2013 Subaru Impreza Road Test and Review: Driving Impressions
Subie fans know what I’m talking about when I say that the Impreza’s CVT and electric steering conspire to suck all the character out of the car. Boxer engines emit a characteristic grumble and a vibration that endear the cars to their owners. The Impreza’s 2.0-liter might be grumbling and vibrating, but you can’t hear or feel it thanks to the CVT’s whine and the numb steering. So instead of feeling or sounding like a Subaru when accelerating, the Impreza feels and sounds like any other small car.
Unlike many other small cars, however, the Impreza rarely feels underpowered, an unexpected observation considering that it relies upon 148 meager horsepower to motivate a minimum of 2,911 pounds. The CVT is geared to deliver lively throttle response, and this powertrain has no trouble hurling the Impreza down a freeway at velocities that would definitely incur a traffic ticket. The paddle shifters that help make the CVT more palatable react instantly, but the resulting “shifts” are unsatisfying.
On a favorite back road, the Impreza offers hints of traditional Subaru athleticism in its handling, and the brakes work beautifully. Still, the Impreza’s dynamic tuning rendered the car more work than pleasure to drive energetically, in large part due to its rather slow and feel-free steering combined with a suspension that produced far more wallow and roll than is acceptable for the “Sport” version of any car. Even my wife, a car reviewer and automotive copywriter intimately familiar with the Subaru brand, called this car “functional.” Usually, she refers to Subarus as “fun.”
But then, most small cars are functional rather than fun, so don’t let my lament over the current Impreza’s apparent personality disorder concern you much. When driven on commutes to the office, for running errands, and on longer highway trips, the Impreza’s driving dynamics are exactly what most people want most of the time.
As noted above, the Impreza feels quicker than expected unless you’re punching the accelerator to pass while already traveling more than 50 mph. Around town, the electric steering doesn’t feel light or loose, providing decent on-center heft if not clear communication. The suspension delivers a good blend of ride comfort and road feel, and the brakes are responsive and easy to modulate. This is an easy, if forgettable, car to drive when you’re not placing heavy demands on it.
Furthermore, though I reviewed this particular Impreza in California, I’ve got experience driving the 2012 model through several inches of slushy snow on its standard tires, and the car was virtually unstoppable. The Impreza’s standard AWD is, for many people, reason enough for the Subaru to vault to the top of the shopping list – especially in regions that see significant snowfall.