The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 2.9

The Subaru Impreza has standard four-wheel drive and an excellent reliability record to make up for some shortcomings. It’s expensive to run, but well equipped.

Reasons to buy

  • Standard four-wheel drive
  • High equipment levels
  • Decent to drive
Best on a budget
Impreza 1.5 RC
Legendary name with entry engine is decent budget buy.
Best seller
Impreza 2.0 RC
Boxer engine and decent kit is a popular choice.
Blow the budget
Impreza 2.0D RX
Best engine and upper spec is the ultimate drive.

How good does it look? 3/5

A hatchback bodystyle was a shock to Subaru Impreza purists who believe that a true Impreza should have a boot and four doors. It’s an attractively styled hatchback though, with a deep bonnet scoop on diesel and performance models and an aggressively styled front end. Entry level models without the spoilers and body addenda look a little on the bland side, and lack visual drama, though.

What's the interior like? 2/5

The inside of the Impreza is attractively styled, with clear, well laid out instruments and controls, but all wrapped up in disappointingly poor quality plastics. It feels like they’ve been caught up in a time warp, and borrowed from an early 1990’s car, and as a result the cabin feels cheap and pretty nasty. It’s a real shame, as a few soft-touch plastics here and there would lift the quality enormously, and considering the high purchase price of some models, Subaru needs to try a lot harder.

How practical is it? 3/5

There’s a decent amount of space in the Impreza, with legroom generous in both the front and back. Headroom in the front is merely average, though in the back, there’s plenty of space for all but the very tallest of passengers. There’s only room for two in the back though, thanks to a sizeable transmission tunnel. The boot isn’t particularly generous either, with just 301 litres of luggage room. That’s considerably less than the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus. With the seats folded down, this opens up to 1,216 litres. The loadbay cover is quite ingenious though, with an 4×4 style sliding cover, rather than a conventional fixed parcel shelf that is the norm. Both the seats and steering wheel are multi-adjustable, so it’s easy to get a comfortable driving position.

What's it like to drive? 4/5

Thanks to the standard four-wheel drive, you’re never likely to run out of grip, and thanks to entertaining handling, it masks how lethargic the petrol engines feel. Things are better in the diesel models, thanks to the delicious sounding engine when you put the pedal to the metal. The steering is precise and well weighted, giving a feeling that the Impreza is safe and secure. Suspension damping is good too, with only the harshest of bumps unsettling the Subaru. Both road and wind noise are well suppressed, with the only noise coming from the glorious sounding boxer engines.

How powerful is it? 2/5

Think of the Impreza and it conjures up images of rally-bred performance, wide wheels and lairy spoilers. In the latest incarnation of the Impreza, nothing could be further from this. The two boxer petrol engines – a 105bhp 1.5-litre and 148bhp 2.0-litre – deliver leisurely performance, with the former taking 14.0 seconds to reach 62mph. Things are a little better if you’ve opted for the diesel engine, with 148bhp on tap, 258lb ft of torque, a 0-62mph acceleration figure of 9.0 seconds and a top speed of 127mph. The charismatic diesel engine is the nearest you’ll get to the sporty behavior that Subaru cars are famous for without stepping up to the STI performance version.

How much will it cost me? 1/5

The Impreza isn’t cheap to run thanks to its boxer engines kicking out high levels of CO2, and not being particularly frugal. For instance, the best selling 2.0-litre petrol models emit 199g/km of CO2, and return 32.8mpg on the combined cycle. This is more than many off roaders, and means that the pick of the range are the diesel engined models, despite their high list prices. CO2 emissions of 152g/km and fuel economy of 48.7mpg is much more like it, but still some way off rivals like the BMW 1 Series, Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus. Insurance groups are also high compared to its rivals, and residual values poor.

How reliable is it? 4/5

Subaru’s reliability record is excellent, with the Impreza always doing well in reliability surveys. Subaru dealers normally provide a decent service and are well regarded and recommended by most Impreza owners.

How safe is it? 3/5

The Impreza scored a four star Euro NCAP safety rating when it was tested in 2009, and features driver, passenger, side and head airbags as standard equipment. In addition, there’s electronic stability programme and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution. There’s also ISOFIX child seat fasteners for the rear seats. It’s disappointing that neither rear side airbags nor ISOFIX child seat fixings are available for the front seats. There is a reminder system for the driver’s seatbelt though. The biggest draw for most buyers will be the standard fitment of all-wheel-drive on all models.

How much equipment do I get? 4/5

Available in just two levels of trim – RC and RX – there’s a whole lot of standard kit on all models. Xenon headlights, alloy wheels, front fog lights, power folding mirrors, heated front seats, cruise control and Bluetooth hands free connectivity all come fitted to entry RC trim, as well as a leather steering wheel and gearknob and an audio system with USB and auxiliary socket. Upmarket RX trim adds electric leather seats, keyless entry and start, privacy glass and an electric sunroof.

Why buy? 3/5

The reassurance of standard four-wheel drive and that legendary Impreza name is enough for some to take out their wallet – especially those that live down a country lane. The renowned reliability and that fantastic boxer diesel engine are other good reasons too.