Our last look at the fourth-generation Impreza Sport

The Impreza has been around since the early 1990s and has made a name for itself in both everyday driving and motorsports. The compact sedan and its hatchback sibling offer room for five, decent cargo room, and most iconically, AWD with power from Subaru’s horizontally opposed Boxer four-cylinder. That recipe has held true through the deceases as improvements in design, safety, and efficiency helped attract customers.

The fourth generation Impreza debuted in the U.S. for the 2012 model year and brought a new 2.0-liter flat-four. Sadly, Subaru’s quest for higher EPA ratings was fully recognized in the new car. Power and torque were down over the outgoing 2.5-liter while fuel economy rose. Likewise, the old four-speed automatic was ditched in favor of a fun-sucking CVT.

Now as the 2017 model year approaches, the Impreza sedan and Impreza Sport hatchback are slotted for replacement. Yep, the fifth generation car has arrived and is ready to relegate the fourth-gen to the pre-owned section. But before that officially happens, we decided to take a final look at the fourth generation car, the 2016 model year, before it headed off in the sunset.

Our tester, an Impreza 2.0i Sport Limited, came with a slew of options and features which pushed the price towards the upper $20,000 region. Still, the Impreza came with high-end features like automatic climate control, SirusXM radio, leather seats, and optional equipment like the seven-inch infotainment screen and Subaru’s EyeSight Driver-Assist System. Though the driving characteristics stray towards the dull side, the Impreza Sport Limited can undoubtedly be a well-equipped car.

So let’s take a close look at the last iteration of the fourth generation Impreza Sport

Continue reading for the full driven review

  • 2016 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport Limited – Driven
  • Year:
    2016
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    flat-4
  • Transmission:
    CVT
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    148 @ 6200
  • MPG(Cty):
    27
  • MPG(Hwy):
    36
  • Torque @ RPM:
    145 @ 4200
  • Displacement:
    2.0 L
  • 0-60 time:
    8.6 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    122 mph (Est.)
  • Layout:
    Front Engine, AWD
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • size:
  • Purpose:
  • body style:
  • Overall:
    7.5/10

Video Review


Exterior

2016 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport Limited – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2016 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport Limited – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2016 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport Limited – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The Impreza Sport might not be the prettiest car on the road, but it has its own unique appeal – one that somehow becomes more attractive when dirty. It’s like the car’s inner soul begs to be driven sideways around a rally course. While I sadly didn’t have that opportunity, bugs, road grime, and a short stint on a gravel road did the trick for my camera.

More objectively, the Impreza Sport has a familiar face with the typical Subaru look. Though the look is changing for 2017, the heritage isn’t lost on the new car. The hexagonal grille with chrome trim and the seven-stared logo are perched high on the car’s nose, flanked by large, brightly accented headlights. Two design creases run rearward across the hood, as if the grille is leaving a wake. The lower fascia has a moderately tall approach angle, at least for a hatchback, helping the Impreza Sport look the part of its Subaru upbringing.

All told, the Impreza Sport is a decent looking hatch, though the 2017 is far more chiseled and muscular looking.

Stepping to the side will reveal just how tall the car’s greenhouse is in relation to its beltline. The large windows are fantastic for outward visibility, though a dark tint is highly recommended for sunnier states. The roof is home to a proper rack, allowing Impreza owners to act like proper Subiphiles and haul kayaks or empty Thule racks. The rear haunches are somewhat boring, though the bulging fender accents along the rear quarter panels add some interest.

All told, the Impreza Sport is a decent looking hatch, though the 2017 is far more chiseled and muscular looking. I guess progress always leaves a trail of obsolete goods in its aftermath. Still, that doesn’t subtract from the 2016 Impreza Sport’s impressive value.

Interior

2016 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport Limited – Driven High Resolution Interior
- image 676044
2016 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport Limited – Driven High Resolution Interior
- image 676045
2016 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport Limited – Driven High Resolution Interior
- image 676040

The Impreza’s interior is best described as no-nonsense. There’s nothing overly thrilling or distracting about the cabin, and more specifically, the dashboard. However, the simplicity works. It’s an honest approach that keeps controls simple and complexity at a minimum. Three knobs with three buttons at their centers’ constitute the entire HVAC system. It doesn’t require any long glances down at the dash or fumbling with tiny buttons in a jumbled mess – the interface just works. The only drawback is the lack of dual-zone temperature controls.

That case of simplicity is echoed throughout the car. The optional seven-inch touch screen infotainment display is easy to operate, even for non-techy people. Six hard buttons along the side allow for quick access to things like navigation, applications, or the home screen. Two knobs work the volume and tuning functions.

A driver information screen sits perched between the analog gauges telling fuel level, speed in a digital format, gear selection, and mileage information.

Likewise, the gauge cluster is simplistic in its design and easy to read. A driver information screen sits perched between the analog gauges telling fuel level, speed in a digital format, gear selection, and mileage information. This is also the home for the Eyesight’s adaptive cruise control’s distance function.

For more vehicle information, the driver must look atop the dash to a small LCD screen. Though it does provide a range of handy information, it’s one of the negatives about the interior. The screen is small, outdated, and is controlled in the dumbest manner, using an old-school pushrod that protrudes from the gauge cluster like a tripometer reset. And since I’m on a rant, the radio sound settings do not provide traditional adjustments for the bass, treble, or mid-range tones, but rather has pre-set choices like talk, pop, jazz, country, and classical. It does allow for custom EQ settings, however.

Otherwise, the dash and front row are attractive and a welcomed place to spend time. The second row also offers a comfy place to rest thanks to plenty of legroom, a folding center armrest, and miles of headroom. Cargo storage is also top notch thanks to the large area behind the second row. Larger items can be accommodated with the 60/40-split bench folded flat, increasing cargo volume from 22.5 cubic feet to 52.4 cubic feet.

Drivetrain

2016 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport Limited – Driven High Resolution Drivetrain
- image 676039

Powering the Impreza is Subaru’s 2.0-liter Boxer four-cylinder. The horizontally opposed engine generates 148 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 145 pound-feet of toque at 4,200 rpm. That doesn’t sound like much, and it’s not. The Impreza works hard to accelerate, finally hitting 60 mph after 9.0 seconds. The sluggish behavior is exacerbated by the CVT transmission, which keeps the engine howling yet provides only ample power to the wheels. Thankfully the Impreza Sport can be had with a five-speed manual transmission.

The Impreza 2.0i Sport Limited is rated at 27 mpg city, 36 mpg highway, and 31 mpg combined.

With either gearbox, the Impreza Sport comes standard with Subaru’s Symmetrical AWD system. This is perhaps the car’s biggest selling point – even to non-car folks. Subaru has done an amazing job marketing its AWD system, making it one of the most well-known of any mechanical selling point. It’s for this reason (along with word of mouth) that Subarus sell so well in cold climates with heavy snowfall.

As mentioned before, Subaru’s quest to improve efficiency with the fourth-generation Impreza is easily seen. Obviously that’s most apparent when looking at the official EPA ratings. The Impreza 2.0i Sport Limited is rated at 27 mpg city, 36 mpg highway, and 31 mpg combined. Those aren’t bad numbers, especially considering its full-time AWD system.

Pricing

2016 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport Limited – Driven High Resolution Exterior
- image 676038

The Impreza Sport carries an impressively reasonable base price of $18,795. That gets you the same 2.0-liter flat-four as my well-equipped tester, plus AWD (of course). Moving up to the Premium trim level, prices start at $21,595 while adding more options. The range-topping Limited trim carries a base price of $23,095.

My tester came with the “Option Package 23,” which adds the power moonroof, keyless access with push-button start, the upgraded seven-inch infotainment screen, and the Eyesight Driver-Assist System. Adding this package adds $2,895 to the bottom line. A $795 destination and delivery fee brings the total price for my tester to $27,285.

Driving Impressions

2016 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport Limited – Driven High Resolution Interior
- image 676041

The Impreza might have roots sprawling through motorsports, but you’d be hard-pressed to convince someone of that with this non-WRX version. As I’ve alluded to above, the Impreza’s 148-horsepower four-cylinder and CVT transmission aren’t the liveliest combination in motoring history. Acceleration is lackadaisical in speed yet loud in engine revs. Slotting the CVT into manual mode doesn’t help, either. Shifts come after a long delay and don’t help the cause. If you’re looking for a factory fresh rally car, look elsewhere.

As hard as I’ve been on the Impreza, I’m walked away impressed.

Nevertheless, the Impreza Sport just works. Its impressive fuel economy and ease of driving make it a comfortable cruiser with the confidence to tackle any blinding rainstorm central Florida can throw its way. The same is true for the blizzards my northern friends experience. Its smooth steering is nicely weighted and free of torque steer. Its brakes return a good feel with a linear pedal throw. Body roll is mostly managed well, with little roll through corners and only a faint amount of brake drive. Hard bumps are soaked up with ease with only minor noises.

As hard as I’ve been on the Impreza, I’m walked away impressed. I’m also hard on it because I want to like this thing. I want to fall in love and hoon it around dirt roads or through snow banks without having to buy the WRX. While that might not be reality, I can’t deny the Impreza Sport’s functionality, value, and ease of use for the everyday driver.

Competition

Mazda3 5-Door

2016 - 2018 Mazda3 High Resolution Exterior
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For those leaning towards the fun-to-drive side of the equation, the Mazda3 5-Door offers motoring pleasure in spades. Sure, it’s not offered with AWD, but the five-door hatchback offers two engine options and the choice between a six-speed manual and a traditional six-speed automatic. The standard engine is Mazda’s Skyactiv-G 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 155 horsepower. Optionally, a Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter four-cylinder makes 184 horsepower. Save for the range-topping Touring trim, the both transmission are offered.

Prices are respectable, too. The base 5-Door starts at $18,545. A mid-range Grand Touring trim with the 2.0-liter carries a $23,245 starting price. Opt for the top trim and the starting price is $25,495. Add on all the options and the price can crest over the $30,000 mark.

Read our full review on the Mazda3 here.

Volkswagen Golf

2015 Volkswagen Golf High Resolution Exterior
- image 571657

Yet another fun-to-drive competitor is the Golf. The compact hatch can be had in either a three- or five-door version, with prices starting about $1,600 more for the five-door version. Power comes from a 1.8-liter four-cylinder turbo making 170 horsepower. Lower trim levels get a five-speed manual while upper trims get VW’s six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. Sadly, VW’s 4Motion AWD system is only offered on the Golf R hot hatch.

Prices for the Golf start in the same range as the Subaru and Mazda. The base price is listed at $20,175 for the five-door. Four trim levels are available, with the range-topping SEL carrying a $27,425 price tag.

Read our full review on the Volkswagen Golf here.

Conclusion

2016 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport Limited – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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Like I said in my driving impressions, the Impreza Sport shines as a value-packed, easy-to-use, hatchback with AWD and an efficient engine. It’s hard to argue against that. Sure, I wish the CVT wasn’t such a buzz kill, but for the driver types, Subaru offers the Impreza Sport with a five-speed manual. You’re required to settle for the base trim to get three pedals, but even with all the option boxes checked, the price barely crests $20,000.

All that aside, the Impreza Sport makes for a great no-nonsense hatchback with all-weather capability for an attractive price. And for that reason, I’d definitely recommend the car. Now I’m anxious to see how the Impreza improves for the 2017 model year.

  • Leave it
    • CVT is a buzzkill
    • Can feel underpowered
    • 2017 model is probably worth the wait
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