It just makes sense for us to have an AWD sedan like the 2018 Subaru Impreza Sport during a snow storm, and for once I wasn't unhappy diving into Montreal because of it. Subaru is the only non-premium and non-luxury brand to sell a full line of all-wheel drive vehicles in Canada, which makes the Impreza a very unique vehicle in the compact car market. It is important to note that the Volkswagen Jetta is the only other vehicle in this segment with AWD, however TestDrive has not driven that vehicle yet.
We live in a climate that gets a lot of snow, both as a resident of Québec, but also as a Canadian, our country gets quite a lot of snow and vehicles such as the Impreza are an affordable option for buyers looking for added control during the winter months. Our Impreza Sport with optional EyeSight package ($1,500.00) has an MSRP of $27,195.00, which does make it more expensive than the competition, but again is one of only two offered with all-wheel drive. Our Sport model is likely the most popular seller here in Québec, as it mixes safety and technology with that AWD system.
Starting off with the exterior design of this car, I do admit that it looks nice, but also conservative in nature. If you were to ask an 8 year old to draw a picture of a car, the Impreza would be it, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Up front we have LED adaptive headlights, LED running lights, and traditional halogen fog lamps. The yellow tint to the fog lights is actually better for foggy driving as they cut through the fog better than white lights.
While the Subaru has adaptive cruise control and forward obstruction systems, they don't use the industry standard radar panel you'll find on every other vehicle, but a set of dual cameras mounted at the top of the windshield. The benefit of this technology is felt when driving this vehicle in the winter. For the most part radar-based systems will suffer from snow build up on the front end, requiring the driver to pull over in order to clear up the panel. The EyeSight technology relies on cameras inside the vehicle which can be used as long as the front windshield is clear. We did have several moments throughout our week where the cameras required a cleaning, and after a few second with the windshield wipers the system was back up and working properly.
The rest of the exterior follows the same basic blueprint for a compact sedan, with average rear seat legroom and a large trunk. The rear doors feature side-impact anchors which help with structural rigidity in the event the vehicle is hit front the side, providing additional protection for rear occupants, usually children. We haven't seen this anchor system used on any vehicles aside from BMW.
The interior might come off as a conservative design to most as well, but it works for Subaru and their customers. The interior actually feels very similar to other Japanese vehicles we've driven, with the gas and trunk release located below the driver's seat, and a manual handbrake along the centre console. The Impreza is not trying to compete with the premium or luxury markets, and it's humble interior doesn't try to be anything it isn't. The layout is functional and symmetrical, with the 8" infotainment screen dead centre with heating controls below.
That 8" screen also features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, along with WiFi and built-in Subaru StarLink apps. Jumping up to the Sport-Tech trim would add navigation, but if you're like me it's easy using the built-in navigation on your phone, and something you prefer anyway. Above the infotainment screen is a dedicated information panel that displays a variety of vehicle information, such as EyeSight status, fuel consumption, music, vehicle angle/roll, and weather. A third screen is located in the driver's gauge cluster and can show vehicle status, fuel economy, and speed. Overall there's plenty of information for the driver to access and the layout works very well.
The seating on this Impreza Sport is high-quality premium cloth in ivory colour. The seats are firm but comfortable enough for most drivers. We did find a good seating position however after a couple hours of continuous driving we were happy to get out to stretch. The rear seats are also firm but getting in and out wasn't difficult for our 4 year old daughter, and leg room for her was comparable to other compact sedans we've driven.
Performance & Handling
The Impreza Sport comes with a 152 horsepower 2.0L boxer engine, and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). It is possible to get the Sport (sans EyeSight), Touring, and Convenience trims with a 5 speed manual transmission, while other manufacturers do offer a 6 speed manual on their models. We found the engine to be decent for driving around town and going back and forth on errands, however the engine and CVT do need to work harder to get up onto the highway under moderate load.
We found the CVT to be limiting, and the paddle shifters rather useless given the CVT over a traditional automatic transmission. Many other manufacturers have started offering CVTs so it's no uncommon for us to find this with a compact sedan such as the Impreza.
The engine might not put a smile on your face, but Subaru's symmetrical full-time all-wheel drive will. We had 0 issues with traction during our week, including our final drive to Montreal during a snow storm. The Impreza's AWD system is easily one of the best we've driven, and shows that Subaru truly has a unique offering with this system in this segment. It's obvious to us why Subaru is a popular brand here in Québec, and why vehicles like the Impreza will continue to sell even if other manufactures start adding AWD as an option to their vehicles.
A fully-loaded Impreza Sport-Tech + EyeSight has an MSRP of $30,095.00, whereas the 2018 Mazda3 GT with Premium & Tech packages comes in at $28,550.00 with a few extras like a colour heads-up display and the larger 2.5L engine. As the Subaru Impreza sits in an incredibly small circle of AWD sedans, they will continue to sell incredibly well for that reason, even as crossover sales grow. Buyers still want sedans, and offering one with added safety and reliability is certainly important.
We enjoyed our week with the 2018 Subaru Impreza Sport + EyeSight and loved the AWD control. We'd be interested to see how a fully loaded WRX compares with the more powerful 2.0L engine and added luxuries like leather seating.
You can watch our full episode of TestDrive Spotlight on the 2018 Subaru Impreza Sport below: