Unveiled Tuesday at the 2016 New York Auto Show, the 2017 Impreza brings in an all-new platform that is stiffer, sportier, and a much-needed improvement to stay competitive as the segment tightens up. The car features styling cues that are potentially the most attractive we've seen on a non-WRX model since the turn of the century. The car looks downright European in either sedan or hatchback form, stealing much of the thunder that the Mazda 3 and Civic had brought just a short time ago. Its lines are clean all around, the front and rear are largely without aerodynamic clutter, and much of that style is carried over to the interior that gets a much needed refresh. Gone are the overly utilitarian surfaces and buttons; a clear shift has been made to make the car seem on-par with class leaders like the Civic and Mazda 3, albeit with its own distinctive Subaru style. The dashboard seems just as straightforward as before, but packs the necessary technology to remain competitive in the segment.
It seems that Subaru has listened to critiques of the outgoing Impreza, and sought out a way to continue the tradition of making AWD alternatives to the mainstream compacts, but this time without compromises on content. Up and down the four-trim model chain (2.0i, Premium, Sport, Limited), standard equipment is greatly improved. Even the standard 2.0i model will come with the necessary power features that anyone would expect, along with a much-needed 6.5" touchscreen interface that dual-boots with Android Auto and Apple Car Play - something that even the base trim Honda Civic LX does not have, and perhaps, that should put Honda on notice.
In the very competitive compact segment, content is king. With standard equipment being on par with or exceeding the headlining Civic and Corolla, the added convenience of AWD is the cherry on top in places with cooler climates. Without major changes to the powertrain (slight power gains for the standard 2.0 H4 and an updated CVT), fuel economy perhaps remains to be the only caveat to the Impreza being a class-leading choice. With the current model rated at 28/37 compared to the Civic's 31/42, a slight improvement wouldn't be much in the grand scheme of things. Subaru still hasn't said what kind of manual gearbox would be paired with the 2017 model, but it is probably safe to assume it is a carryover five-speed unit from the outgoing car. At least in my opinion, the gearbox only needs a small upgrade to dramatically improve the car. With an improved shift linkage for shorter and more direct throws (feeling less like a pickup and more like a car of the 2010s), the 2017 Impreza could be bang-on the mark for where it should be going forward.
To be put simply, the 2017 Impreza may be the most interesting compact on the market just by improving in the most obvious of ways. By keeping it simple, Subaru has seemingly avoided the powertrain issues Honda has had with the Civic, improved the interior in ways that seem to far exceed what we've seen with the Cruze, and added a much needed punch in driving dynamics to put it in contention with the Mazda 3. If they can deliver on those three factors, I see little reason why the Subaru couldn't or shouldn't be considered to be one of the best options in the segment. The Impreza's strong point has long been it's ability to be the other compact, however, this may be the better way to go about doing it. Taking a strong suit from each of it's competitors, and adding the necessary Subaru characteristics, will go a long way to make sure this car is a massive success once it hits the streets. I can't wait to take one out for a spin.