2015 Subaru Impreza Review

Small Tweaks Make a Big Difference

2015 Subaru Impreza Review

The city of Kelowna is nestled in the Okanagan Valley, located in British Columbia, Canada. Covered in flat lush land, surrounded by mountains, the Okanagan valley is ideal for grape growing, wine production and winter sports.

It makes sense that Subaru Canada chose this location to introduce the revised 2015 Impreza as city streets and snowy mountain roads are both easily within reach. As the only compact car on sale in North America with standard all-wheel drive (AWD), the Impreza rolls into 2015 with a host of subtle, yet important enhancements.

SEE ALSO: 2014 Subaru Impreza Second Opinion

For years the Impreza has been one of the slower selling models in the compact car segment, but Subaru claims this is due to inventory supply restraints from the brand’s plant in Ota, Japan rather than actual demand for the vehicle. When production switches to the company’s Indiana plant in a few years for the next generation Impreza, Subaru is confident its sales will grow.

More Updates than Meets the Eye

At first blush, the 2015 Impreza might not look so different than the 2014 model despite having new headlights, a new grille and a revised front bumper. Chrome accents have been applied between the headlights and the fog lights on all models. The side mirrors have been stolen from the WRX and a rear spoiler is now standard on all Impreza sedans.

These exterior updates have been made so the Impreza more closely resembles the recently introduced 2015 Legacy. Overall, I’m not too crazy about all the added plastic chrome trim on the 2015 refresh, most notably the strips inserted into door handles on upper trim models. It reminds me a lot of the 2013 Honda Civic sedan refresh that also went a little bit chrome crazy.

Better Flow, More Contemporary

Inside, the changes are more apparent, starting with the center stack. Finally, the Impreza has a fully integrated, properly fitting infotainment unit. Or at least that’s true on higher trim models. They get a seven-inch touchscreen similar to the unit in the new Legacy and Outback. Entry-level Imprezas still feature a 6.2-inch touchscreen, but it’s not seamlessly integrated into the center stack like the upgraded unit.

It also gets a standard rear view camera and for the first time, Subaru’s optional EyeSight technology that includes adaptive cruise and active crash avoidance. Cars equipped with that feature include a color display screen located between the speedometer and tachometer, similar to the one found on the Legacy. Do you sense a theme here?

SEE ALSO: 2012 Subaru Impreza Hatchback Review

The rest of the interior more or less remains unchanged. Rear seat legroom still measures 35.4 inches and the trunk on sedans continues to offer 12 cubic feet of space. Adult passengers fit comfortably in either the front or back seats, but I found the leather used on the seats in the Limited model to be cheap feeling. I do still like the telescopic steering wheel that offers a lot of range and I’m also a fan of the slide-out partitions built into the sun visors on higher trim models.

Minimal Mechanical Tweaks

Under the hood remains a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 148 HP and 145 lb-ft. of torque. It’s still paired to either a continuously variable automatic transmission or an archaic five-speed manual. Why the Impreza didn’t receive the new WRX’s six-speed manual is beyond me.

The 2.0-liter engine has been slightly re-engineered for better efficiency and to qualify as a Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (PZEV). Even with more virtual shift points having been added to the CVT automatic, fuel economy improves by a single mile per gallon to 28 MPG city and 37 MPG highway. Those numbers on par for the class even with standard all-wheel drive.

Drives like an Impreza

The Impreza still has a touchy accelerator pedal that delivers instant response off the line to fool the driver into thinking the car is more powerful than it really is. While climbing some of the higher elevations surrounding the Okanagan valley, the Impreza never struggled but it didn’t feel powerful either.

I had a chance to drive both manual and automatic versions and came away more impressed with the CVT. Subaru has been making one of the better CVT automatics for a while now. Regardless of how much pressure was applied to the throttle, the transmission constantly adjusted rpms, mimicking a conventional automatic, while still delivering good efficiency. The five-speed manual on the other hand is showing its age with long throws, rubbery engagement and a clutch pedal that is overly light.

Now Quieter

One of the biggest complaints I’ve always had with the Impreza is that they tend to be noisy. The boxer four-cylinder engine and CVT combination can produce an engine note more suited to a machine churning grain in a field than a passenger car cruising down the highway.

To make the 2015 model quieter, Subaru took extensive measures to isolate the cabin. The CVT housing has increased sound insulation and extra damping has been added to the roof, floor and wheel wells of the 2015 Impreza. The glass is now thicker as are the seals surrounding it.

It all adds up to a driving experience that is noticeably quieter. Climbing the mountain roads at high altitudes meant engine output was reduced. In situations like this, the car needs a lot of heavy throttle use to maintain highway speeds. Even at 5,000 RPM, the engine is devoid of the intrusive mechanical thrash plaguing previous models.

Better on the Highway, Still Handles the Dirt

The AWD system is essentially unchanged for 2015, which means manual Imprezas still have a viscous-coupling center differential for the all-wheel drive system while automatic models have an electronically controlled hydraulic clutch. Even with all the hardware that requires, weight remains class competitive as the 2015 Impreza weighs between 2,955 lbs. and 3,131 lbs.

SEE ALSO: 2012 Subaru Impreza Sedan Review

Steering response and feel have been improved marginally thanks to a quicker 14.5:1 ratio that replaces last year’s 16.0:1 steering rack. Subaru also tweaked the dampening and spring ratios of the suspension in an effort to improve ride quality. It adds up to a smooth, compliant highway ride as the car tracks straight without constant corrections. When I did encounter some seriously mutated snow and dirt potholes with a little too much speed, I was impressed at how well the car swallowed them up without jarring the passengers on board.

Pricing for the 2015 Impreza 2.0i 4-door starts at $18,990 ($21,590 CAD) after destination charges, keeping close to that of the 2014 model. With the addition of adaptive cruise control technology, fully loaded models enter new territory for the Impreza as a fully loaded 2.0i Sport Limited with the Eyesight option costs $28,385 ($31,890 CAD).


The Verdict

Since the introduction of the fourth generation Impreza for the 2012 model year, the compact Subaru is no longer a fringe-residing alternative to traditional compact cars; it’s a wholly competitive segment entry in its own right. It just happens to come with the added bonus of all-wheel drive. The updates may seem minor, but Subaru has addressed the Impreza’s weaknesses for 2015 and made a good car better.