2010 Subaru Impreza 2.5i Sport hatchback
2010 Subaru Impreza 2.5i Sport hatchback. Click image to enlarge

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2010 Subaru Impreza

When it comes to small cars with all-wheel drive, the Subaru Impreza 2.5i ($20,995 sedan/$21,895 hatchback) is arguably the best choice in the under $25,000 category. Though it isn’t particularly exciting to look at, and it’s not the most fuel efficient car in its class, it is a well-priced, comfortable and practical vehicle (especially the hatchback) that’s easy to drive, and it offers a unique and proven powertrain and standard all-wheel drive system that provides excellent stability and traction in poor weather conditions.

While there are plenty of front-wheel drive compact cars on the market, there are only a few AWD models. As of this writing, the Impreza’s only AWD competitors are the Toyota Matrix AWD ($23,360), Jeep Compass AWD ($20,995), and Suzuki SX-4 AWD ($21,595).

Most of these AWD cars come with an “on-demand” AWD system that operates in front-wheel drive until sensors detect front wheel slippage – it then automatically diverts some of the power to the rear wheels. Subaru’s all-wheel drive system, however, maintains a constant front to rear torque split that differs slightly depending on whether it’s equipped with the manual or automatic transmission. Imprezas with the five-speed manual transmission have a viscous-coupling limited-slip centre differential that maintains a constant 50/50 front/rear torque split. But when equipped with the optional four-speed automatic transmission, the AWD system includes a multi-plate transfer clutch that maintains a 60/40 front/rear torque split but will automatically adjust to a 50/50 split under hard acceleration or when conditions warrant. Subaru’s type of AWD system provides instant and continuous traction at all four wheels all the time, reducing reaction time when road surfaces suddenly become slippery.

2010 Subaru Impreza 2.5i Sport hatchback
2010 Subaru Impreza 2.5i Sport hatchback. Click image to enlarge

Unlike vehicles with ‘on-demand’ AWD systems, the Impreza doesn’t need a driver-selectable 50/50 front/rear differential lock for low-speed, slippery road conditions.

The Impreza’s engine is also unique in its class: its four cylinders are horizontally opposed: they lie flat opposite each other instead of upright in a line, creating an engine that’s very low in height. This lowers the Impreza’s centre of gravity, improving handling and stability. In addition, the Impreza’s transmission and drivetrain are aligned behind the engine in a straight line, creating a symmetrical driveline design that distributes weight equally, also improving the car’s dynamic handling characteristics.

The Impreza’s 2.5-litre single overhead cam four-cylinder 16-valve boxer engine develops 170 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and maximum torque of 170 lb.-ft. at 4,400 rpm. That compares with the Matrix’ 2.4-litre engine with 158 hp at 6,400 rpm and 162 lb.-ft. at 4,000 rpm; and the Compass’ 2.4-litre engine with 172 hp at 6,000 rpm and 165 lb.-ft. at 4,400 rpm.

If you prefer a manual transmission, it’s worth noting that the Impreza, Compass and SX4 are available with both manual and automatic transmissions while the Matrix AWD is available only with an automatic transmission.

2010 Subaru Impreza 2.5i Sport hatchback
2010 Subaru Impreza 2.5i Sport hatchback. Click image to enlarge

Though you would expect the Impreza’s continuous all-wheel drive system to use more fuel than its competitor’s on-demand systems, a comparison of Energuide’s city and highway L/100 km fuel economy ratings reveals that its 10.4/7.7 city/hwy rating (automatic transmission) is about the same as the Matrix AWD (automatic), and about 10 per cent more than the Compass AWD (CVT) and about 12 per cent more than the smaller Suzuki SX4 AWD (CVT). Of course, road and weather conditions, driving style, and other factors will affect real-world fuel economy. During my week in the car, my onboard fuel consumption readout and my own gas usage calculations worked out to about the same: 11.5 L/100 km on average with 75 per cent city driving.

Pricing and standard equipment

Completely redesigned in 2008, the Impreza carries on unchanged for 2010 except for a more powerful standard engine in the sporty turbocharged WRX model and the addition of a new Limited Package on the 2.5i.

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