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The fifth generation of the Subaru Impreza started off strong back in 2017. Since then, a number of helpful changes have been made, including last year's expansion of the EyeSight Driver Assist bundle of features and revised lights on the hatchbacks.
So, what should you expect for 2021? Both the sedan and hatchback versions should be fairly similar to last year's models. You still get standard all-wheel drive since this is a Subaru and that is part of their long-standing tradition. Also, you get a super cozy and spacious cabin that remains quiet even when you take the Impreza up to speed on the highway. To top that all off, stick drivers will love having the option of a 6-speed manual transmission.
There are, of course, some downsides to owning the new Impreza. First and foremost, it is slow to accelerate. This is probably the biggest qualm that drivers will have with the Impreza. The second might be that real-world fuel economy does not hold up to the EPA estimates. Third, the interior materials come off as being somewhat cheap and outdated-looking compared to what you can find in some of the Impreza's rivals.
So, is the 2021 Subaru Impreza the right vehicle for you? Should you check out another Subaru or perhaps another sedan or hatch entirely? This review will go over what is new (which is not much), what we like about the Impreza, and a few things we think could be improved upon by this highly-regarded automaker. Read through until the end to get our final verdict on the Impreza!
What's New for 2021?
Essentially everything carries over from the 2020 line-up. Last year saw the standardization of many previously optional features. Of course, it also saw the revision of the headlights, front bumper, and grille. The EyeSight Driver Assist bundle carries over as well.
Top 10 Reasons to Buy a 2021 Subaru Impreza – The Pros
1. Standard All-wheel Drive
One of the things that keeps people coming to Subaru is that they equip their vehicles with standard all-wheel drive. It is part and parcel to what makes a Subaru a Subaru. Having standard AWD means that you get a lot of extra traction while driving on slick road surfaces. Although you won't want to take the Impreza off-roading with its 5.1 inches of ground clearance, a dirt road won't be a huge threat. Neither will some snow, sleet, hail, or rain. On the Impreza's rivals, you either won't find AWD at all or have to pay more to get it added on.
2. An Available Manual Transmission
There are still a few stick fans out there, right? The 2021 Subaru Impreza offers those folks a 6-speed manual transmission as an option if the continuously variable transmission (CVT for short) will not cut it. Manuals are kind of a dying breed right now, but there is still definitely a market for them. They are known for having longer lives than automatics and are easier (and less expensive, in many cases) to repair than CVTs. Either way, the 6-speed and the CVT provide smooth shifting capabilities and help deliver power to all of the wheels.
3. Sporty Steering Coupled with Secure Brakes
Whether you get the sedan or the hatchback, you get a sporty performance from the steering column. There is plenty of feedback that comes from the road through the wheel, and the system is quick to interpret input from the driver. Add to that the secure braking capabilities and well-regulated body roll, and you have a vehicle that should inspire some confidence.
4. A Quiet Ride
Quiet and easy-going is what the Impreza is really all about. Not a whole lot of outer noise makes its way into the cabin. The only thing you might hear is the CVT when it starts to issue its whine under pressure. Wind and road noise are kept at a highly respectable minimum. You won't need to adjust your tunes or shout to the person in the back seat when you take it up to speed on the highway.
5. A Comfortable Interior
The 2021 Subaru Impreza has a remarkably cozy cabin that is practically built for long road trips. The ride itself never feels floaty, and the seats are padded for comfort. The front seats have a lot of adjustability, and you can get them with a heating function to help warm you up on cooler days.
6. The LATCH System is Easy to Use
The LATCH child car safety seat found in the Impreza is probably one of the easiest to use in any vehicle. You can easily access all of the latches, and the three anchor points behind the rear seat are also simple to find and reach. Even the bigger rear-facing child seats can fit in the back without a problem since there is such an abundance of space inside of the cabin. Simply adjust as needed.
7. Outward Visibility is Excellent
Slender roof pillars and wide panels of glass all around mean that outward visibility is excellent. The driver will not need to rely on blind spot monitoring or the rear-view camera, even though those are some handy features. You can simply look into your side mirrors, out the rear-view, or straight out the windows and windshield to see where other vehicles and items are in relation to the Impreza.
8. Plenty of Adjustability
As we have already mentioned, the Impreza's front seats offer a lot of adjustability. The driver's seat on the base trim is manually adjustable six ways, but higher trim levels offer power adjustments with more ways to move the seat. Also, the tilt and telescoping steering column means even more room for adjustment for the driver.
9. A Smartphone-esque Touchscreen Display
Drivers should appreciate how smartphone-like the infotainment system's touchscreen set-up is, as this makes it quite familiar. The learning curve is, therefore, pretty short. Everything is clearly labeled, and the buttons respond quickly to your inputs. Even the navigation system is easy to use and has no problem finding points of interest for you.
10. The EyeSight Driver Assist Bundle
The Impreza's EyeSight Driver Assistance package bundled driver aids like adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, and lane keep assist. Adaptive cruise control keeps the Impreza at a reasonable distance from the car in front of it, and lane keep seems to respond appropriately as well. Overall, it is a helpful system to have in place for when you do find yourself in a jam.
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Reasons Not to Buy a 2021 Subaru Impreza – The Cons
1. An Extremely Sluggish Acceleration
The most pronounced downside to owning the 2021 Subaru Impreza is the super-slow acceleration from the standard 2.0-L 4-cylinder engine. This thing has a power output of 152 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque, and this just does not feel like enough. It takes the Impreza a miserable 9.4 seconds to go from 0 to 60 mph, putting it near the bottom of its segment for acceleration time.
2. Air Vents are Poorly Placed
While the automatic climate control system works well enough, the vents are poorly placed throughout the cabin. There are vents that will blow air directly onto your hands while they are on the wheel, but the air struggles to reach the rest of the cabin in a reasonable time. Your fingers will be cooled down or heated up before anything else in the cabin.
3. Interior Materials Seem Cheap
Subaru is not exactly known as a luxury brand, but you should still expect a new vehicle like this to have some soft-touch surfaces that look current. Unfortunately, the Impreza just does not have these. The materials look pretty cheap (even though they aren't for buyers), and overall, the cabin has a bland-ish look that does not feel like it was made in the 2020's. It is simply too outdated for the liking. At least you will not see any ungainly panel gaps or hear odd rolling or clinking sounds while driving.
4. Limited Cargo Space in the Sedan
Cargo space will feel more limited in the sedan than it does in the hatchback. The sedan maxes you out at just 20.8 cubic feet of cargo space, which puts it well behind segment leaders. Opt for the hatch if you need more space since it will max you out at 55.3 cubes instead. That should feel more accommodating and practical.
How It Stacks Up to the Competition:
2021 Subaru Impreza vs. 2021 Subaru Crosstrek
Ready for some off-roading? The Impreza cannot do that, but the Crosstrek sure can with its 8.7 inches of ground clearance and standard AWD. And, for a hatchback, the Crosstrek is cavernous inside its cabin, even more so than the Impreza's hatch version. The Crosstrek is also super comfy and just as easy to see out of. The drawbacks, though, are that it too is slow to accelerate on the highway due to an under-powered, underwhelming engine. Cargo space also is not as large as you should expect, and its handling is not quite so on-point as the Impreza's. Nevertheless, you can see there is definitely some sibling rivalry here.
2021 Subaru Impreza vs. 2021 Honda Civic
The 2021 Honda Civic is a strong contender in its class and also comes as a sedan or a hatchback. This sporty little vehicle might suffer from an overly vigilant forward collision warning system, but its tech is otherwise pretty much on point. The infotainment system is easy to use, and the turbo engine puts in one amazing performance. No sluggish acceleration here! The Civic is built to zoom, but its cabin speaks to quality and comfort as well.
Overall, the 2021 Subaru Impreza should sell well this year, especially as a hatchback. The option of having a manual transmission is nice, and standard AWD is even nicer. While the Impreza could use a turbo engine like the Civic's to really attract buyers, a lot of people will admire its practicality and rugged nature.
• Why buy a 2020 Subaru Impreza? w/ pros vs cons