The Subaru Impreza lineup is redesigned for 2008, getting bigger and more refined in the process. A four-door sedan body style remains, but a four-door hatchback replaces the previous generation's wagon body style. Base Impreza and Outback Sport models return, as do the high-performance WRX and even higher performance WRX STI. This report covers the Impreza and Outback Sport; another review covers the related WRX and STi models.
Subaru Impreza and Outback Sport use a 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine teamed with a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. The engine produces 170-horspower, enough power for everyday needs and enough oomph for good passing punch. We drove it in the mountains of Colorado and found it up to the task, but it had to work hard up steep grades partly due to the thinner air at high altitude. Drivers who want more power should consider the turbocharged Subaru Impreza WRX, which is surprisingly civil in behavior.
The Impreza powertrain is competitive with anything in the compact class, but some rivals offer six-speed automatics that improve fuel economy. The Impreza's fuel economy is on par with other all-wheel-drive compacts, but it suffers compared to front-drive rivals. If fuel mileage is your main concern, the Subaru Impreza is not the best choice among compacts.
All-wheel drive adds handling stability and traction on slippery roads, however, and we found it kept us safe on a snowy ski trip. Even a minor wreck costs more than a tank of gas.
The Impreza also has a handling advantage versus several competitors. Advanced suspension geometry, a platform built to host the high-performance WRX models, and a low center of gravity thanks to the boxer engine all add up to crisp handling with little body lean in corners. And yet, the Subaru Impreza also offers a comfortable ride.
Inside, the Impreza is nicely appointed, with a look and feel that would be appropriate for a car costing thousands more. The gauges are easy to read, and there is plenty of storage space for small items. The front seat has enough head room and leg room for tall drivers, and visibility is good to all corners. The back seat is impressive for a compact car, with enough leg room for tall passengers provided the front seats aren't set too far back.
The Subaru Impreza sedan has a decent trunk, but buyers looking for more utility will want to choose the hatchback. The hatchback's rear seats are split 60/40 and fold flat to open up a useful cargo area with a flat load floor.
In short, the Subaru Impreza is a lot of car for the money, and its standard all-wheel drive makes it an excellent choice for buyers who want an extra measure of security and stability in inclement conditions.
The 2008 Subaru Impreza is offered in four models: 2.5i, Outback Sport, WRX, and WRX STI. This report covers the 2.5i and Outback Sport, which come with all-wheel-drive and a horizontally opposed 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. The 2.5i is offered as either a four-door sedan or four-door hatchback. The Outback Sport is only a hatchback. The flat four in the 2.5i and Outback Sport models makes 170 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. It comes mated to a five-speed manual transmission and a four-speed automatic transmission is optional ($1000).
Standard equipment on the Subaru Impreza 2.5i sedan ($16,995) and hatchback ($17,495) includes cloth upholstery, air conditioning, interior air filter, tilt steering wheel, cruise control, height-adjustable driver's seat, 60/40 split folding rear seat, power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry, 80-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with four speakers, outside-temperature indicator, theft-deterrent system, and P205/55R16 tires on steel wheels with wheel covers. Hatchbacks also get a rear cargo cover and a rear spoiler.
The Outback Sport ($19,995) adds four-wheel disc brakes, raised suspension, Incline Start Assist (with manual transmission), leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, leather-wrapped shift knob, heated front seats, heated exterior mirrors, six-disc CD changer, 10 speakers, auxiliary audio input jack, fog lights, roof rack cross bars, and P205/50R17 tires on alloy wheels.
Options for the 2.5i include a Premium package ($1500) with anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes with Brake Assist, traction control, electronic stability control, Incline Start Assist (for manual transmission models), automatic climate control, tilt/telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, leather-wrapped shift knob, six-disc CD changer, 10 speakers, auxiliary audio input jack, fog lights, and alloy wheels. A Satellite and Navigation package ($3500) adds a navigation system and Sirius satellite radio plus the Premium package equipment but with a single-CD player. The Popular Equipment Group ($319) adds auto-dimming rearview mirror, compass, and security system shock sensor. Other upgrades include an Audio Sound package ($768) with XM or Sirius satellite radio and a subwoofer/amplifier; a short-throw shifter for the manual transmission ($374); auxiliary audio input jack ($97); roof rack ($250); remote engine starting ($432); XM or Sirius satellite radio ($453); and a rear spoiler for the sedan ($380). The Outback Sport offers similar options.
Safety features include dual front airbags, front side airbags, curtain side airbags, front disc and rear drum brakes, anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution, front-seat active head restraints, and a tire-pressure monitor. Traction control, electronic stability control, Brake Assist, and Incline Start Assist (with manual transmission) are standard on all but the 2.5i, where they are optional.