This 2013 SubaruImpreza 2.0i Premium 5-door is a great reminder of how and why Subaru is able to survive in the U.S. market despite the presence of automotive giants. Folks who buy, say, Toyota Corollas, want functional transportation appliances. Compare that to the folks who buy Subarus; they may not be automotive enthusiasts per se, but they want a vehicle that can serve as atool to help them achieve their ideal lifestyles.
In Subaru commercials, this inevitably involves mountain biking or hiking or transporting little hockey players about. In reality, it might consist of driving to the Burlington outlet mall in a really heavy rainstorm or crawling down a snowy driveway of above-average length.
I guess my point is that Subaru drivers see their vehicles fitting into their lives or enabling them to do certain things beyond getting from Point A to Point B. Subaru seems to understand this and knows where to focus their effort: consistently providing reasonably fuel-efficient AWD vehicles at the low end of the sticker price spectrum.
Yes, this comes at the cost of some amenities. Interior materials may be hard-wearing, but they're not the most pleasant to touch. The radio could be a Kenmore aftermarket unit from 15 years ago, and the buzzy flat-four interrupts your tunes from time to time anyway. Styling really isn't anything to write home about inside or out (the XV Crosstrek does a better job conveying some attitude).
But no-frills simplicity has its proponents, and besides, what are the other AWD options in this price range? I'm not sure why you would buy a Jeep Patriot or Compass (the new Cherokee could present a good alternative). There is an all-wheel drive Mazda CX-5 available, but not with a manual transmission. An AWD Kia Sportage can be had for around $23,000, but again, you'll have to give up the stick shift.
Speaking of stick shifting, I am still not entirely certain why Subaru has stuck to that old five-speed manual, besides cost; though it is far and away more fun to drive than the CVT-equipped Subies (duh), it's really feeling a bit antiquated. And while I managed around 25.5 mpg without driving conservatively, a six-speed would only make things better.
Anyway, I'm partial to the XV Crosstrek for styling reasons; it has a bit more character. But the Impreza offers the same combination of no-frills simplicity; acceptable fuel economy and all-wheel drive capability for a very reasonable price. It's no wonder that Subaru is enjoying record U.S. sales of late.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: I spent two days in the Subaru Impreza and did a fair amount of running around town. I'd put this up there with any of the best econoboxes from the Blue Oval, Chevy or Toyota.
It has Subaru's standard all-wheel drive, which makes it good for the northern states; fuel mileage is acceptable at 28 mpg combined and it has plenty of space for cargo.
I'm not completely sold on the look, but if Subie added a little WRX into the styling, it would have a serious winner on its hands with cheap-car buyers.
Power is acceptable for a four-banger. It has enough get-up-n-go with the all-wheel drive, and the five-speed manual allows for halfway decent launches.
The interior is fine with some hard plastics on the dash and doors, but no more than anything else in this segment.
If anyone is looking at the Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze or Toyota Corolla, I'd suggest giving a Subaru Impreza a test drive as well.
2013 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Premium 5-door
Base Price: $21,065
As-Tested Price: $22,637
Drivetrain: 2.0-liter H4; AWD, five-speed manual
Output: 148 hp @ 6,200 rpm, 145 lb-ft @ 4,200 rpm
Curb Weight: 2,955 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 25/33/28 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 25.0 mpg
Options: Option package 22 including 17-inch alloy wheels, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, power moonroof ($1,500); all-weather floor mats ($72).
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