The Subaru Impreza is a compact car available as a sedan or a hatchback that can last well over 200.000 miles. Launched in the early 1990s, it has become arguably Subaru’s most well-known vehicle. No matter how well-known it may be, it has its fair share of problems.
Most of the problems lay within the 4th generation (2011-17), like unintended acceleration, excessive oil consumption, faulty brake lights, underpowered brakes, and weakened suspensions. The 5th generation (2017-Present) faced issues with its transmission, fuel pump, infotainment system, and EyeSight. Almost all models had to deal with rust and rodents eating their wiring.
This was a short summary; now, let’s dive into deeper detail about each problem. We will discuss the root of the problem, advise you on how to solve it, and provide an estimate of the cost it would require to fix the issue.
Stop! Before you read any further, you HAVE to know you´re probably paying $111,16* per month too much on your car loan. Click here to show us how to start saving on your car loan right now.
1. Transmission Problems
Although most Subarus are extremely dependable, some more recent models have experienced transmission problems. Slipping, overheating, stalling, and difficulty controlling engine speed are some typical transmission issues you’ll encounter with the Impreza.
Almost all of Subaru’s models transitioned to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) in 2014, which controls engine speed with pulleys rather than gears. Therefore, it is safe to assume that you are driving a CVT if you have an Impreza manufactured recently.
In summary, transmissions are designed to maximize your engine’s efficiency. This is accomplished by conventional gearboxes by cycling through the gears, much like you would on a bicycle, maintaining the ideal ratio across engine speed and vehicle speed.
As the transmission ages, it starts to stall, growl and run roughly. Here is what you can do to mitigate these problems:
- Growling sound: If the engine snarls as you accelerate, there is probably a problem with the pulleys of your CVT. Expected cost: $25
- Stalling: You can avoid this issue using a CVT-friendly fluid or by changing a thrust washer. Expected cost for washer: $10
- Engine speed fluctuations: You will need to replace a solenoid of your transmission. Expected cost: $200-$400.
Subaru has also acknowledged this problem and has extended the warranty of the transmission of 2013-2015 Imprezas to 8 years. Check if you qualify for the warranty before working on the transmission on your own.
2. Excessive Oil Consumption
The Subaru Legacy burns through its oil at an alarmingly fast rate. Owners have claimed that they have had to top up the oil before every oil change. Subaru has told the owners that losing a third of their oil every 1200 miles is within specifications and that topping the oil before changing it is normal.
Even though this should not be the case, some drivers have even reported that their Impreza burned more than a third of the oil every 1000 miles. The 2012-2013 models have been known to burn through the most oil.
The fault lies within the engine, whose oil rings, pistons, and valves are very loosely fitted. Oil leaks through these components and ends up in the combustion chamber, where it is burnt. This not only damages your engine, but the burnt particles, when released, also pose a threat to the environment.
All vehicles burn oil but should not be consuming it at a fast pace. Here are some symptoms that your car is consuming too much oil:
- The oil light turns on frequently.
- Bluish gray smoke comes out of the car exhaust.
- The engine makes a ticking sound while driving under a high load.
Do not ignore any of these signs if you see them, and have your engine inspected right away. Subaru has acknowledged this problem and has agreed to extend its engine warranty to 8 years, under which they would replace the engine block. Unfortunately, most of the models which had this issue (2012-2013) are now out of warranty, and you will have to replace the piston rings, which can cost around $10,000.
3. Defective Fuel Pump
It is always frustrating when you decide to take out your car, and it doesn’t start. Unfortunately, this has been a common issue with the 2019 Subaru Impreza. Owners that have faced this problem have often also experienced their engine running roughly and have reported it stalling in the middle of the road. The root cause of all these problems lies within the fuel delivery system of the vehicle.
The Subaru Impreza comes equipped with fuel pumps manufactured by Denso. These fuel pumps have a manufacturing defect in their impellers which tend to deform over time. This deformation impacts the pumping ability of the fuel pump, so the engine does not function properly.
Subaru recalled the 2019 Impreza to replace these fuel pumps with pumps of higher density which are not as prone to deformation. If your vehicle did not fall under the recall, then replacing the pump will set you back around $800.
4. Slow Infotainment System
Since Subaru’s infotainment features have never received much positive feedback from customers, the company made a concerted effort to reverse that perception when it debuted Starlink for certain 2016 models.
However, the Starlink infotainment system has been known to experience its share of glitches. Certain Subaru vehicles are equipped with Starlink infotainment systems that have proven to be so problematic that a lawsuit has been filed against the company.
In addition to screens that would unexpectedly go black and backup cameras that would freeze, Subaru owners have reported experiencing major issues with the Subaru Starlink infotainment systems, which are present in all vehicles after 2016. Subaru has released many software updates to fix these problems, but they have all been unsuccessful.
If you are facing these issues, then you can wait for Subaru to come up with a solution which will take quite a bit of time. But if these glitches are really bothering you, then you can opt to replace the head unit, which can cost you a hefty sum of $1000.
5. Glitchy EyeSight Software
Subaru introduced its EyeSight driver assist technology in 2013, which served three major roles:
- Reverse automatic braking
- Pre-collision braking
- Lane keep assist (LKA)
Sadly, this system has failed to work as marketed by Subaru and has shown problems in all models after 2013. Poor software calibration in different control modules of the vehicle has led to many problems. Subaru owners with an AEB braking system have experienced that the brakes tend to activate when there is no obstruction.
On the other hand, the automatic emergency braking fails to engage by itself when an obstruction is present. The car may correct its steering when a driver tries to change lanes due to these inaccuracies. The car may fully shut down if there are issues with the LKA system and will need to be restarted by the driver.
Subaru has released software updates that have fixed some of the issues, but the majority still remain. We believe that they will have to learn from top companies and completely revamp their system in order to truly address this issue.
6. Rodents Eating Wiring
In an era where an environmental crisis is upon us, all companies are looking for eco-friendly solutions. Subaru, in particular, takes great pride in its eco-friendliness by claiming to be the first zero-landfill auto company in the United States. They have switched to a biodegradable soy-based wire coating which is eco-friendlier. But this step has perhaps made them too eco-friendly as these soy-based coatings have become a chew toy for rodents who use them to build their nests.
This is not just a problem with Subaru vehicles; many car manufacturers have employed these soy-based wirings and are facing the same issue. Despite numerous complaints, these manufacturers have refused to acknowledge this issue as a problem. Many lawsuits have been filed to address this issue, but no significant progress has been made.
Replacing running electrical wiring or a fuel line is not cheap, and the main focus should be to prevent such an outcome from occurring. You can search for many home remedies to keep these rodents away, but we recommend using capsaicin-laced tape. Apply the tape to your wires, and the rodents will stop bothering you.
7. Rusted Brake Lines
All cars are susceptible to rust; however, the car manufacturer must ensure that the essential components of the car are not impacted by rust or corrosion. Unfortunately, this is not the case for the Subaru Impreza. The brake lines of the Impreza, especially from 2013 to 2015, are reported to leak fluid after getting damaged by rust.
The main cause of rust in cars is usually road salt. The Impreza has a gap in the fuel tank protector, which exposes the brake lines to road salt. Subaru conducted a recall for the 2009 Impreza to solve this problem. They coated the brake lines with an anti-corrosive wax. Coating the brake lines through an auto shop will cost you around $200.
All cars rust, but if you want to slow down the rusting process of your vehicle, then we also recommend regularly washing your vehicle, especially from the underside. The underside of your car is most exposed to road salt, and it is from this area that road salt reaches essential components of your vehicle.
8. Faulty Brake Switch
There have been numerous reports of Impreza’s brake lights not functioning as intended. The brake light would sometimes not switch on, and other times it would blink without even stepping on the brakes. You don’t need us to tell you how big of a safety risk this is.
This issue has been reported in Impreza models from 2008 to 2016. According to Subaru, certain cleaning products end up damaging the brake switch. These products affect the conductivity of the circuit of the brake switch, which then does not function properly. Other than affecting the brake lights, a defective brake switch also impacts the ignition interlock, transmission interlock, EyeSight, anti-lock brakes, etc.
Subaru issued a recall for these models to replace their brake switch. If your Impreza did not fall under the recall and you are facing an issue with the brake switch, then it would help to consult technical service bulletins. The Brake light switch service bulletin with the code TSB 06-55-16R addresses this defect. To solve this problem, Subaru has introduced a new brake switch which costs around $120.
9. Underpowered Brakes
Many 2011 to 2015 Impreza owners feel that the brakes are underpowered for the vehicle. They have reported unusually long braking distances accompanied by poor response from the brake pedal. The previously specified defective brake switch just makes matters worse.
The most crucial automobile safety feature is the brakes. Brakes allow you to slow down instantly or stop, which can prevent major accidents. Poorly maintained and infrequently tested brakes may fail you when you need them most.
We recommend using top-quality braking fluid to improve the fluid response. If you also feel that the brakes are underpowered, then you can opt to replace the brake kits for each side of the car. A single high-quality brake kit costs around $1200. We recommend taking these measures as braking systems are integral to the safety of the driver. Compromising these things will mean that you are compromising on your life.
10. Weakened suspension
When looking to buy second-hand vehicles, you have to be wary of many things. If you are thinking of buying a Subaru Impreza older than 5 years, then make sure to pay special attention to the suspension. The underpowered brakes lead to the suspension taking quite a bit of damage over the years.
The suspension system in your car is a barricade of shock-absorbent parts like dampers and springs. By absorbing the energy from different bumps in the road and other physical shocks, your car’s suspension helps guarantee that your drive is comfortable and safe. Additionally, it increases friction, which aids in keeping your tires in contact with the ground.
When buying the car, make sure to go onto rough and bumpy paths to test out the suspension. Keep an ear out for clicking sounds on rough roads; they indicate an issue with the velocity joints of your car. If the ride is overly bumpy, then the front suspension system needs to be changed.
Impreza’s suspensions are prone to early wear because of a manufacturing defect – owners have reported that the build quality of Impreza’s suspensions is not up to the mark.
Replacing velocity joints will just cost you about $100; however, if you have to replace the front suspension system, it will cost you around $400.
11. Unintended Acceleration
The 2012 Subaru Impreza’s quick steering and AWD CVT (all-wheel drive continuously variable transmission) help it handle smoothly on the road. However, certain units may unexpectedly accelerate as the miles pile up. The 2012 model has the highest likelihood of experiencing issues with an abrupt acceleration of any Impreza model.
Once the Impreza has traveled around 40,000 miles, this problem with rapid acceleration starts to appear. Owners have described sudden increases in speed while idling or driving at modest speeds. Their car suddenly accelerates forward with a loud revving sound from the engine. Many of these drivers were fortunate to stop their cars in time and avoid terrible accidents.
Despite many complaints, Subaru still needs to recognize this huge issue as a problem. No definite solution has been found either. We can only advise you that if you ever face this issue, then combat it as calmly and quickly as possible. Step on the brakes, set the vehicle to neutral, and turn off the engine.
What Is The Worst Year For Subaru Impreza?
The Subaru Impreza is known for handling like a sports car while providing a comfortable ride to its passengers and drivers. However, if you want to buy this vehicle, we suggest staying away from some of the models.
The 4th generation of the Subaru Impreza is riddled with many problems, particularly the 2012 model. This model has been recalled six times, and its issues were relatively severe and expensive to fix. It had problems with the transmission, oil consumption, airbags, brakes, and suspension. Owners of this model made frequent trips to the auto shops and spent quite a bit of their cash trying to solve the problems.
If you intend to opt for the Impreza, we recommend going for the 5th-generation models, specifically the latest 2022 models. As you may have gotten an idea from this article, Subaru listens to its customers often and does its best to fix its prior issues.
His interests in cars, motorcycles, and machines led him to the University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore where he is currently a mechanical engineering sophomore.
His future aims include the development of an energy-efficient prototype vehicle for the Shell Eco-Marathon competition and getting a Master’s Degree in Automotive Engineering from Germany.