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2021 Subaru Impreza Review

The 2021 Subaru Impreza compact sedan and hatchback come with a blend of ingredients that no rival can quite match. All-wheel drive is the most obvious asset, which is standard here, bringing a wonderful sure-footedness whenever the weather turns rough.

Safety scores, reliability and robust resale values also work in the Impreza’s favor. Along with a spacious interior and a decent cargo area.

The 2021 Impreza is remarkably quiet and composed. The 152-horsepower engine isn’t going to move driving enthusiasts, but it’s good enough to get the Impreza where it needs to go in a fuel-efficient manner, despite the extra weight and power requirements that come with all-wheel drive.

Although the Impreza is not intended for off-road use (that’s what the Crosstrek is for), Subaru’s permanent Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system provides excellent grip on dry roads as well as superior traction in snow and rain.

Also available in sedan and hatchback body styles, the Mazda3 is the only other compact car that offers all-wheel drive. But it’s optional and those variants become appreciably pricier than the Impreza.

Despite driving an extra set of wheels, the Impreza’s fuel economy is about the same as most of its front-wheel-drive rivals. But none of those can tackle a snow-covered road with the same kind of confidence.

What’s New for 2021?

Premium trim gains Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-Drive), consisting of selectable driving modes with controls on the steering wheel. And Sport trim has a black rear spoiler whose end panels are finished in Black Crystal Silica. See the 2021 Subaru Impreza models for sale near you

What We Like

  • All-wheel drive is standard
  • Impressive fuel economy
  • Generous rear legroom
  • Quiet cabin
  • Quality materials
  • Excellent safety ratings
  • Keen pricing

What We Don’t

  • Weak engine
  • Limited rear headroom
  • No lumbar support adjustment

How Much?

$19,720-$26,820

Fuel Economy

The Impreza has a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder boxer engine with direct-injection making 152 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard in the base and Sport trims, with an automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT) available as an option. The CVT is standard in Premium and Limited trims.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption for the sedan at 23 miles per gallon in the city, 31 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg in combined driving (manual) or 28 mpg city/36 mpg hwy/32 mpg combined (CVT).

In the hatchback/manual-transmission configuration, city fuel economy improves by one mile per gallon. With the CVT, consumption is the same as the sedan.

Sport variants are slightly thirstier. The sedan/CVT setup runs to 27 mpg city/36 mpg hwy/30 mpg combined. The Sport hatchback achieves 22 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined (manual) or 27 mpg city/35 mpg hwy/30 mpg combined (CVT).

All-wheel drive (AWD) is standard throughout.

Standard Features and Options

Both sedan and hatchback versions of the compact 2021 Subaru Impreza come in base, Premium, Sport and Limited trim levels. Hatchback versions cost $500 more than their sedan equivalents. Pricing includes a $925 destination fee.

The base Impreza sedan ($19,720) has a 5-speed manual transmission, hill-start assistance, 16-in steel wheels with plastic covers, air conditioning, eco fuel economy gauge, steering wheel-mounted controls for cruise control, 60/40 split/folding rear seats, STARLINK infotainment system with a 6.5-in touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, Bluetooth, and a 4-speaker audio setup. The 5-door hatchback adds a rear wiper/washer.

Options for this trim are limited to the CVT automatic that brings EyeSight (forward collision avoidance with automatic braking, lane-departure warning/lane-keeping assistance adaptive cruise control, rear seat reminder, electronic trunk release (sedan), tire pressure monitoring with individual wheel ID, and a 4.2-in color LCD driver information display.

Premium ($23,120) adds the CVT automatic transmission, SI-Drive selectable driving modes, heated seats, heated side mirrors, windshield wiper de-icer, fog lights, welcome lighting, sound-insulated windshield, illuminated power window switches on all doors 16-in alloy wheels, upgraded infotainment system with satellite/HD radio, CD player and two additional speakers. The 5-door models gain roof rails and a rear cargo cover. 

Options for Premium trim include a powered moonroof, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, reverse automatic braking, 6-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, and keyless entry/ignition.

Sport ($24,520) reinstates the 5-speed manual transmission (5-door only) and adds a sport-tuned suspension, active grille shutters, 18-in alloy wheels, keyless entry/ignition, active torque vectoring, aluminum pedals, red stitching (dashboard, seats, steering wheel and shifter), simulated carbon fiber trim, 8-in touchscreen, black rear spoiler with Black Crystal Silica end panels, and side mirrors with integrated turn signals.

Sport trim is eligible for a 432-watt/8-speaker Harman Kardon audio system upgrade and the CVT (which also brings SI-Drive), otherwise options are similar to the Premium trim’s.

Limited ($26,820) brings the CVT, 17-in alloy wheels, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, reverse automatic braking, steering-responsive LED headlights with automatic high beams, LED daytime running lights, fog lights, automatic climate control, 6-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather upholstery, color LCD monitor, keyless entry/ignition, and a rear-seat armrest with cup holders.

Options include a powered sunroof, voice-activated navigation and the 432-watt/8-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.

Safety

Every Impreza has front, front side, side curtain and driver’s-knee airbags. Also on board is electronic traction and stability control, tire pressure monitoring, rearview camera, and, on manual models, hill-start assistance.

Additional safety equipment includes the EyeSight array of driver assistance features with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assistance. Blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and reverse automatic braking are also available.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the Impreza its highest rating of five stars in every crash test and five stars overall. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) saw the Impreza earn top scores in every major crash test category, resulting in a Top Safety Pick designation (with the collision-avoidance technology and upgraded headlights).

Behind the Wheel

The 2021 Subaru Impreza impresses in many areas. Its stiff body and responsive steering engender a feeling of solidity not usually associated with mainstream compact cars.

The interior shuts out most engine and road noise, and the seats are not only supportive, they’re also incredibly comfortable even after hours on the road. It would be better, however, if Subaru offered adjustable lumbar support for the driver’s seat. In terms of passenger space, rear occupants still have decent legroom with 6-footers up front pushing their seats nearly all the way back.

The engine is efficient enough, but with only 152 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque, the Impreza won’t win over any Honda Civic, VW Golf or Hyundai Elantra owners. At least not until there’s seven inches of snow on their driveways.

This lack of muscle, coupled with the weight of the Impreza’s standard all-wheel drive system, results in a lukewarm acceleration time, taking about nine seconds to stroll from standstill to 60 mph.

Passing power is also in short supply, but the paddle shifters with the CVT help a bit in this regard. The CVT has other upsides as well, delivering great fuel economy and smooth, shift-free acceleration.

Other Cars to Consider

2021 Mazda3 — The Mazda3 has similar proportions to the Impreza, but a slightly smaller rear seat. Its interior is also attractive, although its 8-in display screen doesn’t offer touch-screen functionality. However, the Mazda3 can be equipped with all-wheel drive. It also has superior acceleration and handling.

2021 Honda Civic — Like the Mazda3, the Civic can either be simple or an enthusiast’s dream. The Civic range offers more powerful engine options than the Impreza, but no all-wheel drive.

2021 Kia Forte — Comes as a front-drive sedan only, but looks smart and the approximately $19,000 starting price is attractive.

2021 Toyota Corolla — Not particularly compelling in any one area, but good as an overall package.

Used Subaru WRX — A 2012 to 2016 Subaru WRX has much of the same interior space and reliability as the Impreza, but with a lot more power. It means going without the Impreza’s EyeSight features and the more advanced infotainment setup, though. Check out Subaru’s certified pre-owned (CPO) program.

Questions You May Ask

Is the Impreza a good car?

As a compact sedan or hatchback, the Impreza is efficient, reliable, practical and safe. It also has strong resale values. In those parts of the United States that suffer regular rough winters, there’s invariably a large contingent of Subaru fans, all of whom appreciate the standard-issue all-wheel drive.

What’s the difference between the Subaru Impreza and the Subaru Crosstrek?

The Crosstrek is essentially an Impreza hatchback with higher ground clearance and an extra touch of ruggedness for venturing off-road. The Crosstrek is also more expensive, starting at around $23,000.

Where is the 2021 Subaru Impreza made?

At Subaru’s factory in Lafayette, Indiana.

Autotrader’s Advice

We’d be hard-pressed to argue against any of the Impreza models, but if we had to pick one, it would be the Sport. This model comes well equipped and can include either a manual or automatic transmission. Alternatively, Limited is the way to go for features such as automatic climate control, leather upholstery and navigation. Find a Subaru Impreza for sale

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