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2008 Subaru Impreza Test Drive Review

Standard all-wheel drive helps the Impreza stand out among small cars, but it falls short on visual flair and cabin quality.

7.5 /10
Overall Score

Few small cars venture into the niche dominated by the Subaru Impreza. Available as a sedan or hatchback wagon, the Impreza features standard all-wheel drive and a unique boxer-engine layout.

The Impreza has been completely redesigned for 2008 with a new look and new interior. Its familiar drivetrain remains intact but made more modern.

Look and Feel

7/ 10

Despite standout engine and driveline characteristics, the Impreza’s exterior is pretty bland. Though completely inoffensive, it won’t leave a lasting impression either. One of the Impreza’s few defining characteristics is its dual exhaust pipes. The hatchback has a bit more design flair, as does the more rugged Impreza Outback Sport, so-named in reference to the larger Outback station wagon. The Outback Sport has a unique two-tone exterior color scheme, with contrasting fenders and bumpers.

The Impreza’s interior is just as conventional as the sedan’s exterior styling, but it’s far more stylish with flowing dash lines directing the eyes to a sensible center console. It features a helpful trip computer atop the dash so the instrument panel can maintain its clean, motorsport-inspired design.

Standard features on the 2008 Impreza include air conditioning, 15-inch steel wheels, cruise control, and a tilt steering column. A Premium Package adds 16-inch alloy wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and an upgraded stereo with auxiliary audio input.


7/ 10

A 2.5-liter 4-cylinder “Boxer” engine powers the Impreza. This unit makes 170 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque, routed through a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission to Subaru’s standard all-wheel-drive system. Few, if any, rivals offer all-wheel drive, and no brand other than Subaru offers it as standard equipment.

The Impreza has a sporty nature, and the Boxer engine offers more torque than some rivals, even if it can sound a bit harsh at times. The all-weather capability of the Impreza is also baked into the chassis, which sucks up nasty bumps and potholes. The Honda Civic may have more refined and precise handling characteristics, but it doesn’t have the Impreza’s hearty driving nature.

Form and Function

8/ 10

The Impreza’s stylish cabin blends form with functionality, and never sacrifices one in pursuit of the other. The center stack is straightforward with simple controls and a floating design that leaves the central storage tray open to receive larger items.

As one of the more spacious offerings in this segment, there is plenty of head- and legroom in both rows, especially in the second row of the wagon. As for cargo space, the wagon provides 19 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 44 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. The sedan can’t hit those numbers, offering 11.3 cubic feet of trunk space.

Tech Level

7/ 10

The Impreza comes standard with an AM/FM stereo with an in-dash CD player and satellite radio (which requires a subscription). The Premium Package adds an upgraded radio with auxiliary audio input.

An available DVD-based navigation system is available, replacing the standard stereo unit with a touchscreen setup. The downside of this setup is that the volume and tuning dials are smaller, which makes them more difficult to use.


10/ 10

The Impreza comes with front-impact airbags for the driver and front passenger, as well as seat-mounted side-impact airbags, first- and second-row side-curtain airbags, and an occupancy sensor for the front passenger seat airbag.

The Impreza also comes standard with antilock brakes, traction control, low tire pressure warning, and a theft-deterrent engine immobilizer system. It also has solid safety scores and was named a “Top Safety Pick” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).


6/ 10

The most efficient versions of the 2008 Impreza are those with the 2.5-liter engine returning 20 mpg city, 27 highway, 22 combined, regardless of transmission or body style. When paired to the automatic transmission, the turbocharged engine returns fuel economy of 20 mpg city, 25 highway, 22 combined. The least efficient version is the Impreza Outback Sport. When equipped with the turbocharged engine and 6-speed manual, it returns 17 mpg city, 23 highway, 19 combined.

The 2008 Subaru Impreza’s base MSRP is $16,995 for the 2.5i sedan. The hatchback starts at $17,495. The Premium starts at $18,495, while the Outback Sport starts at $19,003. The combination of standard all-wheel drive and a robust chassis apparently carries a premium, as the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla both cost less, starting closer to $15,000.

Updated by George Kennedy

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Subaru Impreza Questions

Car Dies When Clutch Is Pushed In?

So I just bought this car it ran for a week just fine. I was driving down the road and pushed the clutch in and the car died. My alternator is running at 14 volts and when the car died I went and b...

Tire Size Reduction For Winter Tires

The recommended tire size for a 2008 Subaru Impreza 2.5i is 205-55-16. I have heard that a smaller tire size will provide better traction for snow tires. I know the change will impact the spedo and ...

Dash Lights Flashing

Hi so my dash lights cruise control, engine, and skid are all on. There is nothing wrong with car as has been serviced regularly. It happened when car got to 100,000 kms. It's a hatch 2.0 or sport...

08 Subaru Impreza Engine Swap Compatibility

Hello everyone I own a 2008 Impreza 2.5i. Recently blew the motor and now I’m lookIng for a replacement. I believe the car has an EJ25 engine in it, and what I’m trying to figure out is what else ...