Standard all-wheel drive. The 2020 Subaru Impreza is notable for its standard all-wheel drive on every model, making it a popular choice in areas of the country that experience regular snow in winter. Subaru's in particular is designed as full-time all-wheel-drive system, and is able to send power to whatever wheels need it the most to efficiently handle low-traction conditions.
This is in contrast to most setups in competing vehicles, which are usually based on a modified standard front-wheel-drive setup. In these systems, power is often sent to only the front wheels for efficiency reasons, and only a fraction of the power can be sent to the rear when necessary.
Subaru also claims that the reduced complexity of their full-time AWD system enhances efficiency as well, which is reflected in the Impreza's decent fuel economy ratings.
A bit pedestrian. Overall, the Subaru Impreza lacks any substantial personality. The car doesn't evoke second glances for better or for worse, and while Subaru has improved their interiors greatly over the past couple of years, the Impreza still doesn't stand out from the rest of the pack.
Despite this lack of visual excitement or material feel, the Impreza remains a comfortable option with adjustable front seats and a roomy back seat.
The driving dynamics of the Impreza tell the same story. While the AWD system and continuously variable transmission (CVT) are some of the best in their class, the Impreza is quite slow with only 152 horsepower from its naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine.
Even in the Sport trim, the steering lacks the feedback found in competing vehicles like the Honda Civic or Mazda Mazda3, and the suspension is set up for more a more sedate and comfortable ride as opposed to being optimized for handling.
Then again, you may want a car that isn't ostentatious or sporty, and that is perfectly OK. If so, the perfectly rational Impreza may be the compact car for that job.
Good value. For the price, the Impreza brings quite a bit to the table. All models offer a high degree of smartphone connectivity, and the touchscreens are bright and the Subaru operating system is easy to follow and quick to respond.
Additionally, the Impreza offers smart additions as you climb the trim ladder, like upgraded suspension dampers and a noise-insulating windshield that can go a long way into making a long car ride less exhausting.
Even at the top trim level, the Impreza still offers a lot of value with premium features like a bigger touchscreen, adaptive headlights, power front heated seats, and leather upholstery for around $27,000. Even if you select the one optional package that adds Harmon Kardon sound, navigation, and a moonroof, the price still falls under $30,000 including destination.
Safety is everything. Like every new Subaru, the Impreza scores top marks in safety. The IIHS and NHTSA have both awarded it top marks in every category, especially when equipped with the LED headlights found in the top Limited trim.
In addition to high crash test ratings, Impreza models with the CVT also receive an impressive suite of standard active safety features that include automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control. Higher-end models receive blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
Get the hatchback. The Impreza is offered as both a sedan and a five-door hatchback, and we think the hatchback is the better choice. While the five-door is $500 more than the sedan, it's by far the most popular version.
The reason why is easy to see: you get a ton of extra room for activities in the hatchback. With the rear seats up, the cargo capacity almost doubles from about 12 cubic feet in the sedan to 21 cubic feet in the five-door, and with the rear seats folded that capacity that swells to over 55 cubic feet. In short, the Impreza hatch can carry about as much stuff as most compact utility vehicles on the market today, an impressive feat.
We also think the hatchback looks a bit better.
Final thoughts. The 2020 Subaru Impreza may not be fancy or fast, but it is a practical and reliable car that offers a great AWD system at a good price.
At the end of the day, it's exactly what some people are looking for in a vehicle, and it should serve those people very well. Not everyone needs a car that feels like it has personality, and those who do have brands like Dodge and Mazda to serve their needs.
If you want an AWD system that will take you a bit further off-road, check out the Subaru Crosstrek; it's basically an Impreza with a lift kit. Those who seek a compact car with AWD that's more fun to drive would do well to investigate the Mazda3, which sports dashing looks, an upscale interior, sporty handling, and an optional AWD system.