Highs: Acceleration, handling, all-wheel drive, four-door practicality.
Lows: Fuel economy.
Body styles: 4-door AWD; 4-door AWD wagon.
Trim lines: TS, RS, Outback Sport, WRX.
Engines and transmissions: 2.5-liter 4 (165 hp), 2.0-liter 4 turbo (227 hp); 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic.
Base price range: $17,495 to $23,995.
Tested: WRX 4-door AWD, 2.0-liter turbo Four, 5-speed manual.
See the Consumer Reports WRX ratings here.
The WRX is a small and competent all-wheel-drive sedan endowed with the handling and engine
performance of a good sports car. It provides a reasonably comfortable ride and a quiet cabin, with
well-suppressed exterior noise. A moderate thirst for premium fuel is its most serious drawback.
The WRX handles with agility and control, like a good European sports sedan. Bumpy corners don't upset it and the body rolls very little in tight turns. The well-weighted steering doesn't respond especially quickly at low speeds, but it provides a good feel for the road. All-wheel drive supplies extra traction in slippery conditions.
When pushed to its limits at our track, the WRX showed very balanced behavior and was easy to control. In our double-lane-change avoidance maneuver it tended to fishtail a bit but remained secure enough. The ride is a little choppy but stays comfortable overall because the body motions are muted. A full load didn't hurt. Some road noise intrudes into the cabin, but this car is much quieter than the RSX and most other low-priced sporty cars.
The 227-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged Four pulls energetically. Speed builds quickly as the engine revs above 3,500 rpm. A trade-off for the WRX's power and AWD is fuel economy. Expect 21 mpg in mixed driving on premium fuel--not great for a small car. The five-speed manual transmission shifts well but isn't as precise as that in the RSX. A four-speed automatic is optional. Braking performance was very good overall, even though the pedal felt a bit mushy.
The high, upright seating position yields a commanding view out. The front sport seats are deeply sculptured, with good side support, but back support is a bit lacking. The pedals are properly spaced for heel-and-toe shifting, for drivers competent in that driving technique. Two adults can sit in the rear in reasonable comfort although quarters are tight.
Major controls are logical and the instruments are clearly visible. Minor drawbacks include a partially obscured ignition switch, stiff climate-control-system knobs, and an awkward radio-tuning control. The climate-control system worked very effectively.
Cabin storage is modest. Two cup holders, one of which is very flimsy, serve the front. The rear has no cup holders.
The trunk, though relatively small, can hold three large suitcases and one duffel, or a folded wheelchair. The rear seatbacks don't fold down, but a small pass-through allows long items, such as skis, to extend into the passenger area. Intrusive trunk-lid hinges can crush cargo beneath them. A compact spare stores beneath the floor.
Front occupants get side air bags plus lap-and-shoulder belts equipped with adjustable upper anchors and pretensioners. The rear has three sets of lap-and-shoulder belts with adjustable anchors for the left and right belts. The two adjustable front head restraints are sufficiently tall; the rear lacks adequately high head restraints. The trunk has a glow-in-the-dark inside release handle to prevent entrapment. Daytime running lights are standard.
Crash-test results are not available. Our bumper basher, with its 3- and 5-mph hits, did $499 in damage to the front and $716 to the rear.
Driving with kids. Most front-facing child seats can be properly secured, but rear-facing seats may need a separate locking clip to keep them in place. The rear seat has two universal LATCH lower anchors.
Our car had just one minor sample defect. Previous Impreza models have shown above-average reliability.