Subaru Impreza review: Can small car still compete with the Toyota Corolla?

Subarus Impreza small car is not as popular as it once was, attracting roughly a third of the buyers it did a decade ago.Is there still something to love about the car that spawned the vaunted WRX? We find out.
The current four-tier line-up starts at about $26,500 drive-away. We are testing the 2.0i Premium hatch — the third notch on the totem pole — priced at about $32,500. Those wanting a bigger boot can pick a sedan version and save a few hundred dollars.
It would be hard to find another similarly priced small car with the same level of active and passive safety gear, while there’s also solid selection of infotainment and connectivity features, including Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, a CD player, digital radio and in-built satnav.
A five-year/unlimited km warranty matches the guarantees of most of the Impreza’s main rivals. Servicing is expensive, costing owners more than $2400 over five years.
The Impreza’s cabin is comfortable and functional but lacks the wow factor of some of its rivals. Steering wheel controls are easy to use and infotainment is taken care of via an eight-inch touchscreen.
There are plenty of USB ports and dual-zone airconditioning will appeal to front seat passengers. But those in the rear seats will have to go without both.
The cloth seats are comfortable and provide great support during long drives but they could do with a bit more side support through corners. The next grade up gets electrically adjusted heated seats wrapped in faux leather.
The back seats are roomy, with above average leg and head room for a small car. And the boot can handle the weekly shop and a few bags for a weekend getaway.
The Impreza gets a five-star ANCAP safety score thanks to a strong crash rating and a long list of active safety equipment including front and rear auto emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, lane-change assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control.
All Subarus come with all-wheel drive — a signature feature that has earned a loyal following. It is only non-performance small car with all-wheel drive.
Power comes from Subaru’s dependable four-cylinder boxer engine making 115kW and 196Nm, which is about par for the course in the small-car segment.
The CVT auto can feel a bit clunky and unrefined on takeoff, while there’s a whirring as the transmission winds up, which might not suit all tastes. A conventional auto would be better.
But the Impreza is willing enough when pushed and feels stable and comfortable at highway speeds. Steering is weighty and direct, inspiring confidence.
The Impreza does some of its best work during the daily grind, going about its business with little fuss in traffic and city driving.
The ride is smooth, soaking up bumps and lumps as they come along.
Fuel use is a claimed 6.6L/100km, which is average for this type of car, and it runs on cheaper unleaded petrol.
A well-rounded and roomy small hatch that ticks plenty of safety boxes with the added bonus of all-wheel drive. But an average interior, expensive servicing and a ho-hum transmission relegate the Impreza to the middle of the pack.
Toyota Corolla SX, about $32,470 drive-away
Mr reliable. Top selling Corolla is cheaper to own and maintain and is one of the better driving small cars.
Mazda3 Evolve, about $32,000 drive-away
With good looks inside and out, the Mazda3 is as stylish as they come. But it isn’t as well equipped at this price level.
Kia Cerato Sport Plus, about $29,690 drive-away
Great value small hatch that is well-equipped and backed by Kia’s benchmark seven-year warranty. Thirsty.
Price: About $32,500 drive-away
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol, 115kW/196Nm
Warranty/serving: Five-year, unl’td km/ $2431 over five years
Safety: 5 stars, 7 airbags, auto emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, lane-change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control.
Thirst: 6.6L/100km
Boot: 345L