Vital Stats

Engine:
2.0L Flat-Four
Power:
148 HP / 145 LB-FT
Transmission:
CVT
Drivetrain:
All-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,009 LBS
Seating:
2+3
Cargo:
52.4 CU FT
MPG:
27 City / 36 HWY
All-Wheel-Drive Stalwart Stays The Course



It was a welcome change of pace to sit through a new car product presentation and not have to listen to company pitchmen repeat the adjective "best-in-class" over and over again. The simple truth is that the all-new 2012 Subaru Impreza doesn't really have best-in-class anything – power, fuel economy, cruising range, cargo capacity or even warranty. The major thing that sets the new Impreza apart from its competition is standard all-wheel drive – a Subaru staple (at least, until the rear-wheel-drive BRZ shows up).

By equipping the Impreza with all-wheel drive as standard kit, Subaru is hoping to achieve one best-in-class mention: drivability. With its brand-new 2.0-liter flat-four engine leading the charge, Subaru aims to offer a solid package that proves to be the most engaging steer in its segment. Besides, if this new car will someday form the basis for the hotter WRX and STI models, it had better be at least somewhat engaging in original recipe guise, right? We headed to the hills of New York and Connecticut to find out.
Let's be honest. Subarus have never really been known for their beauty, and the 2012 Impreza, while an improvement from the previous-generation car, isn't going to win any design contests anytime soon. We'll admit to feeling a little let down by the Impreza's appearance, especially since the Impreza concept car that debuted at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show was such a hot little number.

Still, like we said, this 2012 model is better looking than the car it replaces. The front end adds a bit of aggression with a more angular shape on the headlight surround, and larger fog light housings pushed out to the front corners complement them nicely. The new grille mimics the look that debuted on the 2010 Legacy, and look for it to be Subaru's new corporate face on future models.

2012 Subaru Impreza side view2012 Subaru Impreza front view2012 Subaru Impreza rear view

We spent our day staring at the five-door Impreza Sport, and even though it's the one we'd buy, we can't say that it's leaps and bounds more attractive than the sedan. On the hatchback, the squared-off corners at the rear appear to be more pronounced, and while Subaru says this design was all in the name of improved aerodynamics, we'd still prefer something a bit smoother visually. Rear three-quarter design comparisons to the 2009 Pontiac Vibe are not unwarranted.

In the case of both the sedan and hatchback, Subaru has added more pronounced wheel arches to the Impreza, similar to those on the Legacy. The designers tell us this is to better communicate the car's all-wheel-drive architecture from a styling point of view, and while those arches aren't half bad to look at, they really only work with larger wheel and tire packages. The 17-inch dark alloy wheels wrapped in 205/50-series rubber on our test car, for example, are pretty handsome and fill out those large wells nicely.

The new Impreza isn't any longer or wider than the model it replaces, but it rides on a wheelbase that's been lengthened by one inch. Subaru says this accounts for an additional two inches of rear legroom, meaning there's 35.4 inches of overall leg space for rear seat passengers – the same as the capacious Chevrolet Cruze. The biggest change we noticed about the interior is how spacious it feels from the front seats. A relatively low beltline means you won't have that sunk-in-the-bathtub feeling that's becoming so popular on new cars these days, and with small changes like having the side mirrors attached to the doors rather than the A-pillars, visibility from the driver's seat is superb. Even your author, at five-feet, seven-inches, had no trouble getting a commanding view of the road with the driver's seat in its lowest height position.

2012 Subaru Impreza headlight2012 Subaru Impreza grille2012 Subaru Impreza wheel2012 Subaru Impreza taillight

What we like the best about the Impreza's interior is how clean and simple it is, from the dashboard to the center stack to the radio head unit. Even cars equipped with navigation use a simple layout, free of excess buttons and knobs and toggle switches. The instrument cluster is clean and well-organized, and the steering wheel's controls are nicely laid out and easy to learn. Study them once, and you won't need to keep glancing down to figure out what controls what.

Frequent cargo-shleppers will appreciate the capaciousness of the five-door Impreza, with 52.4 cubic feet of usable space available with the rear seats folded. That's an improvement of exactly eight cubic feet versus the 2011 model, and 7.6 cubic feet versus the 2012 Ford Focus five-door. There are plenty of other cubbies and compartments throughout the rest of the interior, and the Subaru folks tell us that there's even room up front to house 38 compact discs... if that's still your thing.

Overall, the 2012 Impreza's interior is where we see the largest improvement in quality. The cabin is simple and refined from a design standpoint, while feeling very grown up and not as gimmicky as other cars in the segment (*cough* Focus *cough*). Subaru has added a smattering of soft-touch materials to the dashboard and doors, and while they're nice, the Cruze's interior still feels more sophisticated and refined (the same goes for the Focus, if we're being honest). Little things like the climate control dials still feel cheap in the Impreza, as does the plastic material on the steering wheel, even on the uplevel leather-laden Limited trim.

2012 Subaru Impreza interior2012 Subaru Impreza front seats2012 Subaru Impreza rear seats2012 Subaru Impreza rear cargo area

The only engine available for 2012 is Subaru's all-new 2.0-liter boxer flat-four, good for 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. Oddly, those figures represent a loss of 22 hp and 25 lb-ft versus the outgoing 2.5-liter engine, but because the new Impreza is lighter – up to 110 pounds, depending on the trim – Subaru says that the 2012 model is actually quicker off the line, which we chalk up to the 'gearing' of the new continuously variable transmission or the throttle tuning. Both a CVT and five-speed manual transmission are available, but the continuously variable unit is the only transmission offered on Limited models. The CVT used in the Impreza isn't the same one found in the Legacy and Outback, and officials tell us it has been tuned for specific integration with this new 2.0-liter engine.

Of course, we can't talk about the Impreza without mentioning the WRX, and while a new 'Rex isn't planned for the immediate future, the rally-bred hotness is coming in just a few years. This 2.0-liter engine may be optimized for naturally aspirated use, but as Subaru's director of communications Michael McHale told us, Subaru "will always be a turbo company," and we can look for a forced-induction version of this engine to produce somewhere around 270 horses. Consider us on the edge of our seats.

While this engine has allegedly been tuned for better low-end and mid-range torque, the full 145 lb-ft isn't delivered until 4,200 rpm. We only had the chance to drive CVT-equipped Imprezas during our time in New England, and as you'd expect, the transmission doesn't really behave any differently than comparable units from other automakers. The transmission quickly revs up to about 4,000 RPM, holds there, and tapers off as you reach your desired cruising speed. No, the Impreza isn't a slug off the line, but there were times on uphill climbs where we really would have appreciated some extra grunt down low. CVT-equipped cars come with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters with six 'gears' to choose from. We played with this, and no matter what preset ratio you select, mash the throttle and the engine will just spin up to about 4,000 RPM. It's pretty pointless, if you ask us.

2012 Subaru Impreza engine

We talked to folks who were able to drive cars equipped with the manual transmission, and we didn't hear great things here, either. Primarily, the problem with low-end power is even more glaring when you're rowing the gears yourself. "Lots of downshifting," a fellow journalist told us. We'll wait to pass final judgment until we get behind the wheel of a self-stirrer, but this was discouraging news.

Lower weight and lower power has improved overall economy, though, and even with all-wheel drive, the Impreza can achieve up to 36 miles per gallon on the highway. That makes it the most efficient all-wheel-drive vehicle on the market – that's some sort of "best-in-class" statement, right? With the manual transmission, the Impreza nets 25/34 mpg city/highway (in the sedan – the hatch's highway number drops to 33 mpg with the manual box). That isn't quite the magic 40 mpg number that Ford, Hyundai and Chevrolet all manage to achieve, but 36 mpg isn't anything to sneeze at, especially with an extra pair of driven wheels.

But with less power and a slushy CVT, is the new model just as good as the 2011 model when the roads start to get interesting?

2012 Subaru Impreza paddle shifter2012 Subaru Impreza shifter

The Impreza uses a MacPherson strut and lower L-arm front suspension with a double-wishbone setup out back. Combined with Subaru's Symmetrical AWD system, the Impreza is nicely balanced on all road surfaces. The suspension is never crashy and provides a comfortable ride quality without feeling wafty. Having power sent to all four wheels inspires confidence from behind the wheel, and while it's no sports car, the Impreza feels genuinely reassuring while being tossed about, even on wet surfaces.

A new electric power steering system has been applied for 2012, accounting for a marginal gain in overall fuel economy. And while many of these systems give off a feeling of false involvement and can feel twitchy, the Subaru unit is linear and direct, with good on-center feel.

For our shekels, the current fun-to-drive champ in this segment is still the Mazda3, and while we'd have to drive the two cars back-to-back to pick a winner, at least on these roads, the Subaru felt just as engaging as we remember from the Mazda. Yes, we'd like some more power down low, and we're not in love with the CVT, but in terms of suspension refinement, the Subaru is top notch. All-in, the Impreza is a solid steer, and from behind the wheel, it feels more refined than many of its competitors, particularly the Honda Civic and Volkswagen Jetta.

2012 Subaru Impreza rear 3/4 view

Despite all the changes, pricing for the 2012 Impreza hasn't changed from 2011 – the base, four-door car starts at $17,495 (plus $750 for destination), with the five-door commanding an additional $500. Three trim levels are available – base, Premium and Limited – and at the top of the range, the Impreza Sport Limited with CVT stickers at $22,595.

The Impreza has never been a sales superstar, with Subaru's Outback, Legacy and Forester models all posting higher sales numbers throughout 2011. Yes, the current car is at the end of its lifecycle, but even so, we don't expect the 2012 model to set sales charts on fire like Volkswagen's new, lower-priced Jetta or the surprising Chevrolet Cruze. What Subaru has done here is create a new Impreza that offers more refinement, better economy and modestly improved styling over the car it replaces.

As for being the most fun-to-drive car in its class, the Impreza might not be our first pick, but it's in the hunt. Current Impreza owners should really like this new car, and C-segment shoppers would be wise to give the Subie a look, especially those who live in the Snow Belt. It may not offer best-in-class efficiency, technology, power, or beauty, but all in, the Impreza is a solid offering with some of the best road manners in its class.

Now, about that WRX...


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 142 Comments
      RCheung28
      • 3 Years Ago
      These were one of the vehicles that I think it's ugly upon release, but I'm starting to like the new styling, good job Subaru!!
        Dean
        • 3 Years Ago
        @RCheung28
        Subaru seems to have 'Love-it-or-Hate-it' styling, there doesn't seem to be much middle-ground when it comes to opinions about these cars. It can take a while for the car to grow on you though...
      Soul Shinobi
      • 3 Years Ago
      "Besides, if this new car will someday form the basis for the hotter WRX and STI models, it had better be at least somewhat engaging in original recipe guise, right?" No. If you recall, a Subaru engineer said this Impreza chassis was made to separate it from the WRX/STI line. Previous Imprezas were too expensive to make because some parts were overbuilt to facilitate things the turbocharged models needed. The next WRX and STI will use a different platform.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Soul Shinobi
        [blocked]
      Felipe Politano
      • 3 Years Ago
      Really, am I the only one here who thinks this design looks AT LEAST 5 years old? Come on, this thing is on par with the Dodge Caliber and the Pontiac Vibe. How flattering is that?
        LUSTSTANG S-197
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Felipe Politano
        Subarus were never really meant to be "pretty". Their designs have always put function ahead of form. That said, I would like to see one in sedan form before I make a final judgement, but it looks better than the current one so far.
        Felipe Politano
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Felipe Politano
        I know it is supposed to be a riot to drive and has the all wheel drive system going for it... but it won't make it pretty!
      Justin Campanale
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm glad that they made these changes. 36 mpg for an AWD vehicle is absolutely amazing! That interior is leaps and bounds ahead of what is in the current Impreza. Overall very nice car that I would consider if I was in the market. My rankings for small cars: 1/2 either way '12 Mazda3 or Golf ( drive these cars and you will know why.) 3/4 either way Focus/Verano 5/6/7 Cruze/Elantra/2012 Impreza 8 Forte 9/10 either way Jetta/SX4 11 Civic 12 xD 13 Lancer 14/15 Corolla/Sentra 15 Caliber
        Justin Campanale
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Justin Campanale
        The Caliber should be in 16th place Edit button is still waiting, AB.
        EB110Americana
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Justin Campanale
        I'd rank it like this (excluding the Verano as you cannot drive one, so it's not possible to rate): 1) Cruze (good handling, best ride, nice interior, efficient) 2) Focus (great handling, youthful sporty interior, efficient) 3) Civic (well rounded performer, but falling behind in style) 4) Elantra (good numbers, efficient, harsh ride, slow noisy engine) 5) Impreza 6) Corolla 7) Mazda3 (fun, but poor interior, poor fuel economy) 8) Forte 9) xD 10) Lancer 11) SX4 12) Sentra 13) Golf (fun, nice, but not reliable) 14) Jetta (fun, but not reliable) 20) Caliber
          EB110Americana
          • 3 Years Ago
          @EB110Americana
          1) VW consistently ranks at the bottom of reliability tests (especially long-term, not initial). I've worked as a mechanic for some time; I know what I am talking about. I regularly see fairly new VWs with smoking exhaust, burnt out lights, and even being towed back to the dealership with dealer plates still on them (I live just down the street to a VW dealer). VWs more than 5-10 years old are in such horrible shape by that point, they're almost worthless. Interior parts start to fall apart, windows and other things stop working, and the mechanical problems are unending and expensive. Supposedly VW has improved, but until I see long term evidence of this, they are at the bottom of the list. If you want to buy one, that's your loss. 2) Mazda 3, even in top-of-the-line Mazaspeed 3 guise, has a lousy interior with plastic-everything and seats patterns that look like they were chosen by my baby sister: http://www.netcarshow.com/mazda/2010-3_mps/1280x960/wallpaper_72.htm http://www.netcarshow.com/mazda/2010-3_mps/1280x960/wallpaper_55.htm On top of that, it only gets 33mpg highway which is lousy for a compact--and that's with the wimpy base 2.0L engine! If you opt for the fun 2.5L mill, it maxes out at 28-29mpg which is only 2mpg better than a Corvette...which has a 430-436 horsepower V8. (Go for the Mazdaspeed 3 and you're down to 25mpg highway.) Yeah, the new engine is supposed to get 40mpg, but that is in the future and we cannot attest to that vehicle yet. Nor can you buy one. 3) Have you driven an Elantra? I have. On separate occasions I was able to drive one on an autocross testing course (complete with simulated potholes and speed bumps) and on public roads, freeway, and through a large parking lot. On the road coarse, I compared it back-to-back with the Civic, Corolla, and Cruze. If you don't believe me about the engine, try revving it above 3-4K and accelerating. It is extremely coarse and it will not move swiftly unless you flog it to these RPMs. On smooth roads, the Elantra is a decent ride, but over the simulated potholes, it bounces its occupants around harshly and the interior makes more noise than its competitors. Compared to the Elantra, the Cruze barely acknowledged that the potholes were even there. Even the sporty Honda was smoother. 4) The Corolla is in the middle of the pack. It has 132hp, 34-35 mpg highway, slightly-dinged-but-still-decent-Toyota-reliability, good resale. It doesn't pretend to be a sports car, but it is a competent long distance cruiser. There's a reason they sell so many of them. It's an appliance, but it makes toast. Reliably.
      Dean
      • 3 Years Ago
      For those of you who hate the car so much, and are going to knock it for its looks, would you mind elaborating WHY you dislike the car so much? I'm curious to know what you all think other than the 'looks like a turd' comment that inevitably comes up on this & other posts.
        Hazdaz
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Dean
        Well don't you know... styling is the ONE and ONLY consideration for any car. Duh! /s Subarus have never been gorgeous (even the GC8), but thankfully they have way more positive qualities than just looks to go by. The annoying thing is that Subaru CAN design a great looking car - the Impreza Concept from last year was a legitimately great looking car and instead of basing the looks of this production Impreza on that, it they, as usual, fubar'ed it. I think that is where some of the frustration from Subaru loyalists is coming from.
        cashsixeight
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Dean
        I hate it because they had the GC8, which was the PERFECT, pinnacle of Subaru styling. It looked great, and instead of gradually evolving a clearly winning formula ( cough 911), they threw it out and have just gone insane ever since. After the GC8 they gave us the Neon-Esque WRX to which the world sighed a collective, "WTF at least it's fast!" then they had a fairly attractive but bland 04 era, followed by a bizzare aeronautical themed "ring" grill (06-07 I think), then they just got completely awful looking. They created a bland camry sebring awful looking turd of a car, then after that went all decepticon battling the autobots look (current model). WHY!? Why why why why? The GC8 still looks timeless, still looks attractive, and hasn't aged nearly as badly as the bugeye or anything after it.
          bonehead
          • 3 Years Ago
          @cashsixeight
          I disagree. I think the bugeye is by far the best looking of the WRX. All the others are easily mistaken for other economy cars. With the 2002 the lights are porsche 911 ish, the hood is taller on the sides than in the middle which made the hood scoop placement look proper. The car had real rally looking fog lights instead of these tiny little circles that look nothing like a rally car. And the wheel wells were properly swollen. That car looked unique and agressive especially in European guise. Subaru should go back to that styling, making the car look like a rally car. Giant round fog lights, huge swollen wheel wells, big but not awkward scoops and spoilers.
          ravenosa
          • 3 Years Ago
          @cashsixeight
          Copy/paster. The peanut-eye is ugly as sin, easily the ugliest car Subie has ever produced. Bugeye FTW...
          bonehead
          • 3 Years Ago
          @cashsixeight
          The GC8 has some positive qualities to it and was a good looking car but i still prefer the look of the bug eye. When i see a GC8 i think it looks too much like an older carolla like this one http://carphotos.cardomain.com/ride_images/1/2661/161/6650080001_medium.jpg I much prefer this WRX look http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v317/youthnausea/wrx.jpg although i wish we had the europe lights and grill
          cashsixeight
          • 3 Years Ago
          @cashsixeight
          Anybody who thinks a bugeye is MORE ATTRACTIVE than a GC8 needs to have their eyeballs gouged out. Or you already did. I love how "unique" bugeyes look, and I like how they differentiated themselves from every other car on the road, but it was NOT because they were attractive. Look at this photo, and tell me a bugeye looks better, and you will be lying: http://photos-c.ak.facebook.com/photos-ak-sf2p/v96/126/83/35700188/n35700188_30332922_9644.jpg
        lemonite
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Dean
        I have no problems with the overall look, it's nothing to write home about, but it's not repulsive. What irks me is the blocky styling in the rear. The outgoing hatch is has nice, smooth transitions where the shape flows nicely in the back, and I like the lights. The new one is too blocky in the end and something about the lights rubs me the wrong way (shape?). Still, at this price, I'll still consider this as an excellent recreational vehicle against the Mazda3.
      masonperegrine
      • 3 Years Ago
      Could the back seats look any cheaper? It's like they didn't even try.
      Awjvail
      • 3 Years Ago
      I love everything about this car.. EXCEPT the rear end. It looks insanely outdated - reminds me a bit of the Dodge Caliber.
      getoffmylawn
      • 3 Years Ago
      wish my oil filter was that easy to get at
      emperor koku
      • 3 Years Ago
      Well, living in Colorado, I'm sure these will sell like hotcakes and I'll see them everywhere. Especially with the new fuel economy. Just keep it AWD and people here are sold.
        ryan
        • 3 Years Ago
        @emperor koku
        wrx/sti are every kids wet dream in colorado. I cant belive how many teens a see with them.
      fadin3
      • 3 Years Ago
      Thinking of trading in our 2010 Legacy. I wanted an Impreza in the first place, but didn't like the previous gen.
      Zeer
      • 3 Years Ago
      While the new Impreza isn't the most attractive vehicle in its segment, it certainly isn't the least. Where the previous iteration was soft and disproportionate, the new model is edgy and athletic. My only styling complaint is the 5-Door's new taillights, which do nothing to complement the Impreza's new design language. The 4-Door Impreza (which some have appeared to have dismissed,) is far better looking than its hatchback counterpart, and certainly is the model of choice for those who prefer styling over utility. http://www.netcarshow.com/subaru/2012-impreza/1280x960/wallpaper_02.htm
        gary
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Zeer
        You are exactly right. I have seen both up close and personal. While I generally prefer hatchbacks, I found the sedan to be the more handsome of the two.
      alakai
      • 3 Years Ago
      "The new grille mimics the look that debuted on the 2010 Legacy, and look for it to be Subaru's new corporate face on future models." With the headlight bumper cutouts, it looks more like the previous gen Legacy front than the current model. At a quick glance, it looked a lot like my same color LGT. Still looks a bit awkward, but a huge improvement over the last look.
        joejoe509
        • 3 Years Ago
        @alakai
        Agreed. Looks a lot like my '08 Outback with a little '06-'07 Impreza Hawkeye thrown in there. :-)
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