By George Polgar

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Even by the standard of the generally robust six-year recovery of the auto industry, Subaru is an incredible success story. While virtually all other car companies were in retreat during the economic crisis, Subaru continued to post sales increases and has tripled its sales in the U.S. to 600,000 units in just eight years — on track to break 800,000 by 2020.

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This is impressive because Subaru has been small but respected niche player in the U.S. for nearly 50 years, with a reputation for strong value, reliability and safety. Much of the sales run up in recent years was based on the well-received updates on the popular Forestor and Outback models.

But the new 2017 entry level Subaru Impreza is breaking new ground, showing off a new global architecture which is a shared, modified platform system which will be the basis of all future Subaru models, including a new SUV crossover in the works.

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Though the new Impreza gets a modest power boost to 152 horsepower, it maintains strong 28 city/38 highway mpg stats. And very significantly for this segment, the new Impreza improves on an already impressive IIHS safety rating with a crash energy absorption increase by 40 percent and the optional EyeSight driver assist emergency stopping technology.

Most importantly, the styling and driving experience of the Impreza have really been stepped up to attract new younger customers.

The new Impreza has sophisticated new look, with more amenities and tech features, and whole different driving experience, much more substantial and more sporty, with the All Wheel Drive system pioneered by Subaru.

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And for consumers, the Impreza base price of under $19,000 and fully loaded price of about $30,000, is pretty attractive as car prices in general are rising at a record rate.