If all-wheel drive is what you need, the Subaru Impreza sedan and hatchback family is worth considering, as it delivers secure handling, good ride quality and top safety ratings. Only a handful of other economy cars are available with all-wheel drive, notably the 2011 Suzuki SX4 (Base MSRP: $13,499 to $18,999). Front-wheel drive competitors, such as the best-reviewed 2011 Hyundai Elantra (Base MSRP: $14,830 to $19,980), offer better fuel economy, a six-speed automatic transmission and better interior quality.
The 2011 Subaru Impreza receives an upgraded audio system, plus some cosmetic upgrades for the more expensive WRX performance model. Otherwise, the 2011 Impreza remains the same as the previous few model years. See our complete review of the 2009 Subaru Impreza to get a comprehensive look at expert opinions.
With a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine and all-wheel-drive, the Impreza gets subpar fuel economy relative to its peers. When mated to a five-speed manual transmission, the Impreza achieves an EPA-estimated 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway/22 mpg combined. The available four-speed automatic brings down the highway rating to just 26 mpg. Some new competitors reach as high as 40 mpg on the highway. The much faster (and more expensive) WRX and STi versions have even lower fuel-economy estimates; they are covered in our separate report on sport sedans.
Front airbags, side airbags, side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, active front head restraints and electronic stability control are standard equipment on all Imprezas. Crash-test results are impressive. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety names the Subaru Impreza a Top Safety Pick, meaning it receives the highest rating of Good for front, side, rear and roof-strength tests. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not fully tested the 2011 Subaru Impreza, but the agency gives the car 4 stars out of 5 for rollover resistance.
The 2011 Impreza starts at $17,495, and the Outback Sport trim starts at $19,995.
Subaru has confirmed that the all-new 2012 Impreza will make its debut at the 2011 New York Auto Show. In addition to new styling and more interior room, the 2012 Subaru Impreza is expected to deliver a huge fuel-economy boost over the current model. Subaru says to expect 36 mpg (likely on the highway).
The editors of Edmunds.com like the Impreza for its standard all-wheel drive, which is a rarity in the economy-car segment. If AWD isn't a necessity, they note that competing models get much better fuel economy and some have nicer interiors.
Review: 2011 Subaru Impreza, Editors of Edmunds.com
ConsumerReports.org tested the Impreza Outback Sport hatchback, one of the more expensive trims. The Impreza is compared to its competition based on many attributes. Reliability ratings and owner-satisfaction measures are also provided.
Review: New Cars: Small Cars, Editors of ConsumerReports.org
3. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
The IIHS names the Subaru Impreza a Top Safety Pick. This means that it receives the highest possible ratings for front-, side- and rear-impact protection, as well as roof strength.
Review: Small Cars, Editors of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Fuel efficiency for the 2011 Subaru Impreza is subpar. The EPA gives it a rating of 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway/22 mpg combined in its most fuel-efficient guise with the manual transmission. The automatic transmission models get 1 mpg less on the highway. Other small sedans fare much better.
Review: 2011 Subaru Impreza, Editors of FuelEconomy.gov
The 2011 Subaru Impreza has only received superficial updates since 2009. This full report on the 2009 Subaru Impreza takes an in-depth look at what the experts think. Links are provided here to many relevant sources.
Review: 2009 Subaru Impreza, Editors of ConsumerSearch.com, March 2009
A number of new economy-car models are scheduled to make their debuts at the 2011 New York Auto Show, including the restyled, roomier and more efficient 2012 Subaru Impreza sedan and hatchback.
Review: Important Economy Car Debuts Scheduled for New York Auto Show, Alex Nunez, April 6, 2011