2015 Chevrolet Cruze vs 2015 Subaru Impreza

Two Very Different Takes on Compact Cars

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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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Differing Drivetrains

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.

SEE ALSO: 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Diesel vs. 2014 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

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.

2015-Subaru-Impreza-05

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.

2015-Chevrolet-Cruze-vs-2015-Subaru-Impreza-2

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.

Compare Specs

2015 Chevrolet Cruze
vs
2015 Subaru Impreza
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.
Rear Legroom 35.4-inches Impreza 35.4-inches
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
Starting Price(US) $16,995 Cruze $18,990
Starting Price(CDN) $17,675 Cruze $21,590
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. 2015-Chevrolet-Cruze-07But, 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.

2015-Subaru-Impreza-09The 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.

2015-Subaru-Impreza-01

The Verdict

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

  • “Subaru’s Starlink system on the other hand is a bit more controversial. Some of us love it while others outright despise it.”

    BUT everyone WILL love it!

  • Jeff

    Good comparison of the two cars I’d pick over everything else.

    How are you only getting 28mpg in either car? My worst combined weekly average in my Cruze is usually 33+mpg, and that’s if I’m in a hurry every day, a normal week I usually see my average as 34-35+mpg. Only time I’ve ever seen it drop below 30 as an average was a week in 85% city driving.

    The interior of the Cruze is definitely showing it’s age, but a few years ago it was the class leader, though I will say, quality, feel, and sound wise, it’s still much better than the newly redesigned Corolla. I had that as a rental a few weeks ago, at first glance it looks much more premium than Cruze, but once you actually sit in that cabin, you realize that the materials merely look good, but are still bargain basement.

    I need to drop by a Subaru dealership, the lack of AWD is a downer for me during the snowboarding season, maybe my white Chevy Cruze can use a white Subaru Impreza sibling in the garage.lol

  • roundthings

    Why does Subaru insist on a touchy throttle? I passed on buying one because I have a heavy foot and really had to concentrate whenever taking off from a stop.

    As for the Cruze, next model will have a better engine and hopefully better seats.

  • danwat1234

    The 2015 Cruze isn’t a style leader, but the 2015 Chevy Volt sure is! The body is similar to the Cruze.

  • suezz

    funny the cruze is one of the best front wheel drive cars I have driven in the snow. It just plows through the snow with little effort. I have owned a civic and a corolla and the cruze is much better than either one in the snow. my cruze gas mileage has gotten better as I have owned it and I get around 29 pure city driving. I use to get 27 – 28 pure city driving when I first bought it.

  • guest

    One thing to remember is if you drive the car a long time you will pay more on repairs for an all wheel drive than a front drive only. Many more parts to fail/wear out.

  • lola

    < w­­ww.­­­­JobsHoney­­.­­Co­­m

  • narg

    I’m confused why they compared a hatchback to a sedan which obviously would have the results of better back seats in the hatchback. That’s a no brainer. Very poor comparison IMHO.

  • narg

    Your drive is not their “test track”, they were just comparing apples to apples by driving both cars the same on the same road. If they drove your route I’m sure they’d get 33+ too. And I agree with the other post, AWD is a maintenance nightmare. You’ll have zero problems in snow with any FWD car in comparison to normal driving in such weather on well kept streets, which most snowy climates have the city crews to do such upkeep. If you don’t live in such an area, then maybe either of these cars is not a good choice anyway. Personally, I can’t stand Subaru’s buzzy engines. The Cruze is so much more refined and quiet.

  • Or better yet, the 2016 Volt or the Subaru Impreza Sport Hybrid in Japan.

  • Shiratori90

    The fact that you can get the Impreza in a five-door hatchback makes it an instant winner against the pig-heavy cruze.

  • Shiratori90

    What a loser…….

  • Shiratori90

    They obviously wanted to pick the best example of each car, and for the Impreza, that would be the hatch version. If the cruze had a hatchback version, it would have been used in the comparison.

  • ZX-10R

    Another review that the editor or lack of one did not check. Fools at Autoguide…You compare two cars that are not similar in many ways…The easiest is the fact that the Cruze is a normal body car and the Sub is a hatchback…An easier comparison is the Sub versus a Focus or Mazda 3…Either of those cars walk the Impreza all day all year, in every galaxy. So Mike no need for you to try a week attempted review.

    The Cruze going up against the Impreza in similar form would beat the Impreza…It is a damn good car for what it is. The Impreza came in last when we were looking for a hatchback/ small car…It was Focus, then Mazda and then Cruze just for value alone…This was 2013…We were looking at Titanium level or higher and the offerings by Sub are weak when you start going up the price scale…All wheel drive is nice but not in a car like this though as one person mentioned the Cruze can take any highway anywhere…Again a good car that does many things well.

    Yeah I beat the guys up on Autoguide because most have no clue on what they write shamelessly and almost borderline write, idiotically.

    Editor…You are worthless.

  • danwat1234

    I think the 2011-2015 Volts looks better, more unique. But the 2016 Volt isn’t bad by any means and has better performance/ EV range. Looking forward to the price of used Volts to go down more.
    I’ve only found 1 article (via Torque news) about the Impreza Sport Hybrid, seems like it is nearly identical the XV Crosstek Hybrid. It is a very mild hybrid, only has like a 15HP motor to assist the engine and the engine isn’t atkinson cycle so it isn’t better on the highway compared to a real hybrid.

    I hear Subaru may make a plugin hybrid in a few years and maybe engines with cylinder deactivation (via Autonews Subaru-moves-to-1-platform-new-generation-of-engine-technology)

  • Mike

    Come talk to me in 200k miles. Haha

  • Oscar

    I rented a Cruze a few weeks ago and I now know I would never buy one. Low on power and high on road noise, if you’re on a rough surface. I even ended up turning the radio off at some points and that never happens.