The Toyota Corolla is the best-selling compact sedan, and has been for quite a long time. However, popularity doesn’t always equate to superiority. Though the Corolla continues to boast strong fuel economy, safety and reliability, other vehicles in the segment, like the 2017 Subaru Impreza, also possess those admirable qualities while besting it in most other respects. Let’s take a closer look at the Impreza and Corolla to show you why it’s a good idea to shop around a bit before jumping (or continuing) on the Corolla bandwagon.
2017 Subaru Impreza
The Impreza was completely redesigned for 2017. It’s better to drive, has a nicer and roomier cabin, more power, new safety features and an excellent touchscreen interface that pairs well with the standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. See all 2017 Subaru Impreza models available near you
2017 Toyota Corolla
The Corolla got a facelift for 2017, and the interior was upgraded with better upholstery, new gauges and new color combinations. The features list swelled with standard accident-avoidance tech, while new SE and XSE trim levels debuted, boasting a sportier appearance. All Corollas also now come standard with a continuously variable transmission (the 4-speed auto is gone), but you can get a 6-speed manual on the SE. See all 2017 Toyota Corolla models available near you
The Corolla has been one of the most reliable, problem-free cars on the market for decades now. That trend has continued with the current generation, which has been on sale for several years. The Impreza is an all-new model, and as such we can’t comment fairly on its reliability thus far. Its most immediate predecessor enjoyed excellent reliability and few customer complaints, however. Subaru also enjoys a fiercely loyal customer base — typically a sign of a positive long-term ownership experience.
In the end, the Corolla will likely be the more reliable car here, but probably not by much — if anything.
The 2017 Impreza comes standard with all-wheel drive, which is great for slippery road surfaces and any wintery climate, really. In the past, however, all-wheel drive also resulted in lower fuel economy, making the Impreza less desirable to those who live in places where the sun more frequently shines. That’s no longer the case, as the Impreza’s 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine (152 horsepower, 145 lb-ft of torque) returns 28 miles per gallon in the city, 37 mpg on the highway and 32 mpg in combined driving in its sedan body style with the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Opting for the hatchback effectively lowers fuel economy by 1 mpg, while opting for the Sport trim level lowers it by an additional 1 mpg. The manual yields a 5-mpg reduction from a comparable CVT-equipped Impreza.
The 2017 Corolla is front-wheel-drive but effectively returns the same fuel economy, at 28 mpg city/36 mpg hwy/32 mpg combined with its standard 1.8-liter 4-cylinder, which produces considerably less power at 132 hp and 128 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy goes down by 1 mpg in the SE trim.
However, the Corolla’s LE Eco trim gets a different 1.8-liter engine good for a bit more power (140 hp, 126 lb-ft), and it betters the Impreza’s fuel economy numbers at 30 mpg city/40 mpg hwy/34 mpg combined. Opting for bigger 16-inch wheels results in a 1-mpg reduction.
So the Corolla can be more efficient, but that’s only one trim level, and the difference should only equal about $50 on average through the course of a year. You’ll also have less power and do without the all-weather confidence of all-wheel drive.
The Corolla comes with an impressive, class-leading amount of standard safety equipment. Every trim level goes above and beyond with a driver knee airbag, a passenger under-seat airbag that prevents submarining under your seatbelt and the Toyota Safety Sense system, which includes forward-collision warning with emergency automatic braking and pedestrian detection, as well as lane-departure warning and steering assist.
Those accident-avoidance technologies are optional on the Impreza’s Premium, Sport and Limited trim levels as part of the EyeSight Driver Assist Technology package. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic warning systems are optional on those trim levels but not available on any Corolla. The Limited can also be equipped with a reverse automatic braking system.
The Impreza got a perfect five stars in every government crash test, including the rollover test. That’s a rarity. The Corolla got five stars for overall and side crash protection but four stars in the frontal and rollover tests.
The Impreza also did slightly better in testing conducted by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It got the best possible marks in every single IIHS test — another rarity — including new tests designed to gauge headlights and front-crash prevention systems. It was even called out for having extra child-seat LATCH positions, resulting in a rare Good+ rating. In total, it was named a Top Safety Pick+, though, admittedly, that was when equipped with EyeSight. The Corolla received the same crash and crash-prevention ratings but got lower headlight and LATCH anchor scores. However, its scores apply regardless of trim level or option package.
Besides the above-mentioned safety tech, most Corolla trim levels come standard with a USB port, Bluetooth and a 6.1-inch touchscreen that’s refreshingly easy to use. The XLE and XSE come with a 7-in high-resolution touchscreen, HD Radio and a variety of smartphone apps.
The Impreza 2.0i base and Premium trim levels come standard with a 6.5-in touchscreen, while the Sport and Limited get an 8-in screen. Despite these size differences and a few additional features (one extra USB port, HD Radio, a variety of smartphone apps), both represent one of the easiest-to-use infotainment systems found in any car. The touchscreen features crisp graphics, big virtual buttons and fast response times. Every Impreza also comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto — neither of which is offered by Toyota.
Interior Space, Quality and Design
Neither the Corolla nor the Impreza are particularly strong in this regard. The cabins of the Honda Civic and Mazda3, for example, offer far more premium environments for similar money. We would, however, give the nod to the Subaru in this comparison. There are a few more soft-touch surfaces (the door armrests are particularly squishy) and a higher-quality overall materials feel. The Corolla’s upright dash also creates a less open cabin feel, and its steering wheel is less pleasant to hold.
In terms of comfort, the Corolla’s driver’s seat could use more adjustment range, and we’ve found its seats grow a bit unsupportive over long distances. The Subaru is a bit better, though again, others outdo it — especially up front.
In the back, the Corolla boasts one of the biggest back seats in the segment. Full-size adults should have no problem getting comfortable. The Impreza grew for 2017, but there’s noticeably less legroom. It’s not bad — tall adults can still fit — and headroom is sufficient. The seat itself is also supportive and located at a comfortable height off the floor.
Adding the optional CVT makes the Impreza’s base price $19,395. The Corolla L trim starts at $18,500. In terms of features comparisons, you’re effectively trading the Corolla’s standard safety tech for the Impreza’s all-wheel drive and standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto interface (not to mention its other inherent advantages as described above).
Moving up to the Impreza Premium carries with it a $22,015 price tag, or $23,410 with EyeSight. That’s more than the range-topping Corolla XSE ($22,680) and XLE ($21,825), which are similarly equipped, with a few key exceptions (auto climate control and push-button start, for instance, are only available on the range-topping Impreza Limited).
In the end, the Corolla will likely be cheaper.
So the Corolla will likely be cheaper, and its standard suite of accident-avoidance tech counts for a lot — both in terms of safety and value. Its LE Eco trim also has the slightest fuel economy advantage, and the Corolla’s reliability has been negligibly better in recent years. These are all minor victories, however. The Impreza is the newer, more advanced car. It possesses sharper handling, a more controlled ride, more power, standard all-wheel drive, a nicer cabin, more standard infotainment tech and the wider availability of a hatchback body style (the Toyota Corolla iM hatchback isn’t available in the same variety of trim levels as the sedan). Plus, unless you’re considering the cheapest base versions, an Impreza with EyeSight wipes out the Corolla’s main value and safety advantage. We say the 2017 Subaru Impreza is the better car.