EXPERT REVIEW

KansasCity.com's view


While the hot WRX may garner the most headlines for Subaru’s Impreza line, the four-door with a 2.5-liter engine will be the bread-and-butter model.

The Impreza was redesigned for 2008. While the five-door hatchback has a unique shape, the sedan has a more traditional profile. The new design has a greater presence, in part because of the crisp side body crease and a wide grille opening.

The new Impreza takes a big step forward in terms of comfort and utility. Subaru vehicles have a reputation for impressive all-weather performance because all-wheel drive is standard on all vehicles. That sets the Impreza 2.5i apart from competitors such as the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Cobalt. Vehicle stability control and anti-lock brakes are standard as well.

The base price of the Impreza sedan with a five-speed manual transmission begins at $17,640. The test car, with satellite radio and a navigation system, had a sticker price of $22,825.

The new 2.5-liter normally aspirated engine delivers 170 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. Low-end torque and fuel efficiency have been improved by the addition of a new intake port and a new catalyst system.

The Subaru four-cylinder is a horizontally opposed design whose cylinders are flat. This layout, similar to that of a Porsche or an air-cooled Volkswagen, keeps the weight low and improves the center of gravity. That in turn results in a vehicle with good balance and handling.

Fuel economy is rated at 20 mpg in the city and 27 on the highway.

While the base Impreza is no sports sedan, it does feel solid in turns because of the low center of gravity. The engine, often called a boxer, is generally not quite as smooth as an inline engine.

The Impreza’s interior design emphasizes comfort and space. Sweeping trim pieces of brushed aluminum flow into the center console. The large LCD screen for the optional satellite radio and navigation system is placed up high where it is easy to read. Input jacks accommodate MP3 players or portable gaming devices that can be played on the navigation screen when the car is not in motion.

The shape of the center console adds to the cabin’s feeling of spaciousness. The door panels, sculpted to give additional width, have holders for large water bottles. Shoulder width is up by 2 inches.

Subaru said it has improved the quality of interior materials with double-stitched fabrics and high-grade plastic pieces.

Door openings are larger for easier entry, and window frames add to the body’s rigidity as well as reduce wind noise.

The back doors open out 75 degrees to make it easier to get into the back seat. Subaru said the rear seatback has been reclined for more comfortable seating. Legroom in back is greater, too. The trunk has plenty of room, too.

Safety features include front airbags and side airbags that are designed to protect the head and chest.

Price

The base price of the test car was $21,495. Options included sport trim and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with a compass. The sticker price was $22,825.

Warranty

Three years or 36,000 miles, with a five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

2008 Subaru Impreza 2.5i

Engine: 2.5-liter, 170-hp 4-cyl.

Transmission: automatic

Front-wheel drive

Wheelbase: 103.1 inches

Curb weight: 3,131 lbs.

Base price: $21,495

As driven: $22,825

MPG rating: 20 city, 27 hwy.

To reach Tom Strongman, send e-mail to tom@tomstrongman.com.

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