I was charging hard in the 2017 Subaru Impreza hatchback down the 580 freeway, in Oakland, California on my way to Roadshow HQ in San Francisco. It was late-morning and I foolishly thought I would avoid the notorious back-up at the Bay Bridge. Yeah, not a chance. Red lights blazed in front of me and before I knew it, I was down to a creep at 10 miles an hour. I hopefully pushed the adaptive cruise control button, but didn’t expect it to engage at such a slow speed.
Wonder of wonders, the camera sensors focused on the car in front of me, and as it slowed to a stop, so did the Impreza. A brief stop, and then the Impreza moved forward on its own, faithfully tracking the car ahead, creeping through the Bay Bridge toll plaza and letting me enjoy my podcast relatively stress-free.
The rest of my week with Subaru’s Impreza was just as surprising, but the surprise went both ways. The sporty handling was an unexpected eye-opener, but I was taken aback by the underwhelming dashboard electronics.
All-new for 2017
The 2017 Impreza is built on Subaru’s New Global Platform, which makes it a bit longer and wider, but the increase in size doesn’t increase the weight. The chassis is 70 percent stiffer than the outgoing model’s, and the engine got a bit of a kick as well with the introduction of direct fuel injection. With revised steering and suspension, the 2017 Subaru is quite different from the previous generation.
Subaru offers the Impreza as a sedan, but most folks take the five-door hatchback. With just over 55 cubic feet of space with the rear seats folded, the hatch offers a ton of utility. Neither the Mazda3 nor the Ford Focus can match the Impreza in overall cargo space. However, when those rear seats are folded up, the space drops to 21 cubic feet. Again, nothing to sneeze at, but that’s less than the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen. For 2017 the tailgate has been redesigned with a split taillight housing to offer four more inches of width across the fifth door opening. the better to load up all your outdoors-y gear like bikes or kayaks.
The cabin is roomy enough for five full-size adults, even in the rear middle seat. Subaru has a reputation for building, let’s say, practical interiors, and while the Impreza is greatly improved, it doesn’t match the Mazda3 or Golf SportWagen in sophistication. There are four trim lines to choose from, Base, Premium, Sport and Limited. My car, in Premium trim, came with cloth seats, but they were amply heated and comfortable. Materials are of good quality, but the faux carbon-fiber trim is a little much.
Standard all-wheel drive makes the Impreza popular with folks who have to deal with inclement weather on the regular.
Under the hood is the same 2.0-liter, four-banger as before, but thanks to a few slight revisions, it puts out 152 horsepower, up from 148 in 2016. Torque remains the same at 145 pound-feet. If you’re looking for more power, the Mazda3 does much better with an available 184 horses, but the Impreza is just about in line with the Chevrolet Cruze and the Ford Focus.
The Impreza has an EPA fuel rating of 28 miles per gallon in the city and 37 miles per gallon on the highway. However my week of combined driving in the Bay Area netted me only 25 mpg. The Chevy Cruze earns an EPA rating of 40 mpg on the highway, with a diesel engine available for even more efficiency, but only in the four-door sedan.