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FRESHENED IMPREZA: Ground-up redesign, edgier styling steer Subaru’s compact into a much more competitive, mainstream position for 2017

Subaru, long known for marching to a different drummer, has taken a detour into the mainstream.

The builder of all-wheel-drive sedans and wagons – popular in snow country and favored by outdoorsy types and dog lovers – has unleashed a larger, all-new, fifth-generation Impreza compact sedan and five-door hatchback.

Gone are oddball styling (remember the funky bug-eye design from 2000-2002?) and low-rent interiors. The 2017 Impreza is handsome in the current edgy, Japanese ethos, featuring hawklike headlights and bodyside accent creases.

The biggest change over previous models is the new so-called global platform the car is built upon. The architecture forms the basic bones which will underpin all future Subarus (except the rear-drive BRZ sport coupe).

The much-stiffer structure adds solidity to an already-sturdy vehicle, while the re-engineered suspension delivers a taut-but-compliant ride and excellent handling through twists and turns.

Another welcome improvement is a major reduction in road and wind noise, a bugaboo of earlier iterations. The quieter cabin enhances the car’s long-haul comfort.

Redesigned seats feature bigger bolsters for increased lateral support in the front-row buckets, while rear passengers still enjoy generous legroom.

The cabin is better dressed with more soft-touch materials and higher-quality plastics. Contrast stitching along dash, doors and steering wheel lend a more sophisticated ambiance.

14-_2017_impreza_2-0i_limitedPowered by a revised 2.0-liter “boxer” four-cylinder, the Impreza still won’t win any stoplight derbies, but its retuned continuously variable automatic transmission provides a bit more perceived oomph off the line. And given that the car is all-wheel drive, its fuel rating of 28 city/38 highway is welcome consolation.

For Subaru, safety is always foremost, and the 2017 Impreza doesn’t skimp. Its award-winning EyeSight safety suite and top-notch crash ratings make it a confident family hauler.

Adding to its desirability, Impreza is the longest-lasting vehicle in its class. In fact, 97 percent of Imprezas sold in the last 10 years are still on the road today.

And all Imprezas are now built right here in the U.S. of A. at Subaru’s award-winning, zero-landfill plant in Indiana.

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