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New Car/Review


by Tom Hagin


SEE ALSO: Subaru Buyer's Guide


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 15,895
Price As Tested                                    $ 17,684
Engine Type              SOHC 16-valve 2.2 Liter H4 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 135 cid/2212 cc
Horsepower                                   137 @ 5400 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               145 @ 4000 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                   99.2"/67.1"/172.2"
Transmission                              Five-speed manual         
Curb Weight                                     2728 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  13.2 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                      195/60R15
Brakes (F/R)                                      Disc/drum         
Drive Train                    Front-engine/all-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                One percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.32


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            23/30/27
0-60 MPH                                         10 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       18 seconds @ 77.5 mph
Top speed                                           105 mph
     * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

Back in 1993, Subaru decided to commit itself to selling only all-wheel-drive vehicles. That decision, along with an assertive marketing campaign and attractive pricing led to a growth in sales from just over 49,000 cars in '93, to nearly 134,000 vehicles in 1997.

Its Impreza series helped those numbers. It comes as the entry-level L model coupe, sedan or wagon, the 2.5 RS which shows its international Championship Rally car roots, and the Outback Sport, a micro Sport Utility Wagon extrordinaire. This week we test an Impreza L sedan.

OUTSIDE - Subaru took no styling chances on exterior design with the car and it's sometimes difficult to distinguish between an Impreza and other subcompact imports in its class. Its nose is dominated by a large air scoop below its small grille and beside the air dam are a stacked set of fog lights and turns signals. The hood is sloped moderately, and the windshield and roof line rake steeply rearward up and over to a flat, stubby trunk. Its windows are trimmed in black, as are the headlights, windows and outside mirrors. As part of an options package, our test car wore a set of aluminum wheels, a trunklid spoiler and mud flaps behind each tire.

INSIDE - Impreza's front bucket seats are comfortable, but firm, and offer seat height adjustment, lumbar support and fore and aft adjustments. Vision from the interior is excellent with a low cowl, slender roof pillars and generous panels of unframed glass for the side windows. The dash uses simple rotary knobs for ventilation with an 80-watt, AM/FM/CD stereo inset just below. And though five seat belts are provided to legally transport five passengers, three across in back is a tight fit because the Impreza is officially designated a subcompact car by the EPA. The ride is very quiet, thanks to extensive use of special sheeting and insulation between the cabin and the outside world. Impreza standard features include a 60/40 split rear seat, power windows, outside mirrors and door locks, tilt steering, variable-speed intermittent wipers and air conditioning.

ON THE ROAD - Impreza is powered by a 2.2 liter "flat-opposed" four cylinder engine. The flat configuration means that the engine's cylinder are pointed toward each fender, instead of upward like most other four cylinder engines. It produces 137 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque, enough to move it quickly to freeway speed. These figures represent a substantial jump from the 110 horsepower and 110 lb-ft of torque of the original Impreza of 1993, and put Impreza up there with the most powerful subcompacts. An automotive aficianado with an ear for engines will easily identify its unusual flat-opposed growl, although it's hard to hear it with the windows up due to the extensive use of body insulation. Our car came with a standard five-speed manual transmission, with light efforts for the clutch, and only a slightly rubbery feeling in the shift linkage. An electronically-controlled four-speed automatic transmission is optional.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Impreza is built using unit-body construction, on a modified version of the larger Subaru Legacy platform. Impreza inherits the Legacy suspension as well, with front and rear MacPherson-type struts, coil springs and an anti-roll bar. It has a wide track as well, which gives it a flat stance in corners. Even its tires are large 15-inch 60-series units and they stick well to the pavement. As the entry-level L model, it works best for around-town errands and fuel-sipping freeway runs rather than whipping for through country backroads although it won't embarrass itself on those twisty roads. Speed-sensitive power rack-and-pinion steering is standardwhich is precise and not too heavy, with good turn-in and tracking abilities. Braking duties are handled by front disc and rear drum brakes, and with such a light car, they do the job well. Unfortunately, an anti-lock braking system is not available on the L model.

SAFETY - Dual airbags and side-impact beams are standard.

OPTIONS - Alloy wheels, rear spoiler, mud flaps and fog lamps: $550; Keyless remote entry: $225; floor mats: $64; Destination charge: $495.