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2015 Subaru Impreza Expert Reviews

Expert Reviews

2015 Subaru Impreza

New Car Test Drive
© 2015 NewCarTestDrive.com

With fresh styling, the 2015 Subaru Impreza is quite dashing and, as before, inexpensive to operate. Its rigid structure, low-mounted boxer four-cylinder engine and on-demand all-wheel drive follow faithfully in the Subaru tradition. Indeed, this fourth-generation Impreza boasts all-weather capability and premium-brand engineering. Yet it’s wrapped in well-styled good looks and promises frugal fuel economy.

Impreza comes in four- and five-door models, the latter offering wagon-like utility and nice proportions.

For 2015, all Impreza models have a fresh appearance, along with several notable refinements. A new front end, including the grille, bumper and headlights, gives the 2015 Impreza a closer kinship to Subaru’s newly redesigned, larger Legacy.

Newly available EyeSight Driver Assist technology for 2015 includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-collision Braking and throttle management, plus Lane Departure and Lane Sway Warnings. Offered on Limited four-door and Sport Limited models, the system includes new steering-responsive fog lights that can move independently, depending on vehicle speed and steering angle, to enhance illumination in the direction you’re turning. All Imprezas now include a rearview camera.

For 2015, the base 2.0i model adds standard cruise control and a 6.2 touch-screen infotainment system with HD radio and Starlink smartphone integration. Subaru claims that new outside mirrors enhance aerodynamics, as does a low-profile trunk spoiler on four-door models. Impreza sedans also have an LED center stoplight.

Limited and Sport models add new welcome lighting. New options for four-door Limited and the Sport Limited include keyless access with pushbutton start. A remote start system is one of many options available at Subaru dealerships.

All Imprezas are powered by a 148-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which delivers 37 mpg Highway/28 mpg City on the EPA cycle, making the Impreza is the most fuel-efficient all-wheel-drive car in America. In fact, Impreza rivals some of the best front-wheel-drive compacts for fuel efficiency.

Subaru’s Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT), said to be retuned for 2015 to deliver a more natural stepped shift pattern, now is standard on Premium and Limited models. On the base model, the available CVT has a selectable Low range. Upper models include paddle shifters that provide six virtual ratios, when manual selection is desired. A 5-speed manual gearbox remains standard on the base 2.0i and Sport Premium trim levels.

New infotainment systems are available for 2015. The top infotainment system, offered on four-door Limited and Sport Limited, adds a voice-command navigation system, plus SiriusXM NavTraffic and NavWeather.

Subaru’s Impreza delivers an easygoing feel on the road. Though not particularly sporty in nature, this indisputably sensible compact handles very easily (almost in the traditional small-car sense, though updated to modern tastes and technology).

The Subaru Impreza has earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick rating. And the Impreza is designated a Partial-Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV) in all 50 states.

Subaru has long established itself as a builder of rugged small cars. According to the company, some 95 percent of Subarus sold in the past 10 years are still on the road. In addition, the Impreza delivers efficiency, value and appeal.

Model Lineup

Subaru Impreza 2.0i 4-door ($18,195), 2.0i 4-door with CVT ($19,195); 2.0i 5-door ($18,695), 2.0i 5-door with CVT ($19,695; Premium 4-door ($20,995); Premium 5-door ($21,495); Limited 4-door ($22,295); Limited 5-door ($22,795); Sport Premium 5-door ($20,995), Sport Premium 5-door with CVT ($21,995); Sport Limited 5-door ($23,295)

Walk Around

Flaunting its freshly-revised front end, which hasn’t changed dramatically but benefits from a more refined appearance, the 2015 Subaru Impreza presents a dynamically forward-thrusting shape. The base of its A-pillar is planted well forward, which rakes the windshield steeply back, resulting in a sleek, modern profile. But this is more than just a pretty face.

In overall length the Impreza sedan measures just 180.3 inches; the 5-door is actually shorter, at 173.8 inches. But the aggressive cabin shape, besides looking great, allowed Subaru designers to achieve startling interior space and efficiency. The Impreza is roomy, comfortable, and easy to get in and out of. The front door opening is enormous, and the rear door opening fairly large, too.

In other respects as well, the Impreza is pleasing and modern. Its low, short hood and streamlined shape contribute to an enthusiastic form that moves through the air efficiently, registering a low coefficient of drag of 0.31 for the 4-door and 0.33 Cd for the 5-door. The nose is aggressive, with air intakes shrouded for the lowest amount of aerodynamic drag. The rakishly shaped headlight clusters seem to glower with determination. The Impreza’s sides have three character lines, thrusting downward and ahead. Finally, the wheel wells are surrounded by a distinctive flat semicircular bevel that keeps the profile from looking too heavy.

It’s fairly easy to distinguish one grade from another, based on wheel designs. Base 2.0i models wear basic 7-spoke covers over steel wheels. Premium models upgrade to alloy wheels of a pleasingly simple 10-spoke design (actually five split-spokes). Limited rims look sophisticated and airy, if somewhat busy; they have 15 spokes total, 10 of which are visually paired, so 5 pairs alternate with 5 singles. Add fog lights and a dash of chrome here and there, and the Limited is hands-down the most elegant and mature of the line. Sport-model rims feature 10 wide, flattened, angular spokes that, with their gunmetal-grey finish, manage to look at once sturdy and tortured. Topped with their conspicuous black roof racks, Sport models look more ready for a safari than a road rally.

All in all, the Impreza is one of the most attractive small cars in the marketplace, eschewing the cheap/minimalist theme of some others for an appearance of true chic.

Interior

Entering the cabin for the first time, the Impreza has an airy, nicely stylish feel, with a relatively low beltline and a large greenhouse containing big windows that welcome the outside world. The instrumentation looks simple and straightforward, as opposed to high-tech and demanding. Overall, it’s a look that is fully in keeping with Subaru’s gee-whiz-free approach. The dashboard and switchgear are covered with very nice soft-touch materials that give them an expensive, adult feel.

In keeping with this well-equipped theme, all Impreza models are fitted with a driver-side knee airbag, complementing the full standard array of mandated airbags.

Similarly, the layout and dispersion of instruments and controls is nicely intuitive; you feel you understand all you need to, from the first exposure to them. The main dials for engine speed (redline 6600 rpm) and vehicle speed are black-on-white and almost disappointingly plain, in keeping with Subaru’s no-nonsense tone. The cruise control, audio control and hands-free phone controls on the steering wheel are dead simple, with little toggles that do their job well. A small multi-function Information display is located dead ahead, between the tachometer and speedometer.

In addition to the speedometer and tachometer, there’s only a bar-type fuel gauge and an MPG indicator below the speedometer. Gauges are easy to read at a glance. The central video information/navigation screen is rather small, but details and text are clear and sufficiently crisp, despite a soft pastel map appearance. The screen is in a rather low position, but that’s typical.

The available navigation system incorporates Subaru’s Aha smartphone integration, whose features include radio stations, newsfeeds, audiobooks and more. Aha uses the Nav system’s synthetic voice and voice-activation technology not only to receive commands, but to read Tweets, podcasts, etc. out loud, so drivers are less tempted to take their eyes off the road.

The over-left-shoulder view is narrowed between pillar and headrest; but otherwise, visibility is quite good. Imprezas have an unusually low cowl and low steering wheel, which are great for forward visibility. You can almost see the front of the hood, which is a rarity on contemporary automobiles.

Front seats are average in terms of comfort and lateral support, appropriate to this thrifty, fuel-efficient car’s place in the market. Seatbacks are tall enough to provide some whiplash protection to bigger drivers. Despite a short driver’s seat bottom, the Impreza delivers good thigh support, coupled with very good back support. Even with a sunroof, head space is ample. The driver’s left elbow is somewhat constricted, but legroom is fine.

In the rear compartment, legroom is resourcefully increased by scalloping out the backs of the front seats. To be specific, rear occupants get 35.6 inches of leg space. Side positions are roomy (though the headliner looks and feels strictly utilitarian even on the Limited model). The center position might be tolerable, except for the intrusive floor hump and the typical hard seatback.

Trunk volume in the 4-door sedan is 12.0 cubic feet, but the 5-door, with its cargo room maximized, delivers a generous 52.4 cubic feet (22.5 cubic feet behind the back seat). Lift-over height is moderate at 27 inches.

The Impreza’s basic climate-control system is absolutely straightforward and powerful, and the audio is good by contemporary standards; not exceptional, but acceptable. On the down side, markings on the three rotary knobs for adjustment of automatic climate control are unclear, so it’s not easy to tell where the knob is pointing. The body-color electric outside mirrors are large enough for decent rearward visibility.

Subaru advises that the updated design for 2015 included steps to quiet the ride, including additional sound-deadening material and thicker, better-sealed window glass

This is a comfortable, well-furnished interior, fully in keeping with Subaru’s down-to-earth practicality. The Impreza is a simple economy sedan in some respects, but with sufficient style and comfort to attract buyers well beyond the Subaru faithful.

Driving Impressions

The Impreza is definitely a Subaru. The small 2.0-liter flat-4 is no racer, of course; but with its efficient twin-cam heads it develops 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. While those may not be big numbers, remember that the base Impreza sedan weighs just 2955 pounds.

Impreza scores an EPA-estimated 28/37 mpg City/Highway with the CVT. Those are impressive numbers; all the more so considering that Impreza comes with all-wheel drive and compares well against some of the best front-drive compacts: Ford Focus (26/38 mpg), Toyota Corolla (29/38), and Honda Civic (30/39). (All figures are for base engine and automatic transmission or CVT.) Also in its favor, the Impreza qualifies as a Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV) in all 50 states.

Our drives in Imprezas have demonstrated one great, somewhat surprising plus: performance. At Interstate speeds, Subaru’s compact accelerates crisply and is delighted to cruise calmly and steadily at high speeds. Acceleration is quite spirited from a standstill, if a bit less brisk when pushing the pedal at 50 or 55 mph; but even when passing or merging, speed is rising faster than it seems. Little added engine noise stems from the CVT, except when pushing hard; and even then, it’s tolerable, unlikely to annoy.

We found the continuously variable transmission a big improvement over earlier CVTs, including Subaru’s own early version. The transmission has lost that feeling of being dragged around by a rubber band. The transmission still varies its ratio in response to engine speed, but it doesn’t do this as numbingly, promoting more direct control of acceleration and speed. Except for lack of shifts, in fact, you’d hardly know this was a CVT. Even non-CVT fans have to give it good marks for what it accomplishes, without fuss.

Our Limited 4-door had steering column-mounted paddle-shifters, the left-hand paddle for downshifts and the right-hand paddle for upshifts. Anyone used to the kind of vehicle control provided by a manual transmission, but not wishing to thump a clutch pedal every few seconds, will probably find these paddle-shifters a must. And the Subaru transmission doesn’t play games. Within reason, you get the shift you asked for. Most drivers, on the other hand, will feel little compulsion to use paddles, even if they’re installed.

The transmission has another brilliant provision. With the console gearshift lever in the right-hand position, the CVT will make fully automatic shifts aimed at maximum fuel mileage. You can still paddle-shift in this fully automatic mode, the transmission waiting a brief period before shifting to the most efficient virtual cog. But if you insist on absolute paddle-shift control of the transmission, you merely move the shift lever to the left. From then on, when you make a paddle shift, the transmission holds that gear in play until you select another gear. This allows downshifting to control your car’s speed descending a grade, because the downshift order stays in effect. If you want to, you can paddle-shift down two or three gears, presuming you will not over-rev the engine. This capability may be useful for downshifting into corners in wet weather or snow.

Some Impreza road-testers have faulted the artificially sudden throttle tip-in from a standing start. It may make the car seem faster than it is, but they found it annoying and unnecessary. We weren’t troubled by this characteristic when driving a 2015 Subaru Impreza Limited sedan. Compared to excessively swift tip-in exhibited by some cars, the latest Impreza seemed to start off in a reasonable manner.

Whether equipped with the 5-speed or the CVT, all Impreza models feature Incline Start Assist, which helps prevent the vehicle from rolling back when moving away from a stop on an incline.

Expect a comfortable and trouble-free ride, as the Impreza glides over most roughness and copes effectively with all but the harshest bumps and holes.

The Impreza’s electronic steering delivers nicely firm, but not heavy, steering effort, while contributing a 2-percent savings in fuel efficiency. As a result, the steering feel is confident and positive, as if there’s no doubt that the Impreza will go where it’s pointed, with minimal bother. Impreza cornering and stability are surprisingly good even at relatively high cornering speeds. The suspension keeps the car remarkably flat and stable. However, when taken to its cornering limit, a large amount of body roll takes place. We found the Impreza much more pleasant at a sporty pace than at a racy pace, which is how it should be.

The braking system has all the expected supporting systems: Electronic Brake Distribution, ABS and Brake Assist. The brakes have fairly good feel and performed powerfully even in very wet conditions.

Subaru Impreza is a value leader, yielding better fuel mileage than a tiny Fiat 500. Standard all-wheel drive ensures stable handling in the worst weather. An Impreza is more comfortable than expected and even a touch glamorous, yet it still embodies all of the admired practicality that has placed Subaru among the most owner-loyal brands anywhere. On top of all that, it looks great.

Ted West filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com from New York. John F. Katz contributed from South Central Pennsylvania. James M. Flammang reported on the 2015 Impreza Limited from the Chicago area.

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