By on April 20, 2011

Especially since the Legacy/Outback started ballooning and the Forester got a dealer-demanded homogenization, the Impreza has been my personal favorite Subaru (my significant other owns an ’08 wagon). It may not win any fuel economy contests in its size class, but the weight of its AWD system and grunty 2.5 liter engine make it a solid baby grand tourer compared to its front-drive competitors. But with gas prices now climbing steadily towards “freak-out” levels and competitors lounging on the 40MPG beach, a consistent 26 MPG no longer cuts the mustard. And so the new Impreza will lose its 2.5 liter engine in favor of a 2.0 unit which, along with some weight loss and a CVT will power the new Impreza to a 27/36 MPG EPA rating (25/33 with the manual transmission). Far be it from us to complain about less weight and more fuel economy, but it feels like the Impreza may be giving up some of its niche appeal in search of mainstream acceptance… not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Impreza Product Planner Kenneth Lim tells Autoblog

From the last-gen revamp in 2007, we considered things that kept people from buying the car – that was mostly size and price. We got the basics down with that one, now we added fuel economy and space with this one.

As a result, the Impreza remains the same size, but adds an inch to its wheelbase, freeing up more rear seat space. More importantly, it’s lost 110 lbs, coming in at 2,911 lbs (with manual) compared to 2,700 for a front-drive Corolla. Part of the weight-savings: a 2.3 gallon smaller gas tank, but the Impreza can still manage a 520 mile range.

That new 2.0 engine is DOHC, and puts out 148 HP at 6,200 RPM and  145 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 RPM. For comparison, the outgoing engine made 170 HP at 6,000 rpm and 170 lb-ft at 4,400 RPM. But, according to Autoblog

with the CVT and lighter weight it still gets to 60 miles per hour in 9.8 seconds – a 0.3-second improvement. Not only that, but every passing metric, 50 mph to 70 mph, for instance, is improved.

Speaking of the CVT, it comes with a different AWD system than the manual-equipped model, offering “Active Torque Split AWD with an electronically controlled, continuously variable hydraulic transfer clutch” while the manual model makes do with “a viscous-coupling locking center differential with a 50/50 front/rear split.”

The new Impreza’s styling is the result of an effort to create a stronger family resemblance between Subaru’s models, a goal the brand has long struggled with. As a result, it looks very baby-Legacy-like in sedan form. But like almost everything else in the Impreza’s development, one factor took precedence. Says Lim

The profile of the front, the sharpness everywhere, all this was about fuel economy, with considerations of aesthetics afterward.

Manfully admitted. Meanwhile the interior looks vastly improved from the current model, although we’ll have to see how it feels and sounds at speed before we pass judgment. After all, extreme weight savings often have a nasty way of affecting the interior ambience. Compare, for example, the current Impreza with a main competitor, the Suzuki SX4, and the heavier, torquier Impreza offers the far more market-friendly freeway experience for entry-level AWD shoppers. Will that advantage survive the Impreza’s new diet, downsized engine and economy-oriented variable transmission? Only a road test will tell…

 

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35 Comments on “Subaru Reboots The Impreza...”


  • avatar
    Philosophil

    I’ve always loved the Impreza Wagon, and the latest iteration still looks great. As you say, we’ll have to see how it drives, but it sounds promising enough.
     
    I just wish there was a Canadian dealer closer to where I live.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Looks like Subaru made the right choices for this vehicle.  They simply had to improve fuel economy.

  • avatar
    mjz

    It’s “owned” by Toyota now. You can kiss niche appeal good bye.

  • avatar
    KitaIkki

    The new Impreza is much more desirable than the new Civic also debuting at the NY show.  Especially with the availability of the hatchback.

  • avatar
    KitaIkki

    The new Impreza 2.0L boxer, like its 2.5L mate in the 2011 Forester, is the first 4 cylinder Subaru boxer with timing chain instead of timing belt.

    • 0 avatar
      Banger

      ^ This is good news to folks who have attempted a timing belt change on some Subarus in the garage at home. Not for the unitiated.
       
      I like this new iteration of the Impreza quite a lot more than the last one. The wagon, in particular, is very appealing.

      • 0 avatar
        KitaIkki

        I also like the new location of the oil filter.  It’s now mounted on top of the engine, visible next to the yellow oil filler cap on the right.  If the drain plug is in front of the engine (I hope), then it would be possible to complete an oil change without jacking up the vehicle.  Quite a nice feature for DIYers.

      • 0 avatar
        Advance_92

        So long as they haven’t switched to a torx plug like they use for the transmission fluid.

  • avatar
    srogers

    This is a good move for Subaru.

    Imprezas have never been about looking good, so the old-time styling doesn’t put me off. It was the bad fuel economy that kept from seriously shopping an Impreza, so now my interest is increased.

    • 0 avatar
      DrX

      I assume by “old-time styling” you mean not hideously overstyled like most of the other compact hatches? It’s kind of refreshing to me to see a fairly cleanly styled vehicle in this segment as opposed to alien transit pods such as the Matrix and Mazda3.

  • avatar
    GrandCharles

    I like the two tone interior, my sister in law just got an 2011 hatch and i felt very well planted on the road…might be a contender for the next car…hope the clutch as a little bit more feeling to it, in the 2011, i felt way too light…looking good to me! 

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Not bad, but I can’t see why the manual is getting 3 mpg less than the CVT on the highway.  Is it really that hard to give it a taller 6th gear?

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Sort of.  The CVT lets you have a huge spread and always keeps the engine at it’s most efficient or most powerful point; a manual, shifted by a human, will never be quite as good, and there will be points where the gearing isn’t quite right.
       
      With a CVT, it’s always exactly where it needs to be.
       

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      Also, no clutches or torque converter to waste engine energy.

  • avatar
    joeveto3

    Wow, I like it a lot.  The old Impreza didn’t make a lot of sense.  This one certainly does.  And I’m glad their sticking with the boxer engine and AWD.
     
     
     

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    Love the new sedan’s styling but the hatchback just doesn’t do it for me. All I can think about looking at this picture is Dodge Caliber. Maybe it looks better in person.
     
    Seems like the CVT’s AWD system is contributing to the higher MPG. There is no question higher MPG was mandatory as the current model is so far from class competitive I’m sure it has cost Subaru sales among buyers who don’t require AWD.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    I dunno; the Impreza was an 1.8/2.0L machine for most of the ’90s. It wasn’t until Subaru started hawking them as AWD-only hoonmobiles that the guzzly engines became standard.

  • avatar

    I’m all for the weight loss and mpg gain. In this day and age, the 2,900 is impressive.

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      Indeed, my 05 wagon tipped the inspection scales last week at 3,400 with a full load of fuel and assorted tools and crap in it (don’t know if it included me or not).

  • avatar

    The more things change, the more they stay the same:

    The 1989-1994 Subaru Justy was available with a CVT, 

    My manual 2.2L 1996 Subaru Impreza LX had 135 hp at 5400rpm and 140 ft-lbs. at 4400rpm and was rated at 22 mpg city and 29 mpg hwy. It had a curb weight of about 2700 lbs.

    In 14 years, the Impreza lost .2L but gained 13 horsepower, 5 lb-ft of torque, 200 pounds, and 3-7 mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      gottacook

      Another difference: The ’96 Imprezas had 14-inch wheels; the current design has 16-inch wheels (17″ for the Outback Sport); it’s unknown what the wheel size of the 2012 is. I hope we can soon learn all the dimensional differences between the current 5-door and the 2012 (other than a 1-inch-longer wheelbase).

  • avatar
    DrX

    I like the styling, reminds me a bit of the Protege5. For me, the piss-poor fuel economy was one of the major turnoffs of the last few Impreza generations.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    Does anyone know which AWD system is more reliable (if any), the “Active Torque Split AWD with an electronically controlled, continuously variable hydraulic transfer clutch” of the CVT, or the “viscous-coupling locking center differential with a 50/50 front/rear split” with the manual?

    • 0 avatar
      The Walking Eye

      It’s the same AWD that’s used with CVT in other models, just with fancy wording in there to make it sound more high-tech. The autos have been 60/40 (f/r) for awhile now and the manuals have always been 50/50.

      The reliability is fine either way AFAIA.

      The engineering section at the Canadian Subaru site has the same wording as in the blog post for the AWD mated to the various transmissions:

      http://www.subaru.ca/WebPage.aspx?WebPageID=13778&Range=Outback&ModelYear=2010&WebSiteID=282#1

      Apparently Americans don’t need to know the technical mumbo jumbo. (go take a look at subaru.com’s engineering section, very dumbed down)

      EDIT:

      And now I discover that for some reason the American and Canadian autos have a different split according to some forum discussions. The default in US may be 90/10 for autos. However, I could swear my brother’s Tribeca is not that biased to the front wheels.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Viscous coupling will be more reliable for certain. It will also me much safer since the torque split stays pretty constant leading to more consistent handling in conditions with varying traction surfaces.

  • avatar
    Franken-Subie

    I currently own a 2004 2.5RS w/ 5MT.  I live in a city now and get less than 17mpg on average.  It’s certainly quicker than a Corolla or Civic but that’s not the point of the car.  I really don’t the Big Rig mirrors mounted Prius style but otherwise I’m all for lighter and more efficient.

  • avatar
    peekay

    Took me til now to start to accept the current Impreza’s styling.  It’ll probably take another 5 years before this one starts to look acceptable to me.  Right now, it just looks like a hodgepodge of mismatched styling cues. No flow from one element to another. Reminds me of the Aztek, which suffered from the same affliction.

  • avatar
    KitaIkki

    With a modest investment, Subaru could offer AWD, FWD and RWD variations for all its models (adding/subtracting center diff and half shafts, plus suspension tuning adjustments), for a product lineup unique in the world.  Imagine RWD Legacy and Impreza as “poor men’s BMW 5 and 3 …”

  • avatar
    gessvt

    I like the looks of both of them.  Interior looks nicely sorted, with the possible exception of the door pulls.
    Bring on the WRX.

  • avatar
    GarbageMotorsCo.

    So where is the exhaust outlet on that hatch?

    Electric model? Hmmmmmmmmmm

  • avatar
    KitaIkki

    Thin A-pillar.  Low cowl.  Low belt line.  Lightweight.  Subaru is doing all the right things.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      Ditto.  The low cowl in particular is nice to see again.  The advantage of the boxer engine is you can have a lower hood.  The latest Legacy/Outback have gigantic bulbous hoods and a high cowl which makes no sense to me.


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