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2012 Subaru Impreza

Posted Dec 15th 2011 11:57AM

Going Mainstream With The Beauty Of All-Wheel-Drive

2012 Subaru Impreza

Subaru found itself in an interesting position when the auto market imploded back in 2009. While most manufacturers were busily darting about trying to stop their sales from bleeding out, the quirky Japanese automaker actually posted gains in both market share and earnings during the recession.

It was a dark time for most dealers. Salesmen began eying the fairest compacts on their lot for sacrifice in an attempt to appease the sales gods that had abandoned them, and showrooms began devolving into tribal law in earnest. Meanwhile, Subaru dealers watched through gold-rimmed monocles from across the street with a mixture of curiosity and amusement.

But what happens when the national financial ship rights itself and social order is restored once again? Will buyers still shun emblems of excess and continue to opt for rough-riding, economy-minded Japanese all-whee-drive wagons and compacts? If the 2012 Subaru Impreza is any indication, the company may be concerned its products aren't quite mainstream enough to retain conquests acquired through the dark days of '09. The 2012 Impreza is more comfortable, quieter and offers a more attractive interior than ever before, but those gains come with sacrifices that may alienate the model's long-time fans, ourselves included.

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

For better or worse, Subaru has held onto the company's tradition of embracing unconventional styling. We've never loved the automaker's products because of their bodywork, and the 2012 Impreza sedan isn't out to buck that trend. Designers have blessed the four door with an aggressive face that's far from anonymous. Large, scowling headlamps lie beneath a nicely contoured hood and are split by an attractive hexagonal grille. The front fascia features a large lower air inlet with sizable fog light bezels set far toward each corner. And speaking of corners, engineers have rolled in the squared-off aero edges popularized by hybrid models like the Toyota Prius, Chevrolet Volt and Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.

From the front, the 2012 Impreza looks more like a baby Legacy than an anonymous compact. Unfortunately, that impression wanes as soon as the vehicle is viewed from the side. From profile, the 2011 Impreza simply looks awkward, particularly in sedan guise. Individual elements like a strong character line that transitions seamlessly into the tail lights and expressive, exaggerated fender arches look good when taken individually, but make for a muddled finished product when combined. There's simply too much going on here for the sedan to be considered clean. Combine those issues with the standard 16-inch alloy wheels on our 2.0 Limited tester and a tall ride height, and you have a perfect recipe for awkward pie.

Whereas compacts like the Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze serve up sheetmetal that looks either more stylish or more mature than we've come to expect from the segment, Subaru seems committed to the unpleasantness of bygone compact design. But, being the generous folk we are, we're willing to chalk up the sedan's questionable lines as par for the course from a company responsible for the likes of the curious SVX and infamous Tribeca. Ugly is as Subaru does.

2012 Subaru Impreza headlight2012 Subaru Impreza logo2012 Subaru Impreza wheel2012 Subaru Impreza taillight

We've been quick to rail on the Japanese automaker for building interiors well behind the curve in the past, and it appears Subaru has finally moved to cure that ail. The 2011 Impreza now features a vastly improved material selection inside. The driver gets to enjoy a three-spoke, multi-function steering wheel, and our 2.0 Limited tester came equipped with a very attractive two-tone interior. The dash is covered in squeak-fighting soft-touch materials, and while the centre stack isn't anything we'd consider beautiful, the controls are logically organized and easy to manipulate. Perhaps the easiest place to see an improvement is the vehicle's front door panels. The pieces have been a wasteland of hard plastic in the past, but with soft touch uppers, well-grained plastics and cloth inserts, the panels now use a multitude of materials to improve the overall feel of the cabin. On the whole, the interior is a massive improvement, though it's a bit sober and lacks cutting-edge infotainment options.

Fortunately, Subaru has also worked to make the 2011 Impreza more accomodating inside. Engineers stretched the vehicle's wheelbase by 25 mm, and thanks to some clever packaging, rear passengers are now treated to 51 mm of additional leg room over the outgoing model. That's partially due to new scalloped front seat backs that provide space for knobby knees. Even with the extra space, the 899 mm (35.4 inches) of rear leg room in the Impreza just ties that available in the Chevrolet Cruze and still falls to the 919 mm (36.2 inches) available in the segment-conquering Honda Civic.

Speaking of those front seats, Subaru redesigned the buckets for long-term comfort, and there's more lumbar support available than in the past. Even the base Impreza is now packed with convenience features, including power windows, locks and side-view mirrors as well as keyless entry.

2012 Subaru Impreza interior2012 Subaru Impreza front seats2012 Subaru Impreza door2012 Subaru Impreza rear seats

But if there's a reason to get excited about the 2012 Subaru Impreza, it's under the vehicle's hood. The four-door packs an all-new, dual-overhead cam naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre four-cylinder good for 5.5 L/100 km on the highway. If that seems high for the compact segment, it pays to keep in mind that this is the only vehicle in the class that comes with all-wheel drive as standard equipment. And, if a little perspective helps, the previous-generation Impreza managed to drag home a pathetic 11.8 L/100 km city and 8.7 L/100 km on the highway. In 2011. Those numbers were bested even by the likes of the Honda CR-V.

But that was then. Now, the 2012 Impreza is good for 7.5 L/100 km in the city. That's a massive step up, and during our time with the vehicle, we saw an honest 7.5 L/100 km combined. We know previous-generation Impreza owners who would perform all sorts of sinister acts to milk that kind of fuel economy from their thirsty boxer fours. Of course, those numbers come with a sacrifice. At 148 horsepower, the new 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine produces 22 less horsepower than the old 2.5-litre single-overhead cam lump. The story isn't much better when it comes to torque, with the 2012 model delivering 145 pound-feet to the 2011 version's 170 pound-feet.

2012 Subaru Impreza engine

Our tester was fitted with Subaru's optional automatic transmission, which is optional above the standard five-speed manual transmission which is included. The drivetrain features their tried-and-true continuous all-wheel-drive system that us Canadians have come to know and love, especially with our harsher winter in the Great White North. The AWD system comes complete with a viscous coupling locking centre differential. With this technology embedded, it is impressive that we were able to net 7.5 L/100 km combined - it makes us wonder what we could coax from the standard five-speed manual transmission.

2012 Subaru Impreza rear 3/4 view

So, how does it drive? Subaru says that it has worked to improve the vehicle's noise, vibration and harshness with tricks like hydraulic engine mounts, and it's true that this is probably the quietest boxer from Subaru we've had the pleasure of not hearing for years. That's particularly impressive given that the company abandoned the typical quiet timing belt in favour of a more durable, but characteristically louder timing chain. By and large, the whole cabin does seem quieter, but the company's engineers seem to have created a much softer suspension to go along with the decrease in decibels. The cabin simply feels tippy under any sort of hustling. Interestingly enough, our tester came loaded with a larger rear stabilizer bar than the base model, so we can only assume that our tester was sharper than the entry four-door.

Subaru has effectively excised any of the light-footed precision of the previous-generation Impreza with the 2012 model, and that's sure to be a disappointment for fans of the company's fun-to-drive persona. Still, a quieter, larger, more comfortable and more efficient Impreza that provides all-wheel drive can't help but resonate with buyers looking for a solid commuter.

Our tester came saddled with an MSRP of $25,895, which is fair given the vehicle's capabilities. Even so, we have to imagine we could find more playful or more comfortable ways to get around town in other competitors with the help of a set of snow tires.

Related Gallery2012 Subaru Impreza: Review

Image Credit: Copyright 2011 Zach Bowman / AOL


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Aidan Dare

50/50 for mt and 60/40 for CVT is what you meant.... what you said, DEAD WRONG. don't talk about things you know nothing about. goof

December 21 2011 at 1:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Aidan Dare

wow, all of a sudden I don't trust a word autoblog says anymore after this review. If Zach Bowman actually did his homework, he'd know that the CVT impreza IS a full time AWD and the first thing i noticed afdter driving the impreza is how I even though I know its CVT, it was so resposive I couldn't even tell (which is not suprising from a company thats bein doing CVT since the 70's). And this is comin from a guy who has sold every brand of CVT out there. Nissan, Dodge, yatty yatta... I'm buying this car as soon as I can. Way to drop the ball ZACH! pfff.... Did you even drive the car?

December 21 2011 at 11:17 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Thomas, you're compliment is almost useless, if you thought it was a nice review, you clearly are also very misinformed. Reading too many autoblog reviews probably!!!

December 21 2011 at 11:13 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

What a joke. Subaru has had full-time all wheel drive for how long now!!!!! I Don't know what planet you were on and what car you were driving but all the imprezas are full time. AUTOBLOG HATES SUBARU!!

December 21 2011 at 11:11 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Thomas Carrier

Hello, nice review but you mention the 2011 Impreza a few times... while you're reviewing the 2012 model.

December 16 2011 at 3:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply