The Subaru Impreza is an oddball in the compact car world.
Although it’s becoming interestingly mainstream, it continues to march to its own beat. Features like standard all-wheel drive, a horizontally opposed engine and adaptive cruise control are not found in many, if any, other compact cars.
The Chevrolet Cruze isn’t exactly a mainstream product either. Although base models can be equipped with a naturally aspirated engine, most Cruzes come with a small turbocharged engine not to mention the optional diesel. Chevrolet also ignores the current trend toward continuously variable transmissions and sticks to a traditional six-speed automatic. Finally, the Cruze is larger than most compact cars and heavier than them all.
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Even if the two vehicles have different engines, the power output is similar. The Impreza’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder puts out 148 HP and 145 lb-ft. of torque while the Cruze’s 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder generates 138 HP and 148 lb-ft. of torque. Of course, the Subaru sends power to all four wheels while the Chevrolet sends it to just the front two.
The Cruze has lots of low end torque because it’s a turbocharged engine. The drivetrain as a whole is a nice, refined unit. There is plenty of grunt for initial acceleration, but it fades as speeds increase.
The Impreza has a particularly sensitive throttle that takes getting used to because it lurches the car forward at the slightest touch. This makes the Impreza feel faster than it is, but once underway it’s obvious there’s a power deficit. And it’s not the best sounding engine either. Subaru added sound deadening material for 2015 to enhance cabin isolation, but the drivetrain still makes a less than pleasing noise.
Easy to Drive, Surprisingly Sporty
Aside from the throttle pedal nuance, the Impreza is one of the easiest cars to drive in this segment. Steering is light, handling is predictable and the sightlines are terrific. The latter is achieved thanks to a low belt line, boxy shape and door mounted mirrors that all assist vision.
The Cruze is fairly easy to see out of as well, but it feels big and drives that way. The steering is hefty and that makes it seem like a larger car. Our test car was fitted with the RS package, which is a must for the Cruze. It improves the aesthetics of the car, increases steering feel and improves handling. The downside of the RS package is the wide tires tend to pull a bit on the highway if you’re driving over truck ruts.
Not Style Leaders
Neither the Cruse nor the Impreza have interiors that are particularly attractive. The Cruze’s dash is a mess with mesh accents that look out of place, plastic trim bits that leave a lot to be desired and a weird mix of materials throughout.
The Impreza’s interior is equally lacking, although the radio is finally integrated with the dashboard. Yet, the materials don’t blend together well and the metal rings around the climate control knobs seem cheap. Subaru’s Starlink system on the other hand is a bit more controversial. Some of us love it while others outright despise it.
Options and Comfort
The mix of equipment is sort of strange in both cars. The Chevy can be equipped with an on-board WiFi hotspot, but no dual climate control. The Impreza can have high-tech safety systems like adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and forward collision warning, but there’s no power seat.
The Cruze is a comfortable car, despite the RS package’s aggressive tires and suspension. It ignores road imperfections and keeps out unwanted vibrations. The front seats for the most part are comfortable, but some of us found the upper portion pushes our shoulders too far forward. In contrast, the Impreza’s ride comfort is average for the class, but the driving position is great for people of all sizes.
|Vehicle||2015 Chevrolet Cruze||Advantage||2015 Subaru Impreza|
|Engine (as tested)||1.4 L Turbocharged Four-Cylinder||-||2.0 L Four-Cylinder|
|Horsepower||138 HP||Impreza||148 HP|
|Torque||148 lb-ft.||-||145 lb-ft.|
|Weight||3,093-3,475 lbs.||Impreza||2,955-3,131 lbs.|
|Cargo Space||15.0 cubic feet||Impreza||22.5 cubic feet|
|Fuel Economy (US)||26 MPG city, 38 MPG highway||Cruze||27 MPG, 36 MPG|
|Fuel Economy (CDN)||9.1 L/100 km city, 6.3 L/100 km highway (manual)||Impreza||8.5 L/100 km city, 6.4 L/100 km highway (manual)|
|Observed Fuel Economy||28.3 MPG||Impreza||29.0 MPG|
|Top Trim Price(US)||$31,280||Impreza||$28,385|
|Top Trim Price(CDN)||$31,695||-||$31,890|
Space Isn’t What It Seems
The Impreza sedan, at 12 cubic feet, has one of the smallest trunks in the segment because the all-wheel drive hardware eats into cargo space. The Cruze is a big car for a compact and has one of the largest trunks, measuring 15 cubic feet with either of the gasoline engines. But, the Impreza is also available as a hatchback version unlike the Cruze, which ups the storage capacity significantly to 22.5 cubic feet.
SEE ALSO: 2015 Subaru Impreza Review
Rearseat space is a bit of a shocker. We expected the larger Cruze to be more comfortable but it’s not. Rear headroom in the Chevy is tight, legroom is adequate and seat comfort is good. It’s no comparison to the Impreza which has one of the best rear seats in the class. There’s lots of headroom, lots of legroom, comfortable seat cushions and well placed arm rests.
Value and Safety Propositions
When it comes vehicle safety, both cars receive five-star government safety ratings, but the Impreza is the safer overall product with earning a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS, something the Cruze lacks.
The Cruze counters with a much cheaper entry point, costing just $16,995 after destination charges compared to the Impreza’s starting price of $18,990. Start ticking off the options and things change. The Cruze and the Impreza both top out just over the $28,000 mark.
And that brings us to fuel economy. Subaru has been making a big deal about its efficiency gains in all-wheel drive and it shows here. Officially rated at 27 MPG city and 36 MPG highway, the Impreza we tested is only marginally less efficient than the Cruze 1.4-liter turbocharged automatic which is rated at 26 MPG city and 38 MPG highway. In real-world testing, the Impreza averaged 29 MPG to beat the Cruze’s 28.3 MPG.
So which of these dramatically different takes on compact motoring makes the most sense? The larger Chevrolet Cruze is a good looking fun-to-drive car, but its interior and mediocre fuel economy are a letdown. The Subaru Impreza isn’t perfect, but it’s easy to drive, practical and of course, all-weather capable. In our opinion, that’s enough to take the victory here if only by a narrow margin.
2015 Chevrolet Cruze
2015 Subaru Impreza