First off, if you're in the market for a traditional compact car with the stable traction provided by all-wheel drive, you can end your search with the 2018 Subaru Impreza. It's the only car in its class to offer it. But you don't need to live in a climate with a lot of rain or snow to appreciate the Impreza. Redesigned just last year, the current-generation model's build quality and technology interface are vastly superior to its predecessor's. Compared to other models in this class, the Impreza is a standout for its stellar handling, roomy cabin, available hatchback body style, and a number of widely available advanced driver aids.
Still, shortcomings in a few key areas might give shoppers pause. The Impreza's most significant drawback is its lackluster powertrain. Though 152 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque look healthy on the spec sheet, we've found the Impreza is one of the slowest cars in its class. Matters aren't helped by the car's continuously variable automatic transmission. It isn't quick to react to driver inputs, and when it does finally rev the engine high enough for a speed burst, there's not enough power on tap to muster any meaningful acceleration. Constantly shoving the gas pedal just to keep up with traffic means the Impreza also has a hard time meeting its fuel economy estimates in the real world.
If you can overlook the Impreza's engine and transmission deficiencies, though, you'll find a capable small car with plenty of room, a comfortable ride and that enviable all-wheel-drive system.
Like many compacts, the 2018 Subaru Impreza is available as a sedan or a four-door hatchback. Features on the four available trims are identical between the two body styles. The base 2.0i is sparsely equipped, but it does have power windows and a touchscreen with Android Auto/Apple CarPlay capability. The Premium counts alloy wheels and heated seats among its additions. Upgrade to the Sport and you get larger wheels, sporty suspension tuning, keyless entry and ignition, and a larger touchscreen. The Limited keeps some of the Sport's luxury features and adds leather and automatic climate control.
Every Impreza is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 152 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. (The related, high-performance WRX and WRX STI are reviewed separately.) A five-speed manual transmission is standard on the 2.0i and Sport models, and a continuously variable automatic with wheel-mounted paddle shifters is optional on those and standard on Premium and Limited trims.
The base 2.0i comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, remote locking and unlocking, cloth upholstery, a rearview camera, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a driver information display, a height-adjustable driver seat, cruise control, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, Bluetooth, a 6.5-inch touchscreen, and a four-speaker audio system with a USB port and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility.
The Premium trim is better equipped, with alloy wheels, automatic headlights and wipers, heated mirrors, a windshield wiper de-icer, a sound-reducing windshield, heated front seats, Subaru Starlink services and a six-speaker audio system. The hatchback also adds roof rails and a cargo cover.
An available package combines blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, cornering lights and Subaru's EyeSight suite of driver aids (adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic braking, automatic reverse braking, and lane departure warning and mitigation). A power sunroof is available as a stand-alone option or bundled with the above package.
For drivers who want a more exciting version of the Impreza, there's the Sport. It comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, daytime running lights, a rear spoiler, unique suspension tuning, keyless entry and ignition, an 8-inch touchscreen, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, unique interior and exterior trim, active torque vectoring for improved traction, a CD player, satellite radio and two USB ports.
A package with the blind-spot monitor and sunroof is also available; on the Sport, it further adds an eight-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system. This package can be ordered with or without EyeSight.
At the top of the Impreza range, there's the Limited model. It combines the Premium's features with the Sport tech equipment, further adding 17-inch alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights, leather upholstery, a six-way power driver seat and automatic climate control system.
EyeSight, blind-spot monitoring and the sunroof are bundled into a package; it can be ordered with or without the Harman Kardon system and navigation.