Subaru Impreza — Proven safety

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Safety is a big concern for new-car shoppers and modern safety technology such as automatic emergency braking, lane departure alert, lane keep assist and blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert can be found as standard or optional equipment in virtually every car sold regardless of segment.

And if an automaker receives a top crash test rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), it's frosting on the cake. That's the way it is with the all-new 2017 Subaru Impreza that has been awarded the vaunted TOP SAFETY PICK award from the IIHS, which evaluates a vehicle's ability to keep occupants as safe as possible.

Car reviewers have the opportunity to evaluate the myriad of safety technologies available in the second decade of the 21st Century, report on safety system effectiveness, and compare each vehicle with others in a segment. But reviewers have to accept a vehicle's crash protection ratings from IIHS as well as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as true and accurate — except in very unusual circumstances such as being involved in an actual collision. That's where we were on the fourth day of a week-long test drive — waiting on the side of a busy freeway the object of a jarring rear-end collision in a 2017 Impreza sedan.

When stop and go traffic on a busy Interstate highway came to one of those "stop" segments, a distracted driver behind us in a large pickup truck slammed into our nearly stopped Impreza at — according to police at the scene — about "30-to-35 miles an hour." Here's the thing — the rear of the sedan was destroyed, but the passenger compartment was virtually undamaged. It was amazing to us as we gave thanks because we were carrying a passenger in the back seat, one who could have been seriously injured in many vehicles. Subaru says crash energy absorption has been improved by 40 percent over the outgoing Impreza model — and we believe it.

The Impreza has been fully redesigned for the 2017 model year with a more stylish appearance, a neat package dressed in a conservative set of clothes. It features Subaru's new design language, incorporating the brand’s signature hexagonal grille and hawk-eye headlights into the more sculptured body.

The Impreza — which comes in both sedan and hatchback formats — has become known for its roomy interior, and it has become even larger for 2017 with the wheels pushed farther apart opening up additional space.

The interior comes with better materials including a noticeable upgrade in the upholstery over the outgoing model. While the cockpit has a straight forward look — no new ground has been broken — we appreciate its ease of use, clear gauges and an optional navigation system that is easy to use. We especially like the radio volume and tuning knobs and the large round dials for the climate control system. And the optional adaptive cruise control buttons on the steering wheel are welcome.

Although the 2.0-liter flat four has been enhanced with direct fuel injection and given a slight infusion of power, now152 horses, performance is average at best for the compact ranks. That being said, in our 150 miles before the big bang, we never felt we were overmatched while merging or passing. Zero to 60 has been measured in a tick or two under 9 seconds. The engine is mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and while we are not fans of CVTs, Subaru has done a lot to smooth out its performance. A 5-speed manual transmission is available on lower trim levels.

Notably the Impreza is a delight to drive with its stiff, well-tuned chassis (body structure rigidity has been improved by more than 70 percent), firmer brakes, and a quiet interior made possible by extra sound insulation and thicker side glass.

In addition to standard all-wheel drive in all models, Subaru has made the latest in safety equipment available at an affordable price. Most cars in the compact segment don't offer many of Subaru's available features at any price. Subaru calls the bundled safety EyeSight and it includes adaptive cruise control, automatic pre-collision braking, lane departure and sway warning, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert, and reverse automatic braking.

Both the sedan and hatchback come in four trim levels — 2.0i base, Premium, Sport and Limited. Sedan prices start at $19,215 with manual transmission and rise through the trim levels to Limited with CVT for $24,915 including destination charge. Our Limited test car had a few worthwhile options including the aforementioned EyeSight, moonroof, navigation and a nice-sounding Harmon Kardon audio system. Bottom line was $28,760.

Base price: $19,215; as driven, $28,760
Engine: 2.0-liter flat 4
Horsepower: 142 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 145 foot-pounds @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: continuously variable
Drive: all wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 105.1 inches
Length: 182.1 inches
Curb weight: 3,108 pounds
Turning circle: NA
Luggage capacity: 12.3 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 28 city, 38 highway, 32 overall
0-60: 8.5 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Chevrolet Cruise

The Good
• Numerous safety features available
• Quiet, roomy cabin
• Standard all-wheel drive

The Bad
• Smaller-than-average trunk

The Ugly
• Acceleration below average