All-weather capability. Very few compact cars on the market are offered with all-wheel drive, and fewer still have it standard. The 2021 Subaru Impreza not only comes with AWD as standard throughout the lineup, it’s also one of the most affordable vehicles on the market to have it.
Having a car come with standard AWD may not sound like a massive difference from one with front-wheel drive, but it gives the Impreza an edge when it comes to handling inclement weather. Subaru’s AWD system is a full-time operation that's constantly looking for ways to send power to all four wheels for maximum traction. For consumers that want an extra sense of security when handling snow, slick roads, or heavy downpours, the Impreza can certainly do the job.
Unlike other AWD systems, Subaru has worked hard to ensure that fuel economy hasn’t been affected too much. That’s why the Impreza’s EPA-estimated 32 miles per gallon combined rating isn’t too far off of rivals that only come with FWD.
Safety is key. Like the majority of Subarus on sale today, the Impreza earned excellent crash-test scores. Both the sedan and wagon body style earned the highest rating of “Good” in IIHS crash tests, while the NHTSA gave the vehicle a five-star overall safety rating. If Subaru equipped the Impreza with better headlights, it would've won an award from the IIHS.
Base trim levels, which come equipped with a five-speed manual transmission, don’t come with Subaru’s EyeSight suite of advanced safety features. So, the only standard feature on the Impreza is a rearview camera. Higher trim levels come with a continuously variable automatic transmission that brings EyeSight.
CVT-equipped trims come with forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, and lane departure warning. Blind-spot monitoring, lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and reverse automatic emergency braking are optional.
Hatchback versatility. The hatchback body style is the one we recommend, as it comes with a far more spacious interior than the sedan. It’s only $500 extra, too, which seems like a bargain for what you get.
While the sedan has a 12.3-cubic-foot trunk, which is one of the smaller figures for the compact segment, the hatchback offers a total of 55.3 cubic feet of cargo space – one of the largest figures in the segment. Even with the rear seats folded down, the Impreza offers an impressive 20.8 cubic feet of cargo space.
When it comes to interior space, the Impreza does a fine job of being comfortable for four passengers. The rear seats offer a generous amount of rear head and leg room, but they’re not all that wide. That makes seating three in the back a squeeze.
Dull performance and personality. Subaru only offers one engine with the Impreza. Sadly, it’s severely underpowered. The compact car comes with a 2.0-liter flat four-cylinder engine that makes 152 horsepower. While the engine makes a decent amount of power to get around town, getting up to highway speeds can be a tough task. Handling is much of the same, as the Impreza is more about being comfortable than enjoyable.
Honda and Toyota have been a little daring with their exterior designs, while Subaru has taken a far more conservative approach. The hatchback looks better than the sedan with its curvier silhouette, but the Impreza has a sedate, bland look. The same can be said about the interior, as the Impreza’s cabin has simple design elements and subpar interior materials.
Final thoughts. The 2021 Subaru Impreza won’t impress because of its design or performance, but because of its practicality. The compact car manages to get a lot of the major stuff right. It also comes with a great AWD system as standard without breaking the bank.
If Subaru penned a more handsome design and gave the Impreza better performance, it would be more competitive in the class. Up against better looking and performing options, the Impreza languishes near the bottom of the segment.
If you’re looking to get AWD in a compact, you’ll want to check out the Mazda Mazda3. It’s far more upscale than the Impreza, has a better design, and is more enjoyable to drive. It’s also available with a punchy turbocharged engine.
The Honda Civic is the benchmark in the class with much better performance, excellent fuel economy, a spacious cabin, and more standard safety features. It’s not available with AWD, though.
Check prices for the 2021 Subaru Impreza »