Subaru has been redesigning its lineup in recent years, improving the quality and adding features without sacrificing value or the practicality of its standard Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive system.
But even those fans who have followed the changes might not be prepared for the 2017 version of the Impreza, the company's versatile compact sedan and hatchback. It has jumped two generations forward and now boasts more attractive styling, a more powerful engine, a significantly upgraded interior and a much smoother ride.
When one car buff first saw the 2017 Impreza, he said it looked like a Mazda, which is high praise given that company's innovative styling and quality construction.
And yet, even with all the improvements, the based 2017 Impreza is a bargain and even the fully-equipped Limited version won't break the bank.
The only drawback is that Subaru has not yet released a high performance WRX version based on the new model. It should be a killer when it finally arrives, however.
The Impreza has always been a favorite in the Pacific Northwest because of its reasonable prices and weather-defying AWD system, which comes on every model except the BRZrear-wheel-drive sports car co-produced with Toyota. But although several generations of Impreza's have been produced over the years, none could be described as good looking or refined. The exterior styling has frequently been lumpy, the interior has featured too much plastic and rubber, and the ride has been so-so, and the power has been adequate (except for the turbocharged WRX).
But they have all been reasonably-priced, reliable and practical, especially the hatchback versions. The last generation was the best example. It was tall and boxy, offering a surprising among of interior room for such a small vehicle.
But the new Impreza is actually a good looking car. Both the sedan and hatchback versions are sleek and stylish, with low air dams and sharp exterior lines. But that's nothing compared to the interior, which is now thoroughly contemporary and features much better materials. And even though it has the same 2.0-liter Boxer Engine as before, power is noticeably up, making it quicker off the line.
Subaru says the 2017 Impreza is built on a new global platform that is over 70 more rigid than the previous unitized body structure. It is also much quieter on the road, thanks in part to additional insulation that helps suppress tire noise. And the U.S Environmental Protection Agency rating of 28 miles per gallon in the city and 38 in freeway driving is impressive for any AWD-equipped vehicle.
The base Impreza comes with more standard features than ever before, including a rear vision camera, a seven air bags, a tire pressure monitoring system and a 60/40 fold down rear seat. It starts at just $18,895 ($500 less for the sedan).
Our test Sport version added an impressive array of options, including a sport tuned suspension, an impressive STARLINK 8.0 Multimedia Plus system with an 8-inch screen, an Active Grille Shutter for beter mileage at freeway speeds. It also Subaru's advanced EyeSight Driver Assist Technology package which features adaptive cruise control, automatic pre-collision braking, blind spot monitoring and more.
Even with a power moonroof and A Harmon Kardon audio system, it was only $27,060.
There is also a Premium version that costs a little less and a Limited version that costs a little more.
Despite the improvements, the standard engine could use a little more power and the Continuously Variable Transmission is still a little noisy at times. But these are small quibbles compared to the progress that has been made.
For Subaru, the last few years have seen tremendous sales growth as the redesigned vehicles have won over new fans while retaining the loyal customer base. The 2017 Impreza will continue if not improve that momentum. It's that good.
2017 Subaru Impreza
Base price: $18,895
Price as tested: $27,060
Type: Compact sedan and hatchback
Engine: 2.0-liter 4 (152 hp, 148 lbs-ft)
Transmissions: 5-speed manual; Lineatronic CVT
EPA estimated mileage: 28/38
Overall length: 175.6 inches
Base curb weight: 2,955 to 3,135 pounds
Final assembly: Lafayette, Indiana