The 2014 Subaru Impreza offers fuel economy, interior space and pricing on par with class leaders such as the Honda Civic, Ford Fusion and Toyota Corolla. The Impreza goes a step further than the competition, however, by offering all-wheel drive as part of its standard equipment list.

Beyond its roomy interior and standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, the big news for the Impreza is its impressive fuel economy figures. Rated at 27 miles per gallon city and 36 mpg highway when equipped with the CVT automatic transmission, the Impreza is the most fuel-efficient all-wheel-drive car in the U.S. The trade-off for such figures, however, is a rather weak 148-horsepower engine that doesn't exactly launch the Impreza with any great urgency.

Available in a versatile hatchback wagon or conservatively styled sedan, the Impreza is dressed to impress, with a long list of standard and available features, including navigation radios, a rearview camera and the all-important All-Weather Package that adds heated seats, side mirrors and windshield wiper de-icers.

What's New for 2014?

Changes for 2014 are minor and include a standard rearview camera on Limited trims and the addition of the Aha smartphone infotainment app with the navigation radio option.

What We Like

Great fuel economy; standard all-wheel drive; comfortable interior; versatile 5-door wagon; IIHS Top Safety Pick

What We Don't

Not terribly powerful; somewhat noisy drivetrain; best options not available on models with the manual transmission; satellite radio only available with navigation upgrade.

How Much?

$18,690-$28,000

Fuel Economy

All Impreza models are powered by the same 2.0-liter 4-cylinder boxer engine rated at 148 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque. With the standard 5-speed manual, the Impreza receives an Environmental Protection Agency rating of 25 mpg city/34 mpg hwy (33 mpg for the 5-door). Toss in the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) automatic transmission and those figures climb to 27 mpg city/36 mpg hwy.

Although it's not terribly fast, the Impreza with the CVT can run from zero to 60 in about nine seconds, which is more than acceptable for a 4-cylinder economy car.

Standard Features & Options

The 2014 Subaru Impreza comes in two body styles (sedan and hatchback) and five trims: 2.0i, 2.0i Premium, 2.0i Limited, 2.0i Sport Premium and 2.0i Sport Limited.

The base 2.0i ($18,690) includes a 5-speed manual transmission; air conditioning; power operation of the windows, locks and mirrors; 15-inch steel wheels with covers; an AM/FM/CD stereo with four speakers; Bluetooth connectivity; USB/iPod port; a rear window defroster and, on the hatchback, a rear wiper/washer.

The 2.0i Premium ($21,090) adds cruise control, a 6-speaker audio upgrade, 16-in alloy wheels plus the All-Weather Package (heated seats, heated side mirrors and windshield de-icer) on manually equipped models.

The 2.0 Sport Premium ($21,590) adds gray-finish 17-in aluminum alloy wheels, striped cloth upholstery, the Cold Weather Package, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and black-finish roof rails.

The 2.0i Limited ($23,490) ups the ante with a CVT automatic transmission, leather seating, 17-in wheels, upgraded audio with HD Radio and iTunes tagging, automatic climate control, rear vision camera, the Cold Weather Package and auto on/off headlamps.

The 2.0 Sport Limited ($23,990) adds gray-finish 17-in wheels, black-finish roof rails and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

The most desirable optional equipment is limited to models with the CVT automatic transmission, and includes navigation radio with rear backup camera and Aha smartphone infotainment app, a power glass sunroof and the All Weather Package (Premium). Subaru also offers a number of standalone dealer-installed options such as a 115-volt outlet, mud guards, side molding, upgraded subwoofer and speaker kit, fog lights, a rear spoiler and numerous roof rack attachments.

Safety

Safety is a cornerstone of Subaru's commitment to its customers. That's why it should come as no surprise that, in addition to such requirements as anti-lock brakes, standard all-wheel drive, and electronic traction and stability control, the Impreza also features front, front side-impact, driver's knee, and front and rear side-curtain airbags. It also should not come as a surprise that the Impreza scores excellent marks in its crash tests, earning a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the 2014 Impreza four out of five stars in its front and side-impact crash tests, and five stars for its performance in the rollover roof strength test.

Behind the Wheel

OK, we will tell you right off the bat that the Impreza isn't a pocket rocket, nor does it take turns like a roller coaster on rails. But that's not its mission. As a daily driver, the Impreza is really quite appealing, and when equipped with the CVT automatic, the Impreza is pretty spritely off the line. Once you get up to speeds over 40 miles per hour, however, there isn't a lot of reserve power for passing slower traffic. There's also a rather harsh sound at full throttle, but that's pretty standard with most CVT transmissions, as the engine revs to its maximum rpm and holds there until the throttle is let up. You can save about $1,000 and go with the standard manual transmission, but we found the shifter feels rubbery and disconnected. Plus, it actually delivers worse fuel economy than the automatic. For this reason, we'd go with the 6-speed CVT that not only maximizes fuel economy but also includes paddle shifters that allow you to step through pre-programmed gears. Actually, a CVT has no gears, but Subaru has designed gears to imitate the way a standard geared transmission normally operates, which we think is pretty slick.

On the road, the Impreza is surprisingly responsive, with good feedback from its electric-assist power steering and a predictable, controlled feel when rounding sharp corners. But the Impreza's real trump card is its permanently engaged Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. Although the system adds an extra measure of traction on both wet and dry pavement, its real advantage can be found when snow and ice replace asphalt and painted yellow lines.

Other Cars to Consider

Toyota Matrix -- The base Matrix has less horsepower and worse fuel economy figures than the Impreza, plus its optional all-wheel-drive system isn't permanently engaged. However, the Matrix offers a larger, more powerful engine as an option, but only on the front-wheel-drive S trim.

Ford Focus -- If you're the kind of person who has to be first in line at every new iPhone launch, the Ford Focus is probably the car for you. It's loaded with high-tech features such as SYNC infotainment and Sony audio, and it can even parallel park itself. But the Focus doesn't offer an all-wheel-drive model, and its price tag can venture close to $30,000 fully loaded.

VW Golf TDI -- The diesel version of VW's Golf offers better fuel economy and a sportier ride, plus a nicer interior and better audio options. But, like the Focus, the Golf doesn't offer all-wheel drive, and it costs significantly more than the Impreza.

AutoTrader's Advice

The best bang for the buck is the Impreza 2.0i Premium model, which starts around $21,000 and, with all the bells and whistles, tops out around $24,000. Granted, the Premium's base price isn't far from the entry-level Legacy sedan's starting figure, but you get more goodies and better fuel economy with the Impreza, plus the added advantage of the 5-door model -- our personal favorite.

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