For years there have been some big “buts” justifying the purchase of a new Subaru Impreza. “Yes, I know it’s ugly, but
it’s really fun to drive,” or “No, it doesn’t get great fuel economy, but
that’s the price you pay for all-wheel drive
,” were among the common refrains. With the all-new 2012 Impreza, Subaru believes it’s finally eliminated the buts.
Subaru officials said fuel economy and looks were customers’ two biggest complaints about the last generation car, which despite the gripes was the best-selling Impreza ever, so engineers and designers went all out to make the new 2012 Impreza more fuel efficient and attractive than the outgoing model.
One of the keys to increasing fuel efficiency is the old maxim of adding lightness, and the top-of-the-line, fully loaded, CVT-equipped 2.0i Limited sedan we tested was 63 pounds lighter than the outgoing model, while the five-speed manual 2.0i Premium five-door we also tested was an even more impressive 211 pounds lighter. The lighter weight helped the Impreza five-door manual score an EPA rating of 25/34 mpg city/highway, while the CVT-equipped four-door netted 27/36 mpg city/highway. Our real-world driving reflected those ratings. (By comparison, the last Impreza was rated at 20/26-27 mpg, depending on whether you opted for the four-speed slushbox or five-speed manual.) It all adds up to the most fuel efficient all-wheel drive vehicle in America.
While reducing heft certainly helped boost mpg, the Impreza’s new 2.0-liter F-4 was the linchpin to improving the car’s overall efficiency. Codenamed FB20, the new engine is not only down 500cc from the outgoing 2.5-liter EJ-series engine, but it’s down on power, too. The updated boxer four produces 148 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque compared to the outgoing engine’s 170 hp and 170 lb-ft. Don’t turn on your caps lock to express your E-anger just yet. Yes, the new engine is down on power, but the new Impreza is actually quicker than the outgoing car in all measurements.
The last Impreza we tested back in 2007 was a four-speed automatic. That Subie took 9.5 seconds to hit 60 mph from a standstill and 17.2 seconds to complete the quarter mile at 81.1 mph. The 2012 Impreza 2.0i Limited did 0-60 mph in 9.4 seconds and the quarter mile in 17.2 seconds at 81.9 mph. OK, if the Limited was only a tenth of a second quicker to 60 mph, and tied the old model at the strip, what about the hatch? It was a lot quicker. The five-door was a second-and-a-half faster to 60 mph, taking just 8.0 seconds for the feat. It crossed the quarter mile earlier as well; our manual 2012 tester took 16.2 seconds at 84.0 mph.
Handling is also improved. The five-door Impreza 2.0i Premium took 28.3 seconds at 0.59 g to round our figure eight, while its four-door sibling surprisingly did the same feat faster, taking 28.1 seconds at 0.59 g. The last Impreza we tested did the figure eight in 28.6 seconds at 0.58 g. Our test team reported the 2012 Imprezas had a tendency to understeer, but the steering feel made for great fun when really pushed — much to the chagrin of the eco-minded tires.
While it’s quicker, the new Impreza didn’t exactly record blistering numbers. That said, it’s got a sort-of X-factor not directly expressed by those figures — it’s a blast to drive. “Push it,” a Subaru rep told us. “It can take it.” He was absolutely right. No, the Impreza isn’t fast, but it feels fast. After pushing the Impreza on the canyon roads of Los Angeles and the backwoods of Connecticut, I couldn’t help but walk away with a big, stupid grin on my face. This is the type of car that’s just as at home in the crowded streets of New York as it is on the unpaved, rutted-out two-tracks of rural Massachusetts.
One of the main contributors to the fun is Subaru’s aforementioned new boxer engine. This four-banger really likes to rev when paired with the manual. Oblige, and you’ll be repaid with Subaru’s signature boxer growl as you snip crisply and easily through the gears. The 148-hp engine is enough to get you going – it could use more torque (what engine couldn’t?) — but that and much more will no doubt be addressed with the WRX and STI versions.
As for the rest of the package, Subaru stiffened the chassis on the new Impreza for a sportier feel, and it paid off in spades. Combine that with a sharp handling feel and all-wheel drive and you’ve got yourself a pretty tossable car. After I took a sharp U-shaped corner during testing, one photographer came up to me and said, “You were hauling ass!” I hadn’t even realized it. The little Subie was just so composed that I didn’t notice I had taken the corner 20-mph faster than the other cars. I consistently found myself pushing the Impreza harder and harder into the corners. With all that grip and a sporty chassis it was endless fun. The Subaru’s sole weak point was its eco-themed tires; during hard cornering they groaned and squealed like a scolded child. Nothing some stickier rubber couldn’t fix.
The CVT-equipped Impreza was equally at home on the twisties. Everything its hatchback sibling could do on the back roads, the four-door could do just as well. While the enthusiast’s choice is going to be the manual-equipped hatch, buyers who opt for the CVT aren’t going to feel like they’re missing out.
Subaru’s second generation Lineartronic CVT is arguably one of the best in the business. It does a remarkable job of not feeling like a lifeless elastic rubber band, as many other CVTs do. Half of that has to do with the engine it’s mated to, and the other half to how the transmission was engineered. Unlike in many CVTs, Subaru engineers decided to forgo the rubber belt, instead replacing it with a metal one. The result is a transmission that feels less elastic and more linear, like a traditional automatic.
Remember the second thing Subaru needed to improve upon? Granted, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it doesn’t take someone with a modern art degree to determine the 2012 Impreza looks pretty good in both four and five-door form. Compared to the dopey-looking last-gen Impreza, the new car is downright handsome.
The interior is also a vast improvement, even though the cheap-looking digital trip computer on top of the center stack survived the update. Aside from the easily washed-out GPS screen, the interior is functional and somewhat stylish. It’s a nice place to be, especially in the leather-bathed 2.0i Limited trim. During the Impreza’s New York introduction, Subaru made sure to note that unlike some of its competitors, it didn’t reduce the use of soft plastics in the car. Were there hard plastics? Sure, but most important, the pieces that needed to be soft touch were.
The only real interior letdown in our pre-production five-door 2.0i Premium tester was the shift knob and steering wheel. Both were made out of cheap-looking (and feeling) black rubber that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the last-gen Impreza. The CVT-equipped 2.0i Premium sedan we drove at the Impreza’s official press introduction didn’t suffer from the cheap-feeling (and looking) rubber, so for all we know the “issue” may be resolved by the time they hit Subaru showrooms in November.
So the 2012 Subaru Impreza is faster, more efficient, and better looking – surely it’s more expensive to boot? Well, it’s not (and don’t call me Shirley). Subaru made it a point to keep the pricing at exactly the same levels as the old model. That means a new 2012 Impreza will set buyers back anywhere from $18,245 for a four-door, five-speed 2.0i to $23,645 for a CVT-equipped 2.0i Sport Limited PZEV. Our Impreza 2.0i Premium tester had one option (the all-weather package) and came in at $20,545. Our four-door Impreza 2.0i Limited, on the other hand, came equipped with the Moonroof and Navigation System option, and rang the register at $24,345. Not bad for a fun-to-drive all-wheel-drive ride.
At the end of the day, the new Impreza brings a lot to the crowded compact segment. Is it a game-changer? Probably not, but, without a doubt, the new Impreza is a more attractive, fuel efficient, fun-to-drive, and versatile car that should finally stand out for more than just having all-wheel drive.
Read more: http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/sedans/1109_2012_subaru_impreza_premium_and_limited_first_test/viewall.html#ixzz1ZlsH38B4
Read more: http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/sedans/1109_2012_subaru_impreza_premium_and_limited_first_test/viewall.html#ixzz1ZlruhCEh