2014 Subaru Impreza Sedan Review: Introduction
The 2014 Subaru Impreza sedan is a compact car that finds itself in an unusual position. Completely redesigned a mere two years ago in order to finally offer class-competitive fuel mileage without giving up its standard all-wheel drive package, the Subaru Impreza is facing a small car market that has pushed relentlessly forward in terms of both upscale creature comforts and available in-car technologies. This includes luminaries like the Ford Focus and the Hyundai Elantra, as well as recently-refreshed vehicles such as the Toyota Corolla and the Mazda Mazda3. The Impreza is in tough to impress from the middle of the pack, and while I'm well aware of the advantages it offers northern dwellers facing a snow-packed winter, I recently spent a week with the sedan to see whether that appeal was universal enough to stand out in more gentle climes.
2014 Subaru Impreza Sedan Review: Models and Prices
The 2014 Subaru Impreza is a compact car that is available in both sedan and hatchback body styles. The sedan that I drove is offered in three specific trim levels, starting with the base 2.0i (MSRP $17,895) which is equipped with power windows and door locks, keyless entry, a folding rear seat, Bluetooth connectivity, a CD player with a basic stereo system, cloth upholstery, and air conditioning. The 2.0i Premium (MSRP $19,795) installs 16-inch alloy rims in place of the entry-level edition's 15-inch steel wheels, and it also provides an arm rest between the front seats, cruise control, a couple of extra speakers, and on vehicles equipped with a manual transmission heated seats, heated mirrors, and a de-icing system for the windshield. The 2.0i Limited (MSRP $22,195) adds 17-inch wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather seats, automatic climate control, an armrest for those riding in the rear, and a touchscreen audio interface.
The vehicle I tested was a 2014 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Premium outfitted with a continuously-variable automatic transmission, Alloy Wheel package (17-inch rims, leather-wrapped steering wheel), moonroof, and the All-Weather package (heated seats, heated mirrors, windshield de-icer). The total MSRP for this sedan came to $23,090.
2014 Subaru Impreza Sedan Review: Design
- The 2014 Subaru Impreza makes no design changes for the current model year.
There was a time when the Subaru Impreza was instantly identifiable due to its niche styling, but the 2014 model features a design that is far more in keeping with the middle of the road than past small car efforts from the brand. It's a nice look up front, with a broad grille and bumper as well as a powerful hood slope, but towards the rear of the car, and especially its unadorned sides, it's hard to tell the Subaru apart from other compact vehicles on the market. The car fits in well, which fine for most buyers, but distinctive personality in the vein of Hyundai or Ford is not to be found with the Impreza.
The 2014 Subaru Impreza's passenger compartment is not quite as adept at keeping up with industry trends. The word to best describe the Impreza's interior is 'functional' - everything is in its right place, but there's very little to attract the eye, and a fair amount of harder plastics on the doors and center console. Subaru is moving away from this aesthetic in its crossovers and the larger Legacy sedan, but the Impreza hasn't yet received the extra attention needed to update its cabin.
2014 Subaru Impreza Sedan Review: Comfort and Cargo
- The 2014 Subaru Impreza does not offer any updates to its comfort or cargo features.
The 2014 Subaru Impreza manages to score with a larger-than-expect cabin, with a rear seat that is especially generous in the legroom department. Families won't have any trouble using the Impreza as a daily driver, and it's easy to stuff a child seat back where it needs to be thanks to wide door openings. My tester featured cloth seats, which I personally happen to like, but leather is available with the 2.0i Premium trim. The manual adjustments to the driver's seat had me in a comfortable position in no time, and you can see out of the Impreza's side and rear windows with little obstruction from pillars or a plunging roofline. There's also 12.5 cubic feet of trunk space that comes with the car, which is mid-size storage with a compact footprint.
Ride comfort is nothing outstanding, but certainly acceptable for the car's price. It's worth noting that this generation of the Subaru Impreza is quieter at speed than the previous one, and overall the vehicle's chassis feels more solid when passing over rough stretches of road.
2014 Subaru Impreza Sedan Review: Features and Controls
- The 2014 Subaru Impreza introduces no new features or controls.
The 2014 Subaru Impreza's control set continues to define simplicity. There's an LCD display at the top of the center stack that offers up climate control information as well as other vehicle data, while the middle of the stack provides the most basic stereo system you could possibly imagine in a modern car. I tried, in vain, to connect my mobile phone to the car's Bluetooth system, a feat that required using exclusively voice commands, and eventually gave up when no communication between the two devices could be made. It's worth noting that the same phone had no trouble bridging the gap to the 2015 Subaru Legacy sedan two days later, indicating that the lackluster-sounding, and difficult-to-use head unit in the Impreza needs to get gone as soon as possible.
Everything else about the car - from the seat heater toggles to the window switches to the analog tach and speedometer gauges in front of the driver - is straight from the traditional compact car playbook. It works, but there's little innovation to be had here, which is too bad given the spacious palette that the Impreza's interior has to offer the automaker's designers.
2014 Subaru Impreza Sedan Review: Safety and Ratings
- The 2014 Subaru Impreza offers no new safety gear for the current model year.
The 2014 Subaru Impreza - despite its lack of available active safety technologies such as a blind spot monitoring system - is very good at protecting occupants in the event of a collision. This is a common Subaru trait, as every model from the automaker typically over-performs in crash testing. The Impreza comes with side-mounted airbags up front, dual forward airbags, a driver's knee airbag, electronic traction control and stability control, and anti-lock brakes.
2014 Subaru Impreza Sedan Crash-Test Ratings: The Subaru Impreza scored five out of five stars overall from the NHTSA in crash safety, and is rated a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS due to its score of 'Good' in every important test.
2014 Subaru Impreza Sedan Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
- The 2014 Subaru Impreza maintains last year's drivetrain.
The 2014 Subaru Impreza comes exclusively with a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine under the hood. The horizontally-opposed motor delivers 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque, which is a right on the line of average for a compact sedan. All-wheel drive is standard with the Impreza - a class exclusive - and fuel mileage for the vehicle I drove (which was equipped with the car's optional continuously-variable automatic transmission) is listed at 27-mpg city and 36-mpg highway. Selecting the five-speed manual drops the rating to 25-mpg around and 34-mpg in highway cruising. I was able to come close to the factory figures in normal driving, which is an impressive accomplishment for an all-wheel drive car.
2014 Subaru Impreza Sedan Review: Driving Impressions
The 2014 Subaru Impreza's all-wheel drive advantage is largely negated when piloted in a warm, sunny climate, as the vehicle's four-cylinder engine doesn't have enough grunt to take advantage of the extra traction from a performance perspective. Given that so much of the Impreza's branding is attached to its all-wheel drive status, in the absence of a tangible benefit the vehicle's lukewarm handling and lack of driver engagement emerge in starker relief. This is a car that I absolutely loved in the winter, yet didn't get all that much joy from once the roads have cleared.
That doesn't mean that the Subaru Impreza is in any way terrible to drive. Ride quality, as mentioned above, is comparable to several of its mid-tier small car rivals, and although the car's cornering might be imprecise when pushed the same is true of models like the Nissan Sentra and the new Toyota Corolla. It's when one realizes that a bevy of truly engaging compact sedans are currently available, including the Focus, the Mazda3, and the Chevrolet Cruze, that the Impreza begins to fade into the background.
The sedan moves further into the distance when considering the average output of its 2.0-liter engine, a unit that has seen its horsepower toned down to 1.6-liter levels in order to attain appealing fuel economy. The CVT isn't as obtrusive as complainers make it out to be, but the engine is noisier when accelerating with this gearbox as compared to the five-speed manual. There's no real performance difference between the two which means that choosing the automatic will net you additional miles per gallon without slowing the somewhat pokey Impreza even further.
2014 Subaru Impreza Sedan Review: Final Thoughts
It was somewhat of a challenge to write this review, as the 2014 Subaru Impreza didn't make nearly as much of an impression as most of the other models in the automaker's lineup. Taken on its own, the winter performance of the sedan is good but drops down to 'agreeably average' in the warmer months. In comparison to the compact segment's leading lights, however, it's clear that the Subaru isn't in the running for top marks in regions where its all-wheel drive is more of a novelty than a necessity,
Where does that leave the Impreza for 2014? In some ways, it hasn't changed the situation all that much, as traditional Subaru fans are going to love what the car has to offer in terms of practicality, reliability, and comfort. More objectively, however, the sedan has a hard time justifying itself as a purchase by those who don't need its all-weather traction. There are so many excellent small car options out there these days that being 'good' instead of 'great' simply isn't 'good enough' anymore. That's a 'win' for budget-conscious buyers in the bigger picture, but a definite 'lose' for Subaru.
2014 Subaru Impreza Sedan Review: Pros and Cons
2014 Subaru Impreza Sedan Review: Pros and Cons
- Standard all-wheel drive
- Good fuel mileage
- Roomy, comfortable interior
- Available in a practical hatchback body style, too
- Terrible stereo system
- 2.0-liter engine not as torquey as I would like
- Acceleration can be noisy with the CVT installed
- Interior styling and materials are below expectations
- Left behind by more technologically-advanced compact cars
Subaru Canada supplied the vehicle for this review.