Full 2010 Subaru Impreza Review
What's New for 2010
For 2010, the Subaru Impreza receives minor changes throughout its extensive lineup, including a new grille design and new Special Edition packages for certain models. The WRX also gains a Limited trim level.
Few vehicles have such a wide breadth of body styles, engines and target buyers as the 2010 Subaru Impreza. From a mountain-visiting outdoors enthusiast who desires the extra ground clearance of the Outback Sport, to the track-addicted driving enthusiast who desires the high-tech mechanicals of the WRX STI, there's an Impreza for practically everyone.
The Impreza is available as either a four-door sedan or a four-door hatchback. In base 2.5i form, it competes with compact cars like the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda 3 and Volkswagen Golf. Though not as fuel-efficient as those models, its standard all-wheel-drive system sets it apart for those who live in areas where rain and snow are a way of life. The Outback Sport hatchback shares the 2.5i's engine but adds features like increased ground clearance and rugged body cladding, making it a unique offering in this segment.
There are also several performance-oriented Imprezas with increasing levels of spice. The 2.5GT provides considerably more punch than the base car, thanks to a turbocharged engine, but with its automatic transmission and moderate suspension tuning, it's designed for those who desire speed without any compromises in comfort. The performance-tuned WRX is a card-carrying member of the sport compact club along with the Chevy Cobalt SS, Mazdaspeed 3, Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart and VW GTI -- and a strong member too, with swift acceleration that tops all comers in the class.
The Impreza WRX STI is a rally-bred performance machine. Though tamed a bit when redesigned a few years ago, it remains a compelling choice for "Fast & Furious" types drawn to big turbos, all-wheel drive and limited-slip diffs. Of course, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X is an omnipresent thorn in its side and arguably more appealing considering its sharper handling.
Certainly, there's plenty to choose from in the lineup of 2010 Subaru Imprezas. We're fond of the Impreza, and each variant deserves a look from interested small car buyers. However, drawbacks like lackluster fuel economy, a quirky navigation interface and poor stereo sound keep it from being a clear-cut leader in any of the classes it competes in. Cross-shopping with one of the previous mentioned rivals is certainly a good idea.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Subaru Impreza is available in four-door sedan and four-door hatchback body styles. Both are available in 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5GT, WRX and WRX Premium trims, while the hatchback also comes in Outback Sport and WRX STI trims.
The 2.5i comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, keyless entry, air-conditioning, cruise control, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, a tilt steering column and a four-speaker stereo with CD player. The 2.5i Premium adds 16-inch alloy wheels, leather-wrapped steering wheel and a 10-speaker stereo with six-CD changer, auxiliary audio jack and steering-wheel controls.
Opting for the 2.5i Premium's Special Edition package adds foglights, sunroof and the contents of the All-Weather package (heated side mirrors, heated front seats and a windshield wiper de-icer). The Navigation & Power Moonroof package, meanwhile, further equips the Impreza with a sunroof, an automatic transmission, Bluetooth, a touchscreen navigation system, satellite radio and an RCA audio/video jack.
The Outback Sport is similar to the 2.5i Premium trim level but has 17-inch alloy wheels, a raised suspension, foglights, roof rails, bumper under-guards, different exterior trim special interior upholstery, the 10-speaker stereo and a standard All-Weather package. The 2.5GT adds to the 2.5i Premium a turbocharged engine, an automatic transmission, 17-inch alloy wheels, larger brakes, a mildly sport-tuned suspension, a hood scoop, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, automatic climate control, electroluminescent gauges and the All-Weather package.
The WRX is essentially a higher-performance version of the GT with a mandatory five-speed manual transmission, a more powerful engine, summer tires, a more aggressively tuned suspension, special WRX trim and aerodynamic body pieces. The WRX Premium adds the extra items from the 2.5i Premium. The Navigation and Power Moonroof package is optional. The WRX Limited adds to the Premium a sunroof, leather upholstery and satellite radio.
The WRX STI is equipped similarly to the WRX, but ups the performance ante even more. It gains a six-speed manual, 18-inch wheels, high-performance tires, Brembo brakes, front and rear limited-slip differentials, SI-Drive vehicle settings, an even more aggressively tuned suspension, a bigger hood scoop, xenon headlights, sport seats and faux-suede and leather upholstery. The STI's BBS Package adds multi-reflector foglights and 18-inch BBS wheels in either silver or gold (the latter not available with all colors). The BBS + Navigation Package adds the previous items, plus a navigation system, Bluetooth, RCA audio/video jacks and the single-CD player. The STI Special Edition brings with it the wheels and suspension from Japan's STI spec C model, and decontents the car with halogen headlights, a four-speaker stereo, a single-CD player and manual climate control. In addition to the normal STI colors, the latter will also be available in a limited run (125 units) wearing Aspen White paint.
Powertrains and Performance
Every 2010 Subaru Impreza comes standard with all-wheel drive. The 2.5i and Outback Sport models are powered by a 2.5-liter horizontally opposed (boxer) four-cylinder engine that produces 170 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual with hill-start assist is standard and a four-speed automatic is optional. In performance testing, this engine with the manual went from zero to 60 mph in 8.2 seconds. Estimated fuel economy is below average for a small car -- the manual gets 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined, while the automatic drops the highway number to 26 mpg.
The 2.5GT is powered by a turbocharged version of the 2.5-liter engine producing 224 hp and 226 lb-ft of torque. The four-speed automatic is the only transmission available. Its 0-60 time should be about 6.5 seconds. Fuel economy estimates are 19/24/21. The WRX has a revised version of the 2.5GT's engine that cranks out 265 hp and 244 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed manual is the lone transmission choice. Its 0-60 time in testing was a snappy 5.2 seconds, while fuel economy estimates are 18/25/21. The WRX STI gets even more boost for 305 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque. With its standard six-speed manual, the STI achieves fuel economy of 17/23/19 and, more importantly, reaches 60 mph in a blazing 4.5 seconds.
Standard on all Impreza models are antilock disc brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints to help mitigate crash-induced whiplash.
In government crash tests, the 2010 Subaru Impreza scored a perfect five stars for frontal crash protection, five stars for front occupants in a side crash and four stars for rear occupants in a side crash. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Impreza its highest-possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
Whether you opt for the sedan or hatchback, the Subaru Impreza provides a spacious cabin with loads of head- and legroom. The hatch obviously provides more cargo room, with a maximum 44 cubic feet of space. Seat comfort in the 2.5i models is only so-so, and the driving position suffers from the lack of a telescoping steering wheel (it only comes on the 2.5GT trim level and higher). The seats are also much better on the performance-oriented models, though the STIs lack lateral support relative to their rivals.
The interior design is pleasant enough and materials quality is about what you'd expect for the compact class, though it starts to seem cheap when you're paying $35,000 for the STI. Stereo and especially climate controls are simple and straightforward. Opting for the navigation system increases the complexity of the stereo, as its menus and graphics aren't the cleanest around. Sound quality, regardless of stereo, is notably poor.
The base 2010 Subaru Impreza rides and handles satisfactorily for a compact car, and its tenacious all-wheel-drive grip is a boon for wet-weather driving. The naturally aspirated 2.5-liter boxer has more aural character than your typical economy-grade four-cylinder, and it delivers adequate punch when called on. The 2.5 GT is decently fast in a straight line, but its performance is perceptibly blunted by the lazy four-speed auto. Moreover, the GT is uninspiring when the road gets twisty, owing to its incongruously soft suspension.
The WRX, however, is an impressive performance machine for the money, featuring upgraded power and considerably more athletic and confidence-inspiring moves through the corners thanks to its firmer suspension and summer performance tires. The WRX STI kicks it up a few more notches via its twin limited-slip differentials, powerful Brembo brakes, six-speed manual transmission and potent rush of acceleration whenever the throttle is wide open. Ride quality on the WRX models is acceptable considering the performance, but some drivers may object to the extra levels of road noise.