By Frank S. Washington
DETROIT – I was given the choice of test driving a Subaru Impreza equipped with either a continuously variable transmission or one with a manual gearbox. I chose the manual and I’m glad I did.
The car was powered by a 2.0 liter four cylinder boxer direct injection engine that made 152 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to a five-speed short throw manual transmission. The combination had an EPA rating of 23 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg combined.
The sport designation was more about perception than power. There was a sport suspension, the Impreza Sport had 18-inch alloy wheels, a robust trunk spoiler, tire pressure monitoring, premium audio system, push button access and start stop, aluminum pedals and a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
Subaru is one of a few brands on the market that has what I call real all-wheel-drive. That is what Subaru says Symmetrical AWD continuously powers all for wheels, distributing torque 50-50 to the front and rear wheels. The system is capable of transferring torque to the wheels where slippage is detected. The pavement was dry during my test drive and that translated into rifle-shot handling.
A five-speed manual transmission on a low horsepower car is an acquired taste. I had to get used to driving in third and fourth gear versus fifth and sixth on a six-speed manual. But once I made that transition the Impreza was a smooth automobile.
The transmission was a little soft, I could not rest my foot on the clutch pedal too hard without disengaging it and the car was so smooth that a couple of times I ended up driving in fourth gear while on the expressway.
The Impreza’s layout was simple. There was an 8.0 inch infotainment touch screen, a three-dialed climate control system beneath that, the gear shifter followed on the console and the seat warmers switches followed. And there was a pod atop the dash with gauges that showed the water temperature, the oil temperature and the average miles per hour. This may sound cluttered but there was plenty of space between the control pods and it was a really clean look. The instruments were black faced with red numerals
This Impreza had blind spot alert and a rearview camera with cross traffic alert. There was Bluetooth, satellite radio, USB and auxiliary jacks and voice controls. There was also a moonroof.
I had a cloth interior that had a shiny leather-like surface. The seats were comfortable, fore and aft. In the front, seat adjustment was manual. So was the tilt telescoping steering wheel. But somebody, my guess would be the chief engineer, had some common sense and made the driver and front passenger power windows automatic.
I climbed into the back seats and found plenty of head room and there was lots of leg room. Three people could seat abreast in the rear seat but whoever caught the hump would not be comfortable. There was a sizable tunnel.
The Impreza Sport was a slick midsize sedan. And for $24,965, especially with the all-wheel-drive system, it was a steal.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com