Vehicle Type: Sedan or five-door hatch

History / Description: When it comes to all-season confidence, proven safety, a reputation for reliability, and some of the best resale values in the industry, the Subaru Impreza is tough to beat. Choice and selection are key aspects of the used Impreza shopping experience, with two body styles, two transmissions, and no fewer than eight mainstream model trim-grades available throughout its life. Also available were the sporty WRX and high-performance WRX STI variants, which have been reviewed separately.

This generation of Impreza came with the latest driver assist systems, including advanced anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, brake force distribution and traction control. Look for advanced airbags, pre-tensioner-equipped seatbelts and automatic lights across the entire model line too. The Impreza is an IIHS Top Safety Pick winner, and later models in this generation were available equipped with the award-winning EyeSight safety system, which used a camera system to detect hazards up the road.

Available feature content included 17-inch alloy wheels, a power sunroof, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear selector, upgraded gauges, automatic climate control, aerodynamic side ground effects, front fog lights and a rear spoiler. A Vehicle Dynamics Control monitor can be fitted to show drivers what the Impreza’s standard symmetrical all-wheel-drive (AWD) system is up to in real time. Xenon lighting, satellite radio and leather seating were also available.

Engines / Trims: A new boxer four-cylinder engine was specified for this generation Impreza. The 2.0L flat-four generated 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque. Subaru’s Dual Active Valve Control System (Dual AVCS) controls valve timing on both the intake and exhaust valves to optimize performance, fuel efficiency, and emissions. Look for CVT or five-speed manual transmissions, depending on the model you’re considering.  All units shipped with all-wheel Drive, and a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback were available, as were Touring, Sport or Limited packages.

What Owners Like: Handling and driving dynamics, all-season traction, and flexibility, are all highly rated by many in the Subaru Impreza owner community. Many owners say they enjoy a fun-to-drive car that’s stylish, surprisingly roomy and nicely balanced. Ride comfort and overall value complete the list of common owner-stated positives. A scan of your correspondent’s notes from a test drive of a 2015 unit also indicate a powerful and effective xenon lighting system, and fantastic rough-road ride quality.

What Owners Dislike: A low-budget and plasticky interior feel, road noise and a less-than-adequate factory stereo system are among the most common complaints. Your writer also griped about a noisy engine that could have used a touch more power, awkward-to-use seat-heater switches, and an EyeSight camera system that won’t work unless the windshield is totally defrosted, which takes a while when it’s 20 below.

Here are some Subaru Impreza Owner Reviews. Note that this links to a page covering all years of Subaru Impreza, not just the 2012-2016 model featured in this used review.

The Test Drive: First up? Be aware that certain Impreza models (and other Subaru models) from this generation, may be affected by a well-documented and lawsuit-initiating issue with oil consumption. Typical story here: numerous owners take to the internet, ticked off that their Impreza is rapidly burning engine oil. A class-action lawsuit is launched against Subaru, and eventually, as reported in this story, Subaru makes good by reimbursing owners for out-of-pocket costs for oil, engine repair, and more. The warranty on affected units was extended, too. The cause? Faulty piston rings, apparently.

New Generation: 2017 Subaru Impreza Preview

What you’ve got to know: first, note that the oil consumption problem didn’t affect all models. Second, talk to a service manager at your local Subaru dealership about whether or not the model you’re considering may be affected. You’ll need the VIN number to check. Third? Note that from 2014 and on, the issue appears to have been resolved in production. And finally, and importantly, check your oil weekly, and report any oil-level issues you detect to your local Subaru service centre immediately, confirming that they’re documented, especially if the model is still under warranty.

Like all cars, the Subaru Impreza has fluids that require periodic changes to prolong the life and durability of the components within which that fluid circulates. In addition to typical fluids like engine coolant, engine oil and transmission fluid, your Impreza has a differential and all-wheel-drive system components that require fluid changes as well. Familiarize yourself with the service schedule relating to these fluids, and confirm that the seller has done the same. According to this discussion about Subaru Impreza fluid changes, many owners fail to adhere to the service schedule for fluid changes, which can reduce the life of various systems, and cause issues.  The gist? Be sure the Impreza you’re considering has been treated to quality, on-time fluid changes as prescribed by the service manual, and especially those fluid changes relating to its AWD system. Plan to continue doing the same, and your vehicle will thank you in the long run.

Note that CVT-style transmissions typically need to be refilled with a very specific fluid, in a very specific way, to avoid issues, and often have complicated and involved procedures to ensure proper measuring, flushing and filling. In general, then, a CVT fluid change is best left for the dealer, though other fluid changes can be handled by virtually any shop.

Focus some attention on the central command screen, aka Subaru StarLink, if equipped. Cycle the system through all of its functions and settings, confirming all on-screen interfaces and associated functionality work as expected. Any non-functionality, crashing, or lagging, can typically be fixed with a hard reset, or a software update. Here’s some more reading.

Confirm that the back-up camera system, if equipped, is working properly, by activating it several times over the course of your test drive.

Other checks should include a quick scan of the Impreza you’re considering for excessive wear to the body and interior, especially in the cargo area, door-sill plates, seating surfaces and centre console. Look for signs of excessive wear and tear, possibly caused by careless cargo hauling, neglectful loading of gear, or use of the vehicle to transport pets with scratchy claws, and call any excessive wear you note into pricing negotiations.

On a five-door model, open the tailgate hatch, and pull downwards on it, lightly. If it closes with minimal effort, the gas struts designed to keep it open could be worn out, which can cause eventually cause the hatch to fall, and whack you in the noggin. Rear hatch strut replacement is easy and inexpensive.

A note on the EyeSight system, if equipped: This camera-based safety system requires a clear view out the windscreen, making it extra-important to ensure the windshield on the model you’re considering is free of damage or cracks, and that you’re using quality wipers which are in good shape. The EyeSight system on some 72,000 vehicles was recalled due to a potential problem, and shoppers should have the system run through a diagnostic scan at a dealer to confirm proper functionality ahead of their purchase, for maximum peace of mind. The EyeSight system may require a recalibration procedure after a windshield replacement, too. More reading here.

The Verdict: For maximum peace of mind, a 2014 or newer Impreza is likely your safest bet. If purchasing an earlier model, be sure to talk to your local Subaru dealer about the potential oil consumption issues, and whether or not the model you’re considering may be affected. And, in any case, be absolutely sure the vehicle hasn’t missed any of its important fluid changes.

A list of recalls

Crash Test Scores:
NHTSA: 5/5 Stars
IIHS: Top Safety Pick / Top Safety Pick +

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