Used 1996 Subaru Impreza Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1996

The formerly optional 2.2-liter engine is standard across the board, except in the new budget-minded Brighton AWD Coupe. A new grille accompanies the bigger engine, and a five-speed is available as well.

Vehicle overview

Subaru built a solid reputation for itself in the Seventies building inexpensive (and built to stay that way) four-wheel drive passenger cars. The company enjoyed success in the Northeastern and Northwestern U.S., providing people with reliable transportation that could thwart most attempts by Mother Nature to keep them from arriving at their destinations. Aside from a major rusting habit and offbeat styling, Subarus kept loyal owners happy.

Then Subaru decided it wanted a bigger piece of the auto market pie. The Impreza was originally conceived to battle the Ford Escorts, Toyota Corollas and Chevy Cavaliers that sold so well to young adults. A zippy ad campaign touting the Impreza as What to Drive alienated traditional Sube buyers and turned off the young adults it was supposed to appeal to. Sales of the Impreza were less than successful, and Subaru scrambled to find a solution.

Wonder of wonders, the company has decided to reacquaint itself with its legend. Subaru is concentrating on all-wheel drive cars again, and is emphasizing AWD in every ad, article and brochure you can lay your hands on. The Impreza is available with AWD in coupe, sedan and wagon form. Traditional front-wheel drive editions are also on the roster.

For 1996, Subaru has banished the anemic 1.8-liter engine from most of the lineup, infusing nearly all Imprezas with the 2.2-liter engine found in the Legacy. Formerly found only in uplevel Impreza LX models, the 2.2-liter package includes a new grille, a rear stabilizer bar, and wider tires. For the first time in the Impreza, buyers can opt for a five-speed transmission with the 2.2-liter engine.

Other changes include the addition of power locks and windows to upper trim levels, and the addition of a new AWD Brighton Coupe, a budget four-wheeler saddled with the old 1.8-liter engine and skinny 14-inch tires.

Overall, we find much to like about the Impreza. The AWD LX Coupe we examined sported nice styling, attractive alloy wheels, and an ergonomically-correct cabin. The Coupe was new to the Impreza lineup for 1995. We found the LX Coupe to be a stylish, sporty all-weather transpo device.

Imprezas also come in sedan and station body styles. The wagon has a small cargo area, partially due to the steeply raked rear window. Impreza prices start near $13,000 and can top out over the $20,000 mark. That's too pricey for a compact, and pricing is one of this car's problems.

Other quibbles include a cramped rear seat, narrow front seats, ugly plastic wheelcovers on the Outback wagon, and a funky smell in all the new Subarus we've encountered. Add in cost considerations, and we can only recommend the Impreza in AWD form to those who live in remote snow-bound areas of the country.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.