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EQUIPPED FOR COMBAT: Subaru’s 2017 Impreza marches well-armed into the compact wars. Its not-so-secret weapon? Standard all-wheel drive

With the 2017 Impreza, Subaru has bumped its entry-level compact substantially higher on the desirability scale.

Available as both sedan and five-door hatchback, the Impreza introduces the world to Subaru’s new all-wheel-drive global platform that will underpin all its models as redesigns are ushered in (but not the rear-wheel-drive BRZ sport coupe).

The new chassis greatly stiffens the car’s overall structure, providing much-improved noise suppression, better handling and superior ride quality.

Those latter two items are also assisted by a well-tuned suspension system delivering confidence-inspiring control abetted by sharp steering and Subaru’s iconic all-wheel-drive system.

Our test vehicle, a 2.0 Sport 5-Door model, was sleek and handsome in an up-to-date Asian way. Nothing radical, but welcome given Subaru’s penchant in the past for offbeat designs.

Thanks to slim window pillars, large glass area and a low hood, the Impreza has unmatched visibility, avoiding the claustrophobic feeling common to many competing compacts.

Inside looking out merits special mention, but so does the view around the cabin. Greatly upgraded materials, such as upholstery fabrics, dash and door coverings and plastic trim pieces, deliver an upscale ambiance previously lacking in an Impreza. Seating is supportive and comfortable, and thanks to the car’s increased width and length, there’s more stretch-out space front and rear.

The dash is dominated by twin tach and speed gauges, a large up-to-date infotainment screen, and simple, well-located secondary controls for climate and audio functions.

If Impreza has a shortcoming, it’s in the engine compartment. A heavily revised 2.0-liter “boxer” engine boasts a four-horsepower bump over the previous version, but at 152 it’s adequate, smooth, but in no way sporting (even in the Sport model). Fuel economy is excellent, thanks in part to the refined continuously variable automatic transmission.

The safety-conscious and tech-savvy Impreza is now fully competitive. The bonus of standard all-wheel drive is just icing on the cake.