Full 2014 Subaru Impreza Review
What's New for 2014
A rearview camera is now standard on the Limited trim level, and smartphone app integration (featuring Aha Internet radio) is included on 2014 Subaru Imprezas equipped with the optional navigation system.
At the heart of the Subaru lineup, you'll find the sensible 2014 Impreza. This affordably priced compact car comes as either a sedan or hatchback, and its standard all-wheel-drive system makes it incredibly useful in parts of the country that see heavy snowfall. In past years, AWD was often consumers' sole reason for buying a Subaru Impreza, but the current car also features a modern, roomy interior, a comfortable ride quality and steady handling, making it a viable small car option for a wider range of shoppers.
However, competition is fierce among today's small sedans and hatchbacks. And one notable mark against the 2014 Subaru Impreza is its slower than average acceleration. Making matters worse is its four-cylinder engine's lack of refinement -- the engine makes a considerable racket when paired with the more popular of the two transmissions, a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that takes the place of a conventional automatic. On the upside, the Impreza's fuel economy ratings are respectable (especially for an AWD car that weighs more than front-wheel-drive rivals), but during our 12-month long-term test of the 2012 Impreza, we were unable to match its 30 mpg EPA combined rating in real-world driving.
These aren't necessarily deal-breakers, and overall we think pretty highly of the Impreza, especially since it's the only car in this category to have all-wheel drive. But given how there are plenty of great small cars available this year, it's worth your time to check out some of the leaders before making a decision. Our top choice is the newly redesigned 2014 Mazda 3, which is quite enjoyable to drive and is also available in sedan and hatchback body styles. Other fine choices include well-rounded cars like the 2014 Ford Focus, Honda Civic and Hyundai Elantra.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Subaru Impreza is available as a sedan or hatchback in 2.0i, 2.0i Premium and 2.0i Limited trim levels. The hatchback additionally comes in 2.0i Sport Premium and 2.0i Sport Limited trims. The WRX and STI are high-performance versions of the previous-generation Impreza and are covered in a separate review.
The Impreza 2.0i comes standard with 15-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, keyless entry, air-conditioning, cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver seat, a manual tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 60/40 split-folding rear seats, a trip computer, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, USB/iPod integration and an auxiliary audio input. The hatchback also features cargo tie-downs, a roof spoiler and a rear windshield wiper.
The Impreza 2.0i Premium adds 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, an adjustable front center armrest, a cargo cover (hatchback) and a six-speaker sound system. Optional on CVT-equipped models is the Alloy Wheel package, which adds 17-inch wheels and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter. The optional All-Weather package adds heated mirrors, a windshield wiper de-icer and heated front seats; however, these items come standard on manual-transmission models.
The 2.0i Limited includes all of the above items and adds automatic headlights, foglights, automatic climate control, leather upholstery, a rear center armrest, a touchscreen audio interface and HD radio.
The 2.0i Sport Premium adds standard roof rails and foglights to the regular Premium equipment list and includes the Alloy Wheel and All-Weather package items as standard. Its 17-inch wheels also have a darker "gunmetal" finish. Meanwhile, the 2.0i Sport Limited bundles the Sport Premium model's additional features with the amenities of the 2.0i Limited (including automatic climate control and leather upholstery).
All CVT-equipped Premium, Limited and Sport Limited models can be equipped with an optional sunroof and a navigation system package, which includes a larger touchscreen interface, a rearview camera, voice controls, smartphone-based streaming Internet radio (Aha), satellite radio and traffic.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Subaru Impreza has a 2.0-liter, horizontally opposed "boxer" four-cylinder engine that produces 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque.
All versions except the Limited and Sport Limited feature a standard five-speed manual transmission coupled to an all-wheel-drive system with a 50/50 front/rear power distribution. Optional on most Imprezas (and standard on the Limited models) is a CVT paired with a different all-wheel-drive system that apportions more power to the front wheels (but transfers power rearward when more traction is needed).
The EPA's estimated fuel economy on the manual-transmission sedan is 28 mpg combined (25 mpg city/34 mpg highway). Mileage estimates are the same for the manual-shift hatchback, though highway mpg drops to 33. When equipped with the CVT, both the hatchback and sedan rate 30 mpg combined (27 city/36 highway). These are competitive numbers for the class, but we've been hard-pressed to meet them in our testing.
In Edmunds performance testing, a CVT-equipped Impreza sedan went from zero to 60 mph in 9.6 seconds, while a CVT hatchback made the same run in 9.7 seconds. These times are slow for a compact sedan or hatchback, but not unreasonable given the AWD Subaru's extra weight compared to front-drive rivals.
Every 2014 Subaru Impreza comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock disc brakes, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag and whiplash-reducing front head restraints.
Government crash tests yield five stars out of a possible five for overall protection, with four stars for total frontal crash protection and four stars for total side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded its highest possible rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. Its seat/head restraint design was also rated "Good" for rear impacts.
In Edmunds brake testing, an Impreza sedan with 17-inch wheels stopped from 60 mph in 123 feet, an average distance for the class. An Impreza hatchback, also with 17-inch wheels, covered the same ground in 119 feet, which is better than average.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Subaru Impreza's interior design is pretty conservative, a look that might turn off buyers looking for more flair. Others will find it clean, time-tested and high-quality, as the dash and door sills have soft-touch trim and panel gaps are tight.
The front seats are comfortable on long road trips (although there's little in the way of lateral support), and head- and legroom are above average for the class. The rear seat is one of the roomiest in the segment, making this Subaru suitable for small families. Cargo space is also generous: 12 cubic feet in the sedan's trunk and 22.5 cubes in the hatchback with its rear seats up. Folding the seats down in the hatchback provides 52.4 cubic feet.
Music lovers take note, however: The Impreza's sound systems are pretty awful. Audio quality is subpar and the available touchscreen infotainment interface, while an improvement over the base system, offers only small, finicky touchscreen icons and locks out some basic audio functions while the car is in motion.
The 2014 Subaru Impreza's four-cylinder engine provides adequate acceleration around town, but you'll need to plan ahead for highway passing maneuvers. Overall, the Impreza is one of the slower cars in the small sedan/hatchback class.
Not helping matters is the CVT. Its touchy throttle response can increase engine speed unnecessarily and exacerbate noise coming into the cabin from the engine bay. At a steady cruise on the highway, the Impreza isn't any louder than its competitors, but the level of engine noise during harder acceleration grows tiresome. If this bothers you, the manual transmission is a reasonable alternative, but its abrupt clutch takeup can make it difficult to drive the Impreza smoothly in heavy traffic.
Around turns, the Impreza won't immediately wow you with catlike agility. But if you press on more aggressively, you'll find that it's actually blessed with secure handling, precise steering and confident braking, particularly with the 17-inch wheels and tires. Another nice quality is the smooth and compliant ride. Even driven over broken pavement, the Impreza feels well-built and substantial.