotainment display, a rearview camera, AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio with aux, USB and iPod integration plus satellite radio, filtered air conditioning, 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks, cargo tie-down hooks, a hill holder, all the usual active and passive safety features including an airbag for the driver's knees, and much more. 

 

That base infotainment system is very good, incidentally, with access to news, food, weather, music, podcasts, audiobooks, and other multimedia content via its own apps or Aha and Pandora, plus there's a "Settings" section for personalization and tweaking the car's various functions, while the audio interface incorporates a built-in automated graphic equalizer that lets you quickly switch from bass- and treble-centric settings to a flat sound that's better for talk radio. 

Touring trim takes things further upscale with re-bound front springs, a rear stabilizer bar, full auto on/off headlights, 16-inch alloys on 205/55R16 Yokohama tires, a windshield wiper de-icer, welcome lighting, chrome inner door handles, two-way heatable front seats, two additional stereo speakers, a rear centre armrest with cupholders, a retractable cargo cover, and more. 

Other than body styles (the 5-door is $900 more) and the CVT ($1,300) the only options available with the Touring package are six no cost exterior paint colours and the choice of black or ivory cloth upholstery. That's it, but of course you can opt for Sport or Limited packages too. 

Without going into too much detail the $23,895 Sport adds 17-inch alloys on 205/50R17 tires, fog lamps, aero ground effects, a larger rooftop spoiler, a larger more sophisticated 4.3-inch colour multi-function display, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, aluminum pedals, automatic climate control, a powered glass sunroof, etcetera, while $26,995 top-line Limited trim includes unique 17-inch alloys, HID headlamps with auto-leveling, LED side mirror turn signals, chromed door handles, dual-zone auto HVAC, a larger 7.0-inch infotainment system with a capacitive touchscreen, navigation, SMS text messaging, SiriusXM Traffic, Travel Link and advanced audio services, leather upholstery, and more. 

 

Sport and Limited models can also be upgraded with a $2,500 Technology package that makes the CVT standard before adding steering responsive fog lamps, NVH reducing liquid-filled rubber engine mounts, proximity access with pushbutton ignition, a shifter boot, and most importantly Subaru's EyeSight technologies that include adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, and lead vehicle start alert, the EyeSight gear earning the Impreza an IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus rating over and above the five-star NHTSA crash test rating all Impreza trims achieve. A fully loaded 5-door Limited with the Technology package will set you back $30,395 plus freight and fees. 

Now that we're talking practicalities, the Impreza's emissions are very clean evidenced by Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (PZEV) status, just another reason its followers are so loyal, while the fuel economy is also good at 9.5 L/100km city and 7.0 highway with the manual or 8.5 city and 6.4 highway with the CVT. Subaru is also the highest rated volume brand on Consumer Report's coveted 2016 report card on reliability.

As far as compact models go, the Impreza does a nice balancing act between sport and comfort. As most will know this little car is the basis for both the rally-bred WRX road rocket and the rugged little Crosstrek soft-roader, so the seats are inherently comfortable as well as amply supportive, my tester's featuring nice woven black cloth bolsters with soft velour inserts, while the steering wheel looks sporty and feels comfortable, plus the shift paddles fall naturally to fingertips. 

The CVT features shift points to feel more like a conventional automatic, and it does a convincing job, while I found the paddles best for downshifting to hold a given gear during aggressive cornering, a situation the Impreza takes to naturally thanks to a rigid body shell, a wonderfully sorted suspension and reasonably sized wheels and tires. The Touring's ride quality is also very compliant no matter the road surface beneath, and braking is also strong. 

 

Of course a comforting ride matters when passengers are on board, as does a lot of room to stretch out. Nobody is likely to complain about front seat spaciousness in the Impreza, while I had plenty of leg and foot room in back too. I always position the front seat for my own five-foot-eight frame as a reference, and then climb in back to see how I fit in. Granted I'm not a large person, but I had plenty of room to spare in all directions, while I was especially impressed with the rear seats' lower back support. 

Those seatbacks fold 60/40 for a large, flat loading floor, the process expanding a 637-litre (22.5 cubic-foot) cargo hold to a maximum of 1,486 litres (52.5 cubic feet), or in other words there's ample room for life's gear. A well-made aluminum cross-member houses a retractable cargo cover to keep valuables hidden, plus there's a storage compartment below the cargo floor. 

Like the well-made cargo cover, everything about Subaru's compact feels above average. From its solid body structure, robust powertrain, go anywhere AWD, excellent handling, comfortable ride, impressively finished interior, top-tier electronic interfaces, and overall usability, plus its excellent predicted reliability and resale value, the Impreza is truly worth its asking price. I can't say that for everything on today's market. No wonder Subaru enjoys one of the most loyal customer bases in the industry. 

 

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press 

Photo credits: Trevor Hofmann and Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press 

Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.
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