The Subaru Impreza has a special appeal in the saturated compact car segment, for it is the only one in class equipped with all-wheel drive as standard across all variants. Normally found only in some luxury cars, all-wheel drive offers greater traction on slippery surfaces for safer handling. Unlike luxury cars though, the Impreza does not cost a premium. You would think the Impreza would be rocking the sales chart. Only that it is not. So, what gives?
Introduced in 2017, the current fifth-generation Impreza has always been the safe and sensible option, but it just does not pop amongst the sea of sportier and more interesting rivals. With the traditional safe and sensible buyers, usually families, now flocking to SUVs, the compact car does not need to be safe and sensible anymore. A new group of buyers are now getting into the compact car, and they are the young and adventurous who put looks and the latest tech above all else.
So, for 2020 Subaru has given the Impreza a mid-life update with the hope of adding some sizzle into its blend image. Starting with the exterior, the front has been tweaked with a restyled grille and bumper, the latter with larger air intake and new fog light design for a bolder look.
The rear styling has remained the same, with the only update being the smoked finish on the Impreza hatch’s taillights.
Rounding up the subtle changes to the exterior is new design alloy wheels across all variants, with 18-inch fitted to the top-spec 2.0i-S variant and 17-inch employed on the rest of the range.
The freshened-up exterior is certainly welcomed, but you still would not describe the looks of the Impreza as sporty. It remains a safe, generic design that is neither offensive nor attractive.
The interior of the Impreza has always had practicality and usability at its core, and Subaru was careful not to meddle with these increasingly sacred attributes in this update. Everything in the cabin, from the location of the controls to the height of the centre touchscreen, just makes sense. Typical of this company, ergonomics is top notch.
Like the exterior, the interior design leans on the conservative side, but the use of materials is commendable, with most surfaces soft-to-the-touch and trim pieces looking reasonably high quality.
Build quality is flawless, too, with perfect panel alignment and solid fitment of everything. This is further evident by the absence of rattles in both the Impreza hatch and sedan test cars that we drove over the course of two weeks.
The 2020 update sees a more premium-look door trim surround in the Impreza mid to upper spec 2.0i-L, 2.0i Premium and 2.0i-S variants. Updated premium cloth trim is also introduced in 2.0i-L and 2.0i Premium grades.
Subaru’s SI-Drive drive mode has finally made its way into the Impreza, offering the choice between frugal efficiency in Intelligent (I) mode and greater responsiveness in Sport (S) mode. The modes are conveniently selectable via steering wheel controls.
Elsewhere, the infotainment system now supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Not restricted by quirky exterior styling element like those of its rivals, the Impreza’s cabin is one of the more spacious in class, with generous legroom and headroom for all occupants. The big windows let in plenty of light and the doors open to a near 90-degree angle for easy ingress and egress.
The lack of rear air-con vents remains a drawback of the cabin, though the powerful air-con unit means the rear space does get cooled or heated well before complaints arise from those seated back there.
Boot space is easily one of the largest, with the sedan boasting a voluminous 460 litres of capacity, expandable to 960 litres with the 40:60 split rear seats folded. The hatch’s boot is quite a lot smaller at 345 litres, but it is still bigger than that in the Toyota Corolla and Mazda 3. Dropping the rear seats in the hatch stretches the space to 795 litres.
The Impreza range continues to be powered by a 2.0-litre normally aspirated four-cylinder boxer engine rated at 115kW at 6000rpm and 196Nm at 4000rpm. While the power unit is still adequate in hauling the Impreza around places, it does feel lacking when compared to turbo or even hybrid offerings in the competition. It needs to be worked quite hard under a heavy load, and the continuously variable transmission (CVT) the engine is hooked up to can feel unpleasantly elastic when the revs are piled on.
Overall, the drivetrain does start to feel a bit long in the tooth in 2020 and is in need of some major improvement to not be left behind.
That said, it is still relatively fuel efficient, with the CVT effective in keeping revs real low on cruise. At the suburban speed limit of 60km/h, the engine is almost idling at 1400rpm, while on the freeway cruising at 100km/h fuel use hovers around a thrifty 4L/100km.
On average, the Impreza hatch’s trip computer returned a reading of 7.5L/100km at the end of its week-long road test, while the sedan managed 7.9L/100km. Those are respectable figures, despite nowhere near the rated 6.6L/100km.
As mentioned, the Impreza’s draw card in a segment of front drivers is its symmetrical all-wheel drive system. This is not some part-time AWD where the front wheels are the main driven wheels with power diverted to the rear axle only at loss of traction. The Subaru AWD is full-time with a normal front to rear torque split of 60/40. When things get tricky – such as on wet roads or snow – it can vary torque distribution to optimise traction.
This makes the Impreza an excellent all-weather, all-terrain compact car that makes the trip to the snow mountain so much more stress-free. On normal dry roads, the AWD, coupled with the revised suspension tuning, also affords an incredibly secured driving feel with amazing grip and control around corners.
The ride quality around town is compliant, certainly plusher than many rivals with firmer, sportier set up. Road noise is also well suppressed, so is engine noise below 3000rpm.
Other than the AWD, another key appeal of the Impreza is its comprehensive list of standard safety features. The entire range is equipped with Subaru’s Eyesight driver assist system, which includes pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control, lead vehicle start alert, lane departure warning and lane keep assist. Also fitted are blind spot monitoring, lane change assist, automatic high beam, rear cross traffic alert and automatic emergency braking (forward and reverse).
Design & Comfort
Performance & Handling
Equipment & Features
- Spacious cabin
- Excellent all-wheel drive traction
- Smooth ride
- Comprehensive safety tech
- Aging powertrain
- Conservative styling
The updated 2020 Subaru Impreza builds on an already trusted package with minor but effective tweaks. It may not have moved much from its conservativeness, but it is likable for its ride and handling balance, practicality and generous safety features. And where else can you find all-wheel drive equipped as standard in the $20k to 30k plus price bracket?
It is only a better engine and gearbox away from being one of the best value buys in the segment.
2020 Subaru Impreza Pricing and Specification
|Price (Excl. on-road costs):||Sedan / Hatch|
2.0i $23,740 / $23,940
2.0i-L $25,860 / $26,060
2.0i-Premium $28,390 / $28,590
2.0i-S $31,160 / $31,360
|Warranty:||5 years/Unlimited kilometres|
|Country of Origin:||Japan|
|Service Intervals:||12 months / 12,500km|
|Engine:||2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol:|
115kW @ 6000rpm, 196Nm @ 4000rpm
|Power to Weight Ratio (W/kg):||83.2 (hatch); 83.8 (sedan)|
|Combined Fuel Consumption (L/100km):||Claimed: 6.6 / Tested: 7.5 (hatch); 7.8 (sedan)|
|Fuel Capacity (L):||50|
|Body:||5-door hatch/4-door sedan, 5 seats|
|Safety:||5-star ANCAP, 7 Airbags, ABS, ESC, TCS, EBD, BA, Reversing Camera, EyeSight, Tyre Pressure Sensor, Hill Descent Control (HDC)|
|Dimensions (L/W/H/W-B) mm:||hatch: 4,475/1,775/1,480/2,670|
|Tare Mass (kg):||1,373 – 1383|
|Towing Capacity (kg):||Braked: 1,200kg / Unbraked: 650kg|
|Entertainment:||8-inch (6.5-inch for 2.0i) colour touchscreen with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, USB, Aux in, DAB+, CD Player, 6 Speakers|