Is a Subaru Impreza a Good First Car? (10 Aspects Explained)

The Subaru Impreza is a solid choice for a first car with excellent safety ratings and compact dimensions that make it easy to drive for beginners.

Its minuses are minor gripes but worth knowing.

subaru impreza good first car

10 Considerations Before Getting a Subaru Impreza as a First Car

Let’s begin with Impreza’s strong points.

#1 Superb Crash Safety

Safety is crucial for first cars because the risk of crashes and collisions is higher among teen drivers aged 16 to 19.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded the Subaru Impreza 5 out of 5 stars overall – a consistent achievement for the Impreza since 2013.

Crucially, the Subaru Impreza is a multiple-time winner of the IIHS Top Safety Pick award.

See the long list of IIHS awards the Impreza received:

 IIHS Award (4dr Sedan)IIHS Award (4dr Wagon)
2022 ImprezaTop Safety Pick
2021 ImprezaTop Safety PickTop Safety Pick
2020 ImprezaTop Safety PickTop Safety Pick
2019 ImprezaTop Safety Pick +Top Safety Pick +
2018 ImprezaTop Safety Pick +Top Safety Pick +
2017 ImprezaTop Safety Pick +Top Safety Pick +
2016 ImprezaTop Safety Pick +
2015 ImprezaTop Safety Pick +
2014 ImprezaTop Safety Pick
2013 ImprezaTop Safety Pick
2012 ImprezaTop Safety Pick
2011 ImprezaTop Safety Pick
2010 ImprezaTop Safety Pick
2009 ImprezaTop Safety Pick
2008 ImprezaTop Safety Pick
2007 Impreza
2006 ImprezaTop Safety Pick
Subaru Impreza IIHS awards.

Few vehicles have strong safety credentials as the Impreza – the Honda Civic, Audi A3, Audi A4, to name some.

#2 Super-Affordable Insurance

The compact Subaru Impreza is a thoroughly inexpensive vehicle to insure for teenagers.

See the table below on the average full coverage cost for the various age groups (assuming good driver and credit and brand-new vehicle):

MINI Clubman$4,517/year$2,039/year
Subaru Impreza$4,520/year$2,041/year
Honda Accord$4,687/year$2,116/year
Honda Civic$5,070/year$2,289/year
VW Jetta$5,416/year$2,445/year
Toyota Corolla$5,570/year$2,516/year
BMW 3 Series$6,019/year$2,717/year
Subaru Impreza vs. other cars insurance costs (CarEdge)

16-year-old male teens can expect higher insurance costs.

Plus, your insurance premium can vary depending on your location.

Impreza’s excellent safety ratings probably play a huge role in keeping the insurance cost affordable.

The MINI Cooper (the Clubman included) is one of the cheapest cars to insure for teen drivers.

#3 All-Wheel-Drive

The Subaru Impreza is an affordable car with a premium drivetrain.

All Impreza model years come with an all-wheel-drive (AWD) system as standard, bar 1995 and older models.

AWD has an advantage over FWD or RWD with four powered wheels providing better traction in sketchy conditions.

It is beneficial, particularly for new drivers living in regions with inclement weather.

Even if your location enjoys mostly sunny weather year-round, having an AWD at virtually no extra cost is a welcome bonus.

This feature alone may suffice to leapfrog it over rival compact first cars.

#4 Perfect Size for Urban Driving

Compact cars are ideal for easy maneuverability, especially in urban settings.

With a relatively low curb weight, around 3,000 lbs, reasonable ground clearance (above 5 inches), and fairly responsive steering, the Subaru Impreza is an easy car to drive for first-time drivers.

Handling is a strong point for the Impreza regardless of trim.

It holds its line well around corners, aiding a confidence-inspiring drive for the inexperienced.

Plus, Impreza’s compactness means parking in tight spaces will be relatively effortless.

#5 Good All-Round Visibility

Most modern car designs tend to adopt a sloping roofline for a more contemporary look, compromising visibility.

Thankfully, the Impreza has largely maintained an airy feel inside the cabin with slender pillars and relatively large windows.

Outward views in the Impreza are excellent and are among the best among compact sedans.

The tall rear head restraints slightly impair the view out the back, but they are a minor impediment.

(See the Impreza’s comparison with other compact cars with similar visibility towards the end of the post.)

#6 Segment-Average Fuel Economy

The Impreza isn’t a class leader, but it’s plenty frugal for young drivers commuting between home and college.

2012 Impreza and newer achieve an average of 30 to 32 mpg in mixed driving.

2011 Imprezas are considerably less efficient, returning a meager 22 mpg combined.

That said, all-wheel-drive vehicles like the Impreza typically consume more fuel than their front-wheel-drive equivalents, so the midpack performance is understandable.

 Fuel Economy
Hyundai Elantra37 mpg combined
Kia Forte35 mpg combined
Honda Civic33 mpg combined
Toyota Corolla33 mpg combined
Volkswagen Jetta33 mpg combined
Volkswagen Golf32 mpg combined
Subaru Impreza32 mpg combined
Nissan Sentra32 mpg combined
Mazda Mazda 331 mpg combined
MINI Cooper31 mpg combined
Volkswagen Beetle29 mpg combined
Range Rover18 mpg combined
Subaru Impreza vs. other cars in fuel consumption.

The figures above vary depending on the model year and trim.

#7 Reasonable Maintenance Cost

According to RepairPal, it costs approximately $653 a year to maintain an Impreza, higher than compact cars’ average of $526 per year.

That said, the reliability of Subaru vehicles has been improving in recent years, which generally lowers the maintenance costs.

If you’re considering a used Impreza for your first car, the year-on-year increase in annual maintenance costs info (below) is useful.

The Honda Civic and BMW 3-Series are excellent benchmarks because the former is one of the cheapest to run (and one of the most popular first cars) while the latter is an expensive luxury compact sedan.

YearAnnual Costs (Honda Civic)Annual Costs (Subaru Impreza)Annual Costs (BMW 3-Series)
Impreza vs. Civic vs. 3-Series annual upkeep costs (CarEdge)

Just as importantly, the probability of significant repairs is pretty low for the Subaru Impreza (not far off the Civic’s):

  • 1.83% in year 1,
  • 8.61$ in year 5,
  • 17.73% in year 10, and
  • 34.16% in year 12.

A used vehicle’s condition varies depending on its care and service history, so it’s best to check and verify before buying.

#8 Average (But Improving) Reliability

JD Power consistently rated the Subaru Impreza below-80 out of 100 in reliability – a mediocre performance stretching back to pre-2010 models.

However, Consumer Reports ranked Subaru #7 out of 28 automakers in their 2021 reliability survey – one of its best performances in recent years.

This significant improvement means newer Imprezas are the ideal choice if your budget permits.

#9 Substantial Value Retention

The Subaru Impreza retains its value remarkably well, depreciating 35% after five years and 64% after ten years.

The table below assumes a brand-new Subaru Impreza sedan that retails for approx. $21,000.

Vehicle AgeDepreciationValue LostResale Value
Subaru Impreza 10-year depreciation.

The Impreza comes with a segment average:

  • 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty.
  • 3-year/36,000-mile roadside warranty.
  • 5-year/60,000-mile drivetrain warranty.

If you’re getting a used Impreza out of warranty, buying extended coverage is necessary to buffer expensive out-of-pocket repairs.

Impressively, the Impreza holds value better than a Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, or Volkswagen Jetta.

 5-yr Depreciation10-yr Depreciation
Subaru Impreza35%64%
Honda Civic39%71%
Toyota Corolla38%59%
VW Jetta43%70%
BMW 3-Series55%78%
Subaru Impreza depreciation vs. other cars (CarEdge)

#10 Plenty of Safety Features

The provision of driver safety aids in the Impreza is segment-competitive – an excellent value for money if you consider the Impreza’s beginner-friendly price.

Depending on the model year, your Impreza may have, among others:

  • Airbags.
  • Stability control.
  • Traction control.
  • Post-collision safety system.
  • Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD).
  • Antilock braking system (ABS).
  • Emergency braking assist (EBA).

Due to the variation in provisions between model years, please verify that the car meets your requirement before buying.

Best Subaru Impreza Year for Your First Car

Table Guide:

  • Safety (IIHS): 1 (poor) to 4 (good); IIHS tests average.
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Fuel Economy: mpg city/highway/combined (base sedan; auto).
  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems (JD Power).
  • Complaints: total reported problems (CarComplaints).
Model YearSafety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)Fuel Econ.ReliabilityComplaints
2022 Impreza4/45/528/36/3278/100
2021 Impreza4/45/528/36/3178/100
2020 Impreza4/45/528/36/3176/1002
2019 Impreza4/45/528/38/3275/10019
2018 Impreza4/45/528/38/3277/10019
2017 Impreza4/45/528/38/3277/1005
2016 Impreza4/45/528/37/3179/10010
2015 Impreza4/45/528/37/31NA15
2014 Impreza4/45/527/36/30NA11
2013 Impreza4/45/527/36/3076/10018
2012 Impreza4/44/527/36/30NA30
2011 Impreza4/4NA20/26/22NA6
2010 Impreza4/4NA20/26/22NA6
2009 Impreza4/4NA20/26/22NA12
2008 Impreza4/4NA20/27/2276/10053
2007 Impreza4/4NA20/25/22NA20
Subaru Impreza model years comparison.

The 2008 Subaru Impreza recorded the highest number of complaints – engine and windshield problems topping the list.

2013 or newer is the best Subaru Impreza to get for the impeccable crash safety and improved fuel efficiency over the preceding models.

In any case, any Subaru Impreza sedan after 2005 is an outstandingly safe vehicle that suits new drivers.

Subaru Impreza Compared with Similar Vehicles

The following alternatives are affordable options for college students and young drivers – new or used.

Table Guide:

  • Fuel Economy: mpg city/highway/combined (auto).
  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems; 5yr avg. (JD Power).
  • Maintenance Costs: per year avg. (RepairPal).
  • Safety (IIHS): 1 (poor) to 4 (good); IIHS tests average.
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Visibility: excellent, good, average, poor.
 Fuel Econ.ReliabilityMaint. CostsSafety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)Visibility
Subaru Impreza28/36/3277/100$6534/45/5Good
Hyundai Elantra33/43/3781/100$4524/45/5Good
Kia Forte31/41/3583/100$4514/45/5Good
Honda Civic30/38/3382/100$3684/45/5Good
Toyota Corolla30/38/3383/100$3624/45/5Good
VW Jetta29/39/3378/100$6094/45/5Good
VW Golf29/36/3276/100$6303.8/45/5Good
Mazda Mazda 328/36/3180/100$4334/45/5Average
Nissan Sentra29/37/3283/100$4914/45/5Good
Subaru Impreza comparison with similar vehicles.

The Hyundai Elantra and Kia Forte boast impressive fuel economy and are segment leaders in this aspect.

If you want an all-rounder for your first car, choose a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla.

They have the lower running cost among compact cars and are fuel-thrifty and safe vehicles.

The Volkswagen Jetta and Volkswagen Golf may not be chart-toppers in any particular first car aspect, but they are solid choices if you like the brand.

The Mazda 3, with its superior driving dynamics and premium interior materials, is an attractive first car.

Plus, it is massively fun to drive.