The Subaru Impreza lineup is redesigned for 2008, getting bigger and more refined in the process. A four-door sedan body style remains, but a four-door hatchback replaces the previous generation's wagon body style. Base Impreza and Outback Sport models return, as do the high-performance WRX and even higher performance WRX STI. This report covers the Impreza and Outback Sport; another NewCarTestDrive.com report covers the related WRX and STi models.
Impreza and Outback Sport use a 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine teamed with a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. The engine produces 170-horspower, enough power for everyday needs and enough oomph for good passing punch. We drove it in the mountains of Colorado and found it up to the task, but it had to work hard up steep grades partly due to the thinner air at high altitude. Drivers who want more power should consider the turbocharged Impreza WRX, which is surprisingly civil in behavior.
The Impreza powertrain is competitive with anything in the compact class, but some rivals offer six-speed automatics that improve fuel economy. The Impreza's fuel economy is on par with other all-wheel-drive compacts, but it suffers compared to front-drive rivals. If fuel mileage is your main concern, the Impreza is not the best choice among compacts.