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2017 Subaru Impreza 2.0S - 6 Months with the AWD Underdog

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    Rizki Kadir
2017 Subaru Impreza 2.0S silver exterior photo

In my opinion this generation of Impreza hatch is one of the most beatiful hatchbacks in the market

Table of Contents

Parting away

It's amazing to think how much your feelings can differ between when you first grasped the keys of your brand new car and when you finally dropped the very same keys some time later to the next owner. This change of feeling of course is what made you part way with the car that you thought you will love for long time. But why? Rationally, the car itself hasn't changed. After all, beyond cosmetic changes such as new chip or dings, a car is a physical object. Especially within 6 months, it is fair to assume that the car itself is pretty much the same.

This change of feeling is what eventually motivated me to write a long term and detailed used car owner review, as there are just so many aspects of the cars I haven't noticed or eventually find not suitable for me after several weeks or months of owning the car. I hope that with this new found information you can find below, you can make better decision in buying your next car.

In order to understand this change of feeling, perhaps it's useful to take a closer look why the car was bought in the first place. Indeed 6 months ago, as every aspects of live in Australia has just started to kick back after a long period of pause due to the plague that needs not be named, I was looking for a comfortable automatic hatchback. Before this time I've been (still am) changing cars often, jumping cars from GT86 to 2002 MX-5 NB and then to Ford XR6. This time I was looking to "settle" and find a car I can be comfortable in; just an all around car that sort of can do everything without break breaking the bank.

I originally had 25k budget to get a newish -- ideally less than 5 years old -- reliable hatchback. If you've been following the market since Covid you know this is almost impossible. You can either get a much older beat up cars, definitely without warranty, or something that's much newer but with higher, almost new price tag, even though the car itself is not new or marked as "demo". Gone are the days where you can get a fully loaded car at 25k driveaway.

To be fair, my requirement was quite high: I wanted to have a fully loaded hatchback with adaptive cruise control, full safety suit like AEB, cross traffic alert, plus I also wanted to have a sunroof and extra such as heated leather seat. You might think some of these are just gimmicks and not necessary for day to day motoring, as I learned myself later you are totally right.

The list of cars I had in mind was initially: Kia Cerato GT, Hyundai i30 N Line, Honda Civic VTIL. All of them are top trim of their models. Unfortunately looking at Carsales in mid 2022 showed pretty much all of the cars I listed had 30k and above price tag. I wasn't prepared to pay that amount for essentially an "econobox" car. This is when the Subaru Impreza came into the picture.

The Underdog?

Even though I had owned several Subaru, they were all performance cars. My first Subaru was an 2002 Bugeye WRX STI, an Impreza nonetheless. Then there was some point in time where I owned a GT86 (you might say it's a Toyota but pretty much it's a Subaru car built in Subaru plant if we want to dig down) Then there's the GC8 I have sitting in the workshop waiting for engine rebuild, yes another Impreza. At this point I realised I should consider a Subaru Impreza. This time not a WRX nor an STI just pure Impreza.

On paper this generation of Subaru Impreza, a 2017 one, seemed to fit all of my requirements. The 2.0S trim has all of the bells and whistles you can think of. The EyeSight system for example, essentially a fancy stereo camera sitting behind the top of the car's windshield, provided adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, and lane keep assist. The car also came with the latest entertainment suite, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Just to complete the list, the trim has heated leather seats (for passenger and driver) and a small but still nice sunroof.

There seemed to be no catch at all. The 2.0S trim can be had for way under 30k. The example that I then bought was listed at 27k driveaway in dealership -- a MY 2018 Impreza with a balance of factory Subaru warranty till May 2023 to top it off. This combined with my history with Subaru, made the overall purchase a clear cut case. Not only I was saving several thousands but the car still had warranty too for almost a year.

The Interior

2017 Subaru Impreza 2.0S exterior photo

Impreza cabin offers very spacious space combined with elegant but practical dashboard design

When I first drove the Impreza off the lot, I couldn't help but to get very excited with the car. Impreza's interior is night and day compared to the old Subaru Impreza I know. From the black leather appointed trim on the dashboard to the way every switchgear feel and look, they all make the interior feel very premium and well appointed, definitely above from what you can expect at this price range.

In the case of Impreza, I like the way Subaru has designed another "status" screen so to say on top of the main infotainment panel. This screen is positioned in line with your eye sight when driving and contains many useful pages such as one that displays both engine coolant and oil temperature! A completely rare sight in today's day and age. This car is clearly not a WRX where that panel would be more useful, but it's a nice hint to Subaru's performance heritage. It's almost a subtle message to tell owners that this is why you got a Subaru.

Another nice aspect of the interior I appreciate is every functions of the car can be accessed through tactile buttons instead of being hidden in some touch screens or some touch capacitive button (looking at you VW Golf Mk8). The status screen again here is high point for me as it's contextual and can show the current climate control level when you turn on the dials.

To close off on the interior, one thing that elevates Impreza from its other competitiors in the segment is how spacious the cabin feels. It's perhaps having the combination of having very thin A pillar and good interior positioning e.g a dashboard that's lower and angled upwards, but I can guarantee the moment you step into the car you would think this is a full sized sedan or an SUV. I have driven several other cars in this segment e.g Hyundai i30, VW Golf Mk 7 and the Impreza is the one that feels most spacious.

The Drive

Jumping from mostly performance oriented Subaru, I came to the Impreza without having any expectation whatsoever. I even intentionally lowered my expectation as I know the car has CVT and I have heard a lot negative things about CVT transmission from the WRX folk. At presence, all of Subaru modern vehicles -- excluding just the manual WRX and BRZ -- only come with CVT as standard nowadays.

When I first drove the car as in a test drive in the dealership my first expectation was almost indifference. It does a job a tranmission is supposed to do that's what I thought at the time. In fact strangely enough as I drove the car more and more, spending sometimes hours in a longer trip, I began to appreciate and become more positive with the CVT. It's definitely not as bad in this application as I originally thought it would be.

The first advantage of the CVT I noticed is it's very smooth and quiet. For the Impreza I never once tried to start from the stop vigorously or in spirited manner. I know that this is not a performance car and I just gently press the throttle to accelerate. Driving in this manner the CVT will try to keep the car under 2000rpm or lower while steadily changing the gear ratio in the background and giving you the same level of torque to accelerate. This makes the car very quiet in normal stop and go traffic as you don't hear the engine buzzing and shifting from higher to lower RPM like in traditional automatic or manual. My impression is: it just works and I quite like it.

Now what happens when you do need some oomph? Well the CVT will then revert to traditional automatic mode. Here's an example scenario: you're cruising at 80km/h and you suddenly need to overtake. The CVT is holding the engine steady at 1500 RPM. The moment you mash the accelerator, the CVT will immediately shift to lower gear ratio and increases the engine RPM to 3000 RPM to give you more torque. Then as you keep on accelerating it will behave as it's normal automatic, it will increase the engine speed to around 4500 RPM then shift upwards. I find the heavier you press on the pedal, the CVT can upshift at max 6000 RPM.

In this regards I find the CVT behaves pretty consistently and quite intuitively. If you so wish, you can even put the car to manual mode and use the paddle shifter. In this instance the CVT will completely mimick 7 speed automatic behaviour. I find in both manual or normal mode, the shift action is also very fast. You almost think it's equal or better than normal torque converter automatic in terms of its shift speed, as it also does proper rev matching when downshifting.

Does it have a downside? I would say for 95% of my driving scenario the CVT behaves pretty well and you just don't think about it. There are however times where it becomes sort of questionable, in my case it's when it tries to keep the RPM too low at certain speed range e.g accelerating gently from 50km/h to 60km/h the CVT really likes to keep the RPM below 2000 which is fine but you can feel the CVT working hard to change the gear ratio in the background so much so that it causes a bit of a lugging feeling. For the most part this problem can be solved if you just press the accelerator more, therefore asking the CVT to move to higher RPM.

The other bit is not I don't think can be blamed to the CVT transmission purely. When you have 4 adults in the car the car can feel quite underpowered. You already mash the throttle and the engine RPM is already high at say 4000 RPM or more but the car hardly accelerates or it does so in rather puffing manner. I think this is more caused by the fact that the engine underneath is after all still a 4 Cyl 2.0l NA engine. It's not going to be able to give you high level of acceleration like its larger 2.5l counterpart in Forester or higher, or like a turbocharged engine. So in a sense I can see how a CVT can be annoying to drive or feel underpowered but in my opinion this is more towards the engine power itself. The CVT will try its best to give you max torque but at the price of noise at higher RPM.

Moving on from the transmission or how the driveline feel, it's important to also mention the ride quality. I find in this area the Impreza is a bit mixed bag. For most normal driving in the city or well paved street, the ride quality is quite soft. I never feel like I'm being thrown around or bumped around unreasonably harsh. It eats larger undulation easily and you can feel the damping working well. What I find a bit of an inconvenience though is when the tyres encounter smaller undulation like potholes, speed bumps and other and imperfection on the road surfaces. I find the 18inch wheels that come standard with the 2.0S trim can be quite harsh in this regards and will make you feel all of the imperfections. I will come back to this point later as I think it's quite important and eventually became one of the reasons why I sold the car.

Lastly on the matter of driving I want to add a plus point for the Impreza in terms of how the steering feel. The steering in the Impreza is surprisingly good for an electronically assisted steering. What I appreciate is the way I can still feel just tiny bit how the tyre interfact with road surfaces e.g when I'm doing a large sweeping turn, I find the steering follows the road camber well. The steering wheel being an economy and comfort oriented hatchback is of course very light but this small feel makes driving just a little bit better. I contrast this with VW Golf Mk7 (Non GTI/R) steering which feels very devoid of feel and feels very artificial e.g the steering will feel the same on any surfaces and it feels completely like a wheel out of simulator.

The Dealbreaker

Now at this point you might be wondering everything seems to be fine so why did I sell the car. For the first few weeks, aptly named the honeymoon period, the car was pretty much faultless. I did not find any dealbreaker. However after spending several months in with more varying trips other than medium journey from my suburb to Melbourne's CBD, more things started to crop up. (Or it has always been there, it's just I noticed it more)

The first is related to the comfort in long journey (that is to say 1hr+) the car seats for this 2.0S trim are leather and while it does look sleek, I found the leather seats in Subaru Impreza to be very stiff and hard. I was hoping this was just because the leather might not have been broken in, but at the time of the purchase the car was already older than 5 years old with approx 50,000km. Based on this, any leather should have broken in already. This hardness perhaps is caused by the fact that the seat padding itself has less plush cushioning.

Now again I might be biased because one of the cars I used to own before the Impreza was a Ford Falcon XR6 limited edition with leather. I could never stop telling people how comfortable the seats in that car are. It was just very plush while still giving some bolster support. I just felt I could do thousands of kilometers everyday with the Falcon. The car itself is possibly something I could review in the future. But nevertheless, the Subaru Impreza seats in leather are very hard and stark contrast to the Falcon leather seats.

This opinion was not only shared by me but also by my mother who complained that her back was hurting when being in the car for long period of time. I tried changing the car seat positioning a couple of times, which was easy due to the car having electric seat at this trim level but even after several tries I was still unable to find that "sweet spot" so to say. I always feel something was off with the seat.

The second aspect of the cars which started to annoy me was the poor NVH the Imprea has. The car put it simply, was very noisy on all but perfect roads and low speed. Around the town where the roads are well paved and maintained, I did find noise level to be acceptable. But during long highway trips I found the noise to be very intrusive and tiring. There are just so many sources of noise that I found myself quite frustrated; on windy days at 100km/h highway the noise level was very apparent. It does seem like Subaru does not put too much noise insulation material as even on very low speed you could hear leaves or rocks rustling behind the wheel well.

The third aspect which was on the bottom of my list was power. I came to the car knowing well that this car is a 2.0L naturally aspirated car with a CVT and that it is clearly not a WRX. Again repeating my use car for a normal trip around the town, the power is completely fine. I was also most of the time traveling alone, so weight wasn't a problem. You might be suprised but I like the way the CVT works and I didn't find it to be the dealbreaker. But overtime as I changed my usage and the car became more of a highway car, I found the lack of power to be an annoyance as you do have to plan your overtake well. On ramp acceleration was a noisy fest as the CVT couldn't help but to rev the car to almost maximum RPM to get the car up to speed. I think looking back the Impreza would certainly benefit from a larger NA engine, probably a 2.5l as the one in Forester. This would come at the expense of larger fuel consumption. The other approach was to use smaller turbocharged engine and go to the way of the Europeans. But I will leave this discussion for another time.


If you're looking for a used Japanese hatchback at lower than average price point, full to the brim with tech, looks decent, and on top of that has AWD as standard, this generation of Subaru Impreza could be the car for you. I still believe that the pain points which caused me to sell the car are only specific to my scenario and my preference. If you're just going to use the car to go grocery shopping and routine trips, you won't find the lack of power and noise management a problem. Moreover if you get the lower trims Impreza with cloth seat, you could avoid the problem of having that stiff leather seats I described about. This has the added benefit of lowering the purchase price even further. You could even get less than 3 years old used Impreza which will have 2 years of remaining factory warranty as Subaru nowadays come standard with 5 years warranty.

The biggest suprise I gathered was the fact that I like the CVT. It doesn't hold the car back, as I strongly think it's the engine that's causing people to perceive CVT equipped car to be less fun to drive. If you ignore the power, it's genuinely a nice car to drive. The steering is good, the suspension is comfortable and decently tuned for the Australian roads. Driving this Impreza which is built on the new Subaru Global Platform (SGP) made me consider the new gen WRX. I would be interested to drive a CVT powered WRX.

As a closing, uring this period of higher used car price, the main selling point of the Impreza is the value. Should several years later you see this review in the future and the Impreza is no longer cheaper compared to its competitors, I would recommend you to find another car at the price range.