Pricing for the 2021 Subaru Impreza starts at $19,995 in Canada, $18,795 in the US.
The 5-door hatchback version is $1,000 more regardless of trim.
The Impreza is the most affordable compact “tool” in the segment.
The Impreza is nearing its 30th anniversary as one of Subaru’s small cars. For a short while in the early 1990s, both the Impreza and Justy were found on showroom floors, parked alongside the Loyale. By 1996 however, the Impreza was left as the sole gateway car into Subaru’s soon to expand product portfolio.
It was love at first sight for me as the first Impreza quickly spawned a WRX (not for us before 2001) and the car I almost bought in 1996, the Impreza Outback Sport which launched the previous year. The Impreza’s styling and AWD capabilities spoke volumes to the WRC fan and want-to-be driver in me. I would eventually buy a 2003 WRX Spec R1 wagon in the early 2010s, realizing a dream of owning a turbocharged compact AWD station wagon with a manual transmission.
Despite my deep-rooted love for the car, by 2008 the Impreza fell out of favour with me. And that’s when it blossomed into a popular small car. Subaru’s desire to please the masses as opposed to fans paid off but a decision made for the 2012 model, in my opinion, hurt its chance at mass adoption.
The CVT effect
The current generation of Subaru Lineatronic Continuously Variable transmission (CVT) is one of the best of its kind. Mated to the standard naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre Boxer flat-4-cylinder, it makes the best of the available 152 horsepower and 145 lb.-ft. of torque. From a dead-stop, the CVT’s “gearing”, or pre-programmed “gears”, accentuates the engine’s initial twisting power giving the impression that the car has wings. The fact is that the engine-transmission combo quickly runs at odds with each other.
In other words, despite the CVT’s good intentions, the Boxer-4 runs out of breath under acceleration. The CVT attempts to keep the engine in the better parts of the powerband and that negatively affects fuel consumption. My words may read as though I abused the Impreza, but the reality is that I drove it as an owner would. My returned fuel consumption average hovered around 9.5L/100km, with about 75% of my driving occurring in the city, which is a far cry from the projected 8.4L/6.6L/7.5L numbers (city/highway/combined).
For the most part, the Impreza delivers all the necessary power owners will ever need. From here, I’ve got nothing but praise for the compact Subaru. Its sophisticated global platform enables the suspension to soak up the road’s uneven surface. The impressive part is that the tested Sport-tech not only featured 18-inch wheels with 40-profile tires but it also includes a sport-tuned suspension – ride quality was unscathed. Versions with 16- and 17-inch wheels and tires will be even more comfortable. As a driver, the 2021 Subaru Impreza is an honest-to-goodness little car.
Handsome styling, spotless ergonomics
Physically, the 2021 Subaru Impreza is a handsome if masculine compact car. The sedan’s proportions are on point however in my book, the 5-door hatchback is the classier looker of the two. Most body panels are flat and the only curves are the wheel-wells and front fenders. The tester’s colour, Ocean Blue Pearl, is unique to Sport-tech and quite flashy.
The cabin is all about the business of smart transportation. Subaru, unlike Toyota for example, enjoys symmetry. The dashboard is simply and ergonomically laid out for maximum user-friendliness. The ergonomics could not be more straightforward as the HVAC and audio controls are clear. The 8-inch display replaces the standard 6.5-inch display, is offered from the Sport trim, and is also easy to navigate.
The Impreza might not be the largest compact car in the segment but it’s still spacious. Two adults can easily and comfortably settle on the rear bench. Front passengers are treated to plenty of space, decent storage options, and excellent forward visibility. The trunk is rated at 588 litres which seems overly generous. The important aspect is that the hatchback makes the available space more accessible.
As I’ve mentioned in previous Subaru reviews, Subaru owners are a loyal bunch. They’ve come to appreciate the brand’s honest approach to motoring and transportation. The only stick in the Japanese car creator’s wheel spokes is the CVT as it has turned off many a potential buyer across its product portfolio. And it is ultimately the reason why I seldomly offer it up as an option in the compact car category.
In the segment, the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla rule above all. The second line of cars to consider include the Mazda3 and Subaru Impreza. The Volkswagen Jetta is a pleasing option as well.