In this ultimate guide, we’ll analyze each Subaru Impreza generation and discover the best and worst Impreza model years to buy.
I will also shed light on factors such as owner-reported reliability, safety ratings, and annual maintenance costs to exactly know which Impreza years to avoid and which to go for.
Let’s dive right in.
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Subaru Impreza Generations
The Subaru Impreza, a renowned compact car, made its debut in the automotive world in the early 1990s. Its first generation set the pace with features that emphasized practicality combined with the sporty performance Subaru was known for.
This car quickly garnered attention with its symmetrical all-wheel drive and efficient boxer engine.
Let’s take a brief look at a tabulated representation of its generations from 2002 to the present:
|2nd generation (GD/GG)||2002-2007|
|3rd generation (GE/GH/GV/GR)||2008-2011|
|4th generation (GJ/GP)||2012-2016|
|5th generation (GK/GT)||2017-Present|
It’s worth noting that there have been substantial changes between each generation. For someone contemplating a Subaru Impreza purchase or just interested in its lineage, understanding the distinctions between generations could very well be the deciding factor.
Subaru Impreza Best, Neutral, and Worst Years
When evaluating and categorizing the years of the Subaru Impreza, our rankings are shaped by a multitude of factors:
- Owner-reported reliability (surveys)
- Annual maintenance costs
- Safety ratings
- Consumer Reports reliability scores
- Consumer Reports owner satisfaction scores
- NHTSA recalls, investigations, and complaints
- Edmunds owner ratings
- JD Power owner ratings
- Kelley’s Blue Book (KBB) owner ratings
- VehicleHistory owner ratings
- Cars.com owner ratings
The forthcoming graph combines ratings from all the aforementioned sources to provide a consolidated perspective of Impreza’s performance over the years.
Next, the table below offers a categorized view of all model years, distinguishing them as the best, neutral, and worst years for the Subaru Impreza.
|Generation||Best Years||Neutral Years||Worst Years|
|2nd generation (GD/GG)||2005||2006|
|3rd generation (GE/GH/GV/GR)||2010|
|4th generation (GJ/GP)||2014|
|5th generation (GK/GT)||2021|
To clarify, when we mention “Neutral Years,” we’re referring to model years that neither shine exceptionally in terms of performance and reliability nor do they drastically underperform offering a balanced experience.
Some factors such as data from the NHTSA regarding recalls can negatively impact the assessment. A higher frequency of complaints and recalls signifies a decline in the car’s reliability.
Now, let’s go deeper into the specifications of the best, neutral, and worst years.
Best & Worst Years for Subaru Impreza 2nd Generation (2002-2007)
The second generation of the Subaru Impreza, introduced in 2002, marked a significant leap in the model’s evolution.
Renowned for its robust performance and reliability, this generation notably included the famed Impreza WRX and Impreza WRX STI variants.
The Best Years: 2005
The 2005 Subaru Impreza truly represents a high point for this generation, with advancements that garnered substantial acclaim.
One standout feature was its engine, the turbocharged EJ20 2.0-liter. While the early second-generation 2002 and 2003 Impreza models (known as “bug eye”) had transmission strength issues, by 2005 these were addressed. After 2005 Impreza WRX models switched to the 2.5-liter turbocharged engine.
This year also saw a shift in aesthetics with the arrival of the “blob-eye” facelift, which many enthusiasts adored.
On the safety and technology front, Subaru implemented advanced features which further augmented its appeal. The WRX picked up automatic climate control, redesigned alloy wheels and body-color ground effects.
Furthermore, with an average fuel consumption of 15 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on highways, it presented an appealing choice for both performance enthusiasts and daily commuters.
The Neutral Years: 2006, 2007
Transitioning into 2006 and 2007 Impreza models, Subaru maintained the momentum built by the 2005 model. These years were characterized by stable and reliable performance, with the continuation of the EJ20 engine.
Technological upgrades were modest, with Subaru refining the existing systems rather than introducing entirely new features. Safety, as always, was a focus, with enhancements in braking systems and further improvements in suspension technology.
Although 2006 and 2007 Impreza models didn’t necessarily introduce groundbreaking changes, they built upon the foundation set by the 2005 Impreza model, ensuring a consistent and reliable driving experience.
The Worst Years: 2002, 2003, 2004
Despite its eventual success, the early years of the second generation were fraught with challenges.
The 2002 Impreza, being the debut model for this generation, had its fair share of teething problems. Chief among them were NHTSA complaints regarding a fuel smell in cold weather.
Investigations traced this issue to the fuel lines, which, due to temperature fluctuations, experienced excessive contraction and expansion. This phenomenon led to cracks in the fuel lines and recognizing the potential fire risks associated with significant fuel leaks, Subaru took action by recalling the affected 2002 and 2003 models in 2009.
Brake issues and suspension problems, especially the front lower control arm detachment, were other notable concerns. Subaru’s 2011 recall for the 2002-2007 models highlighted the potential for the front lower control arm to break due to corrosion, a significant issue in environments with snow-melting agents.
The 2004 Impreza continued this trend of challenges, with the control arm detachment problem persisting. Moreover, this year marked the beginning of a long series of airbag recalls, which extended up to 2023.
This recall predominantly affected models from 2004-2011 and also spilled over to the WRX variants up to 2014. Despite these setbacks, the Impreza WRX models from this era, especially those equipped with the turbocharged EJ20 engine, still find favor among enthusiasts, underlining the mixed legacy of this generation.
Best & Worst Years for Subaru Impreza 3rd Generation (2008-2014)
The third generation of the Subaru Impreza, debuting in 2008, was a pivotal time for the brand. This generation marked Subaru’s ambition to challenge the mainstream, bringing forth a blend of performance, safety, and technology, even as some years faced more challenges than others.
The average recalls for this generation were particularly high, averaging 15 for each model year. It became a common recommendation to prospective buyers to check the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to ensure that any recalled parts or systems had been adequately addressed before purchase.
The Best Years: 2010, 2011
By the time 2010 rolled in, Subaru had fine-tuned the Impreza to near perfection. Key to the appeal of these years was a balance between performance and reliability, which the earlier years of this generation had struggled to achieve.
The 2.5-liter EJ255 engine is largely unchanged internally. Impreza WRX saw further changes in 2011 model years and gained the wide-body shell from the STI, as well as the addition of quad muffler tips with diffuser.
New advanced trim levels including WRX Base, WRX Limited, WRX Premium and 2.5i GT provided an appealing variety for consumers. For the 2011 model year, the WRX STI became available as a four-door.
Furthermore, safety had always been a strong suit for Subaru, and the 2010 and 2011 models were no exceptions with the inclusion of Electronic Stability Control as standard in many markets.
Fuel consumption showed a moderate improvement, averaging 17 mpg for city driving and 31 mpg for highway commutes.
The Worst Years: 2008, 2009
The NHTSA documented a relatively high number of complaints for 2008 and 2009 Impreza models, focusing on airbags and powertrain systems.
A substantial concern was the continuation of the Takata airbag issue that affected the earlier second-generation models. This recall covered the 2008 and 2009 Impreza models and was related to the long-standing issue of airbag inflators that could rupture upon deployment.
The powertrain, especially the clutch and clutch pedal systems, also came under scrutiny. Many owners reported that the firewall and its welds tended to break, resulting in creaking or clicking noises. In extreme cases, this issue could escalate to a failure of the clutch and brake pedals.
Recognizing the gravity of these problems, Subaru issued a recall in 2014 for specific 2008-2014 Impreza models, addressing brake line failures caused by corrosion, especially in states with high salt usage during winter months.
Best & Worst Years for Subaru Impreza 4th Generation (2012-2016)
The fourth generation of the Subaru Impreza represented a significant leap for the marque, introducing a range of technological advancements, an evolved design language, and refined powertrains.
As with any model line, certain years stood out for their excellence, while others were marred by issues.
The Best Years: 2014, 2015, 2016
Emerging from the teething problems of the early fourth generation, the 2014, 2015, and 2016 Impreza models were considered the most reliable in this generation.
The 2012 model year had introduced the 2l FB20 flat-four engine, a shift from the older EJ25. This new engine, by the time 2014 rolled around, had demonstrated its reliability, power delivery, and efficiency. Trim package included base 2.0i, 2.0i Premium, and 2.0i Limited.
For 2015, the Subaru Impreza got a rearview camera, cruise control and a 6.2-inch touchscreen. An advanced safety package including adaptive cruise control, automatic pre-collision braking, and lane departure warning was optional on Limited and Sport Limited.
The fourth-generation models boasted figures of 20 mpg in city settings and a substantial 35 mpg on the highway.
The Worst Years: 2012, 2013
While 2012 Impreza marked the introduction of the promising FB20 engine, replacing the EJ25, it wasn’t without its share of complications.
In 2018, Subaru acknowledged and addressed a significant concern with a recall targeting the 2012-2014 Impreza models. The issue at hand was the potential for engine stalling caused by fractures in engine valve springs.
The 2012 Impreza problems, particularly, concerned the Occupant Detection System (ODS) in airbags. This system intermittently failed to recognize occupants, causing airbag indicators to sporadically switch off and on, raising safety concerns.
Like the 2012 model, the 2013 Impreza problems were mostly related to the airbag systems. Some owners flagged problems with the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) featured in these models concerning its responsiveness and overall reliability.
Best & Worst Years for Subaru Impreza 5th Generation (2017-2024)
The fifth generation of the Subaru Impreza was a bold statement of the automaker’s evolution, carrying forward its rally heritage while embracing modern design and technology.
As of today, the third-generation Subaru Impreza models have common problem with windshields which Subaru has not addressed yet.
The Best Years: 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024
The pinnacle of the fifth generation was indisputably reached during 2021-2024. Especially, the 2022 Impreza gained higher-than-average reliability and owner satisfaction scores from Consumer reports.
In 2021 Impreza, Subaru introduced a slew of new features that catered to the modern driver’s demands. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration became standard across all trim levels, providing seamless connectivity between the car and smartphones.
Powering the new Subaru Impreza was a revised version of the FB20 2.0 liter direct-injection boxer-four engine. Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT was also improved with enhanced ratio coverage, and a 5-speed manual transmission continued to be available. The fuel efficiency was boosted further to 21 mpg for city driving and a whopping 41 mpg for highway commutes.
Critics from sources like Edmunds lauded the 2021 model for its comfortable ride quality, underpinned by Subaru’s legendary all-wheel-drive system that offered enhanced grip and stability on a range of terrains.
EyeSight Driver Assist Technology became a standard feature in these years. The technology included adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and pre-collision braking, further cementing Subaru’s reputation for prioritizing driver and passenger safety.
The Neutral Years: 2020
The 2020 Subaru Impreza, while commendable in its offerings, didn’t necessarily stand out as the best or the worst. It was a transitional year, marking the bridge between the early challenges of the fifth generation and the subsequent refinements.
Although it brought forward many of the advancements of its predecessors, it also retained some of their drawbacks.
However, it remained a reliable choice for those seeking a blend of performance, safety, and technology without leaning heavily towards any extreme.
The Worst Years: 2017, 2018, 2019
The early years of the fifth-generation Impreza, while groundbreaking in many respects, were not without their hiccups.
The 2017 Impreza was particularly notorious for the “headlight recall,” a significant concern for drivers. The issue lay in the left and right-side reflex reflectors and the left side low beam reflector inadequately reflecting light.
Alongside this, a recurrent problem with windshields cracking at their lower parts became a point of contention among owners. This defect is also seen in other Subaru models like the Forester and Outback. Considering the EyeSight technology, the cracked windshield replacement may cost above 1000$.
Additionally, Subaru of America had to recall specific 2017-2019 Subaru Impreza models due to concerns with the Engine Control Module (ECM). The ECM was observed to continue powering the ignition coil even after the engine was turned off. This issue could lead to short circuits, culminating in potential engine stalling.
Subaru Impreza Average Resale Value
Look at the graph below to see the average resale values of Subaru Impreza models over the years, reflecting its enduring appeal and reliability.
It’s pretty clear that some Subaru Impreza years shine brighter than others. Do thorough research to choose the optimal model year for your needs.
Which Subaru Impreza generation have you had personal experiences with, and how would you rate its performance and reliability?
Share your insights in the comments below!