I tested the base model Impreza 2.5i - car does handle fine - can dart around with good transitions - easy to find the limit, if you have the guts to do it.
Compared to the Jetta, the visibility in the Impreza 2.5i is outstanding, especially out the front. Easy to back up too.
No problems so far (I bought the Impreza). This is more based on word of mouth than experience - I know friends who have 200,000+ miles, so durability is certainly achievable in this car.