Review and photos by Jacob Black

Test Drive: 2013 Subaru Impreza Sport Package car test drives subaru
2013 Subaru Impreza. Click image to enlarge

“Heh, what do you know? I was wrong”. I hate having to use those words. Hate it with a passion. But that was me after a week in the Subaru Impreza. See, in the weeks before, I was all like “CVTs are evil, the universe sent CVTs down to drive the final nail in the coffin of automotive enjoyment. They never work for fuel efficiency like they should, they’re loud, they feel horrible, just no. No CVTs. Dear CVTs, go away, Love Jacob.”

And then Subaru was all like, “Hey, Jacob… check this stuff out”. And that’s how I came to be wrong. The CVT on the 2013 Subaru Impreza is a great little unit. It is just about indistinguishable from a regular automatic box, except you never get that “tip” into the next gear. The characteristic sense of “antici……” is still there, but the drone, the moo, the feeling of slipping and the inability to find the gear range you want are all gone.

In fact, I was able to accurately coax the CVT into a lower “gear” anytime I wanted, and received an actual increase in torque and forward momentum as my reward. I still prefer a DSG-type dual-clutch automated manual, but if every CVT was like this, the world would be a better place.

Test Drive: 2013 Subaru Impreza Sport Package car test drives subaru Test Drive: 2013 Subaru Impreza Sport Package car test drives subaru
2013 Subaru Impreza. Click image to enlarge

And it’s not like this CVT achieves its quietness via sound deadening in the cabin – oh no. There is very little of that and I found the Impreza a pretty noise rig. On the highway sound intrusion was so complete I could tell you which of the cylinders on the council truck next to me was misfiring. It was all of them.

Test Drive: 2013 Subaru Impreza Sport Package car test drives subaru
2013 Subaru Impreza. Click image to enlarge

There is a fair amount of wind noise from around the door edges but thankfully that lack of sound deadening also lets in the sound of the great little 2.0L Boxer engine, and you have to take the good with the bad right? The CVT is well suited to the 148 hp/145 lb-ft engine and gets the 1,350 kg Impreza off the line smartly. It has a very agressive throttle tip-in, somewhat like a typical subcompact car. I achieved an 8.2 L/100 km average over a week. That’s short of the Energuide rated 7.5/5.5 L/100km highway/city, but better than the EPA’s rating of 8.7/7.1/8.4 city/highway/combined.

It’s not the quietest interior in the class, but the cabin of the Impreza is a really comfortable place to be. The leather-wrapped, tilting steering wheel and the six-way manually adjustable driver’s seat make finding a commanding driving position easy, and I really enjoyed the three digital screens feeding information to the driver. There is one in the centre of the instrument cluster, and two in the top of the centre stack above the dated-but easy-to-use radio. All of that can be controlled by the multi-function steering wheel but the large knobs on the radio made it easier to just use those.

Test Drive: 2013 Subaru Impreza Sport Package car test drives subaru Test Drive: 2013 Subaru Impreza Sport Package car test drives subaru Test Drive: 2013 Subaru Impreza Sport Package car test drives subaru Test Drive: 2013 Subaru Impreza Sport Package car test drives subaru
2013 Subaru Impreza. Click image to enlarge

Despite using hard plastics and cloth seats the interior of the Subaru felt upmarket – perhaps that’s down to the brushed-aluminum-look splashes and the interesting shape to the steering wheel. The information screens are vibrant and colourful too. My favourite display was the setup that showed traction level for all four wheels and displayed a warning when ABS was triggered. It also showed the steering angle of the front wheels. Goodness knows why it shows those things, but it was pretty as hell so I left it on the screen.

My tester came equipped with Bluetooth, but as in the Subaru STI driven by editor Jonathan Yarkony the week before, Subaru’s radio refused to connect to my phone. It’s the first time I’ve experienced any issue connecting my phone to any vehicle and a quick Internet search revealed an epidemic of similar issues for other Android smartphone users who own Subarus – so I’m confident the error is on the vehicle end.

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