2017 Subaru Impreza Sport quick take: Budget all-wheel-drive compact

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What is it: Subaru’s compact Impreza sedan/hatch rides on an all-new platform, of course featuring all-wheel drive.

Key Competitors: Mazda 3, Honda Civic, VW Golf and Sportwagen

Base Price: $22,815 As-Tested Price: $23,615

Highlights: The Impreza Sport takes the new-for-2018 car and adds 18-inch wheels, larger 11.6-inch front brake discs, torque vectoring and a sport-tuned suspension, then ties it all together with a wing that is — by WRX STI standards, at least — fairly modest. Note that you don’t get any extra power over the standard Impreza, and, perhaps counterintuitively, Sport is actually the heaviest of the bunch at 3,108 pounds. 

Our Opinions: Let’s get this out of the way: The Impreza Sport is not a budget WRX. It rides on a newer chassis and it’s got a wing in the back, but the difference between this and a real Wrex is night and day on every front — most notably power (duh) and handling. Razor-sharp, this is not; steering is not quite as precise as the key competitors listed above, to say nothing of Subie’s pure performance offering.

Even so, a WRX is not on everybody’s menu (or in everybody’s budget). What the Impreza offers over the highly competent competition is affordable all-wheel drive, which can’t be found anywhere else on a sedan for this price. That the entire package, from the underpinnings to the interior, has been moderately improved for 2018 is a welcome bonus.

Is the sport package worth it? Honestly, it’s a tough call. You don’t gain any power, but brakes are somewhat better than the soft shoes most Subarus wear.

I’d advise an enthusiast to go with the manual and pocket the cash you’d save, but the reality is that the continuously variable automatic transmission is acceptable for the majority of drivers. The only place it really stumbles is around 20 percent throttle (when you’re creeping along in traffic, for example); here, the CVT’s microchip brain seems to be trying desperately to keep the engine at about 1,000 to 1,100 rpm, powertrain smoothness be damned. As a result, the car lurches and lugs slightly but noticeably along while the tach needle holds steady, all in the name of fuel efficiency. 

Graham Kozak

Graham Kozak – Graham Kozak drove a 1951 Packard 200 sedan in high school because he wanted something that would be easy to find in a parking lot. He thinks all the things they’re doing with fuel injection and seatbelts these days are pretty nifty too.
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On Sale: Now

Base Price: $22,815

As Tested Price: $23,615

Drivetrain: 2.0-liter DOHC H4, AWD, continuously variable transmission

Output: 152 hp @ 6,000 rpm; 145 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

Curb Weight: 3,108 pounds

Fuel Economy: 27/36/30 (EPA City/Hwy/Combined)

Options: Lineartronic CVT ($800)

Pros: Surefooted AWD hatch on a budget

Cons: ‘Sport’ still misleading; typical CVT annoyances

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