The Truth About Cars » subaru impreza The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:29:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » subaru impreza Subaru Adds Impreza To U.S Plant Wed, 08 May 2013 11:00:10 +0000 Impreza-side-450x337

Subaru is set to expand capacity at its Indiana plant by 100,000 units, adding the Impreza alongside the Legacy, Outback and Tribeca to help fill demand for its vehicles in the United States. Automotive News is reporting that Impreza’s built at the plant will be sold domestically.

The Japanese-built Impreza will be a welcome addition to the plant, which will serve to further isolate Subaru from things like currency fluctuations and parts shortages. The long rumored expansion will not affect production of TTAC’s favorite punching bag, the Toyota Camry.

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Review: 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek (Video) Mon, 18 Mar 2013 19:03:01 +0000

Apparently I’m a stereotypical Subaru shopper. I’m in my 30s and live on 9-acres of redwood forest in Northern California where I run a small organic egg farm. My nearest neighbor is a mile away and the closest concrete or asphalt driving surface is a 3 mile trek through the woods. During the winter I value AWD and high ground clearance, not because I need it (my 2005 Jaguar XJ has never been stuck) but like most Americans, I feel safe and secure by having a larger margin for error. I also have a special place in my heart for station wagons. It was therefore no surprise to my neighbors when I drove home one day in the Outback’s little brother, the XV Crosstrek.

Click here to view the embedded video.


If the XV looks familiar, you’re not imagining things, you have seen this body before. This is an Impreza 5-door with off-road body cladding, black wheels and a lift kit. If that sounds like the old Outback Sport, you’re half right because this time Subaru went the extra mile when “offroadifying” (like my new word there?) the Impreza. Instead of confusing shoppers with an Outback and an Outback Sport that have little to do with one another, they renamed the Impreza crossover utility wagon (CUW) for 2013 to end the confusion. In addition to the name change it gets real dirt-road cred an SUV-like 8.5 inches of ground clearance. (The Outback Sport made do with a trifling 0.2-inch height increase vs 3 in the XV.) Subaru’s corporate design elements are all at play on the XV and while it may seem plain to some, it’s unlikely to offend, except for the shocking orange paint our tester wore. (You can get your XV in shades other than orange but regardless of the hue, the wheels are always black.) Instead of the sashless windows Subaru has long been known for, the XV gets standard doors with window frames making them feel more substantial than Subaru models of the past.

Think of the XV as the Impreza’s outdoorsy brother. You know, the one that moved to the country, wears flannel on the weekend but still commutes to a day job in the city. Early crossovers had a similar mission, but demand for a car-like ride has caused the current crop of CUVs to return to car-like ride heights while warehouse shopping excursions demand minivan-like cargo holds. That’s not to say CUWs are “true off roaders,” that much is obvious by the size of the front overhang, long wheelbase and on-road tires. Instead, the mission is to provide an efficient, civilized ride for that outdoorsy brother on the way to downtown and the ability to ford that low-water-crossing on the way to his organic farm.


The XV shares interiors with the $17,895 Impreza from the seats to the soft-touch dashboard. While plastics aren’t as nice as the Outback, they do represent a significant step up from the last generation Impreza and Outback Sport and aren’t out-of-place here. The XV is $1,700 more than a similar Impreza 5-door but when you factor in the standard 17-inch wheels, body cladding and lift kit the cost difference is minimal. Starting at a reasonable $21,995 and ending at $27,290, the XV is one of the best AWD values going. Oddly however, the 2014 Subaru Forester starts at exactly the same price.

The base XV is the “Premium” trim which sports durable fabric seats in black or ivory. Ivory lovers beware, interior color is dictated by exterior color and ivory is only available with black, red, blue and white paint. Limited models spruce up the cabin with leather seating surfaces, single-zone automatic climate control and heated seats.

I found the driver’s seat extremely comfortable on my long commute, but shoppers should spend time in the car before buying as the seat’s don’t offer adjustable lumbar support and the front passenger seat doesn’t offer the same range of motion as the driver’s. I heard a number of forum complaints about the leather seats feeling “mushy” in reference to the padding but my short stint in a dealer provided vehicle left the same impression as the cloth models in my mind. Perhaps there were some early production quality issues? All models feature a manual tilt/telescoping steering wheel with a good range of motion and CVT equipped XVs get attractive shift paddles attached to the wheel, not the column.

Rear seats in the XV are firm and the seat bottom cushions are low to the floor which should be fine for children but can be tiresome for adults on long trips. Because of the XV’s mission as a mud-rut crawler and stream-forder, the door sills are high to prevent water intrusion meaning you have to lift your feet higher than you’d expect to gain entry. That combined with the sloping rear profile made me feel like I had to contort myself more to get in the XV than I had expected, and certainly more than vehicles like the RAV4 or CR-V.  Once inside, headroom proved excellent for my 6-foot frame and legroom was adequate even with a taller driver up front. If you have kids or regularly schlep folks in the rear, pony up for the Limited model, in addition to leather being easier to wipe-up than cloth, it’s the only way to get cup holders in the rear. If you don’t opt for the cow, you’ll be left with only the rear door “bottle holders” which should never be used for drive-thru style sodas.

The XV is only a few inches shorter than the Escape, CR-V or even its cousin the Forester, but the cargo area is considerably smaller thanks to the wagon profile. Our tester’s 22 cubic foot cargo area easily held a foursome’s weekend luggage as long as camping wasn’t on the agenda. While that’s a significant step up from most sedans that XV shoppers may be looking to trade out of, it’s two-thirds the cargo area provided by the Forseter or Escape. Why am I comparing these non-wagons to the XV? Because they are all a similar height and length. How is that possible you ask? Because the XV trades cargo space for ground clearance. Pick your poison.


Infotainment has long been an area where Subaru lags behind the competition and the XV is no different. Because the XV is positioned above the Impreza, things start with the optional audio system from the small Subie. The 6-speaker system features a single CD player, USB/iPod integration, Bluetooth phone integration with audio streaming and a 3.5mm AUX input jack. Limited trim XVs get Subaru’s display audio system with a 4.3-inch LCD touchscreen. The display upgrade also brings a backup camera, improved iPod/USB control, HD Radio and a greater suite of voice commands. For some reason this middle-ground head unit is not available at all on the base trim of the XV.

For $1,200 as a stand alone option on the XV Premium, and $2,000 as a bundle with the moonroof on the XV Limited model, Subaru offers an optional 6.1-inch touchscreen navigation unit. (The moonroof is a stand alone option on the Premium but only comes with the nav on the Limited.) Unless you’re buying the Premium model and want the sunroof, just save the $1,200 and spend it on an aftermarket system. While the unit isn’t as outdated as some systems on the market, the interface is strangely unintuitive, the on-screen buttons are small and the low-contrast color scheme makes it difficult to find what you’re after. On the bright side, perhaps because of Toyota’s minority investment in Subaru, the system uses the same voice command interface as Toyota and Lexus’ current product line including voice commands to control your media device.


Subaru’s fascination with boxer engines and AWD is nothing new, but the 2.0L DOHC engine under the hood is. The smaller mill replaces the old 2.5L SOHC four-cylinder found in the last generation Impreza and Outback Sport.Power drops with the displacement reduction from 170 HP to 148 at 6,200 RPM while torque takes a similar tumble from 170 lb-ft to 145 at 4,200 RPM. The smaller mill isn’t any quieter or more refined than the older engine, but it is 28% more fuel-efficient when equipped with the same manual transmission and a whopping 36% more efficient when you compare the new 2.0L/CVT combo with the old 2.5L/four-speed automatic. EPA numbers for the XV come out to 23/30/26 (City/Highway/Combined) for the 5-speed manual and 25/33/28 for the CVT. On my mixed commute I averaged 29.4MPG over 475 miles of mixed driving, 0-60 testing and soft-road shenanigans.

The three-pedal XV makes the power reduction seem more obvious while the CVT’s infinite ratios help mask the loss in power more than you might think. While AWD is standard, the AWD system is different on manual and automatic models. The 5-speed is mated to a mechanical viscus center coupling that can neither be fully coupled or uncoupled allowing a torque split range from 80/20 to 20/80 (front/rear) and normally apportions power 50/50. The CVT uses an electronically controlled multi-plate clutch pack to apportion power 60/40 under normal circumstances with the ability to completely lock when wheels slip, or when the car’s computer feels like it.


Jack anything up three inches and handling will suffer, even an Impreza. Fortunately, the XV is unusually light at 3,164lbs. In a sea of overweight crossovers, this helps the XV feel more nimble than the usual suspects but it does taker a toll on ride quality with the XV feeling less “polished” than the Outback or the heavier small-CUV competition. On the downside, a light vehicle can sometimes feel cheap, and the XV’s noisy cabin doesn’t help. Being pragmatic, I would rather spend the money on a robust AWD system than sound insulation, but on long trips the noise can be tiresome. Despite the robust AWD system and boxer engine, the XV cuts a very tight rug with 34.8 foot turning radius, something important when you’re trekking off the beaten path.

In general journalists despise CVTs but this is a hatred I have never fully understood. On my daily commute I climb a 2,200ft mountain pass, a perfect demonstration of how CVTs make less powerful cars more drivable. Cars with a typical automatic suffer from the slow down, downshift, speed up, upshift, slow down, rinse, repeat problem on steep mountain passes while CVTs maintain a constant speed and vary the engine RPM as required. Yes, the 2.0L boxer engine is vibration free but unpleasant sounding and the CVT has an uncanny ability to keep the engine at the most annoying harmonic. Even so, if given the choice I would take the CVT over a 6-speed automatic on an engine this small. Bolt a turbo to the 2.0 and I’d want the 6-speed slushbox. Speaking of speeds, all CVT equipped models come with sexy shift paddles that attempt to mimic an automatic transmission but the shifts from one ratio to another feel mushy and slow.

Designed to carve unpaved corners on weekends and paved corners on weekdays you’ll find an inherent compromise in every corner. On true dirt roads, the street rubber (Yokohama Geolander H/T G95A) lacks lateral grip allowing the rear of the XV to feel a little light (in a fun sort of way) and on pavement the tall springs allow the body to roll more than a traditional wagon shopper might expect. Despite the lean, the XV never lost its composure even when pressed to 9/10ths, a place few owners will take their granola-hauler. The always-on nature of Subaru’s AWD system makes the XV feel more confidant off-road than the sip-and-grip systems found on the competition, but there is less of a difference on road. Back on the asphalt, most of the competitor’s systems allow partial lock-up from a standstill thanks to improved electronic systems and honestly the difference in snow performance for most driving conditions is going to be fairly small.

For some reason we expect SUVs and CUVs to deliver a less exciting driving dynamic but we expect wagons to handle like sedans with a tailgate. If that describes you, the XV will disappoint. If however you’re looking for the utility of a crossover with better road manners and a low center of gravity, the XV delivers in spades. There’s just one problem: Subaru’s new Forester is the same price and staring at you from across the Subaru dealer’s lot.

Hit it

  • Subaru AWD reputation.
  • Well priced and well equipped base model.
  • I’ve always been a fan of CVTs for hill climbing.

Quit it

  • Black wheels.
  • The lack of gadgets, gizmos and options is a bummer for my inner nerd.
  • The cabin is noisier than most small crossovers.
  • Not everyone loves CVTs as much as I do.


Subaru provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.3 Seconds

0-60: 8.7 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.8 Seconds @ 81.5 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 29.4 MPG over 475 miles

2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Exterior, Front, Picture Couretsy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Exterior, XV Badging, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Drivetrain, 2.0L Boxer Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Drivetrain, 2.0L Boxer Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Drivetrain, 2.0L Boxer Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Infotainment, Navigation System, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Infotainment Nav System, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, HVAC Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Dashboard Trip Computer, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Dashboard and Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Front Seat Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, rear door sills, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Rear Seats Folded, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 63
2014 Subaru Forester Gets The Corporate Mug Thu, 01 Nov 2012 13:00:52 +0000  

The Forester stands alone in evading Subaru’s more questionable styling choices, but it hasn’t ever looked particularly enticing either. The 2014 model, with its new Impreza-esque front and rear treatments, continues that tradition. Under the hood, things are more promising.

In addition to Subaru’s venerable 2.5L 4-cylinder engine, a 2.0L turbocharged version, good for 250 horsepower, is also on deck. The downside is that the blown motor comes exclusively with a CVT gearbox, while the 2.5L has the option of a 6-speed manual. Subaru enthusiasts can take consolation in the fact that the new turbocharged FA engine will almost certainly appear in the next generation WRX – and maybe, just maybe, the BRZ as well.

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Review: 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR Fri, 07 Sep 2012 17:14:45 +0000

Styled to resemble an Outlander Sport

Reviewing a car a week, and dispatching the great majority as boring (if not in so few words), I begin to wonder whether I’m pursuing some fantastical ideal. Perhaps the concepts of communicative steering, a connection with the car, and a visceral driving experience are just something I have in my head? Can they actually exist in the real world? As the weeks roll on, one begins to have doubts. Then fate places a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR in the driveway.

I hadn’t requested the Evo because the car hasn’t changed since I last reviewed one (with a little help from RF) over four years ago. Moreover, Brendan brilliantly reviewed a GSR last fall. But the car I was scheduled to have was pulled, and the fleet company asked if I’d be up for an Evo MR as a replacement. Would !? I already knew how it would drive, but who turns down a week with an Evo?

Warning: not an ordinary car

Well, my wife would. As she put it, “I have had quieter, more relaxing rides in the back seat of an airplane.” And she hates flying. Judging from the Evo’s firm Recaro seats, firmer ride, ever-present exhaust boom, and 1990s econo-car interior, one might think Mitsubishi did nothing to make the car suitable for daily driving. Those of us who’ve driven a previous generation Evo know better. Compared to earlier Evos, this one’s actually livable, at least for people who value the things the car does well. (Especially since it doesn’t have a ridiculous wing on the back.)

Almost elegant from this angle

The Evo X does do some things very well. Last time around I drove the Evo GSR, which has a five-speed manual transmission. This time it was the MR, with a six-speed automated dual-clutch manual transmission (“SST” in Mitsubishi parlance—we badly need a single, concise, widely recognized term for these things). In the two-pedal car, the powertrain feels even more aggressive. It’s always ready to jump into attack mode. There’s some lag from a dead stop, but once rolling, you’re apt to get a stronger response than you were seeking. In these economy- and-refinement-minded times, this is not a common occurrence. I’ve driven plenty of cars that didn’t feel as strong as their specs suggested they should have. Though the Evo pairs a no-longer-so-impressive 291 horsepower with a 3,600-pound curb weight, it’s not one of those cars. The heated driving experience exceeds the cold, hard numbers. It’s not just the quickness. It’s the immediacy.

The SST doesn’t snap off shifts quite as quickly as VW’s DSG, with a brief pause to let the engine relax instead of yanking it down, but it reacts instantaneously to your right foot, perhaps even to your brain waves. Decelerate for a turn, and it automatically steps down through the gears, so the right one will be there the instant you need it. If you feel the need to employ the lovely column-mounted magnesium paddles, you’re just not thinking clearly enough. Choose from normal, sport, and super sport modes to vary the height of the boil at which the transmission keeps the angry hair dryer under the hood.

291 horsepower from 2.0 liters

Of course, you can get far more bang for your buck in a Mustang. The Evo isn’t primarily about going fast in a straight line. It’s about handling. Not the sort of light, balanced, intuitive handling you’ll find in the best sports cars. The car is too hefty and nose-heavy for that, and the Evo even feels more than a little out of sorts in casual driving. But get jiggy with wheel and pedals, and the Evo’s hyper-sophisticated electronically-modulated all-wheel-drive system comes into play, tweaking the car into a seemingly perfect line. Wondering what car reviewers are looking for when they criticize the steering in, well, everything? This is it, firm, direct, quick, and communicative.

Much better than an Evo IX!

The harder you drive the Evo, the better it feels, and the better you feel…as long as you ignore the fuel economy readout. Economy isn’t one of the SST’s modes. The EPA rates the Evo MR at 17 MPG in city driving, and 22 on the highway. You can moderately exceed these numbers if you drive the Evo like you would a Prius. But why would you do that? Drive the Evo in the suburbs without a concern for gas mileage and mid-teens happen. Drive it like you stole it and the digits become singular.

Common sight

I hadn’t driven a Subaru WRX since that car was tweaked in response to widespread complaints for the 2009 model year. While the STI is a more direct competitor to the Evo, the Mitsubishi’s $38,490 price tag ($40,785 as tested with nav) raises the question of how much you’d really be giving up with a sub-$30,000 Subaru.

Eye of the beholder

Well, you’d be giving up nearly everything that makes the Evo an Evo. The WRX is about as quick, but even with the 2009 tweaks, it remains a far softer, less immediately responsive, less communicative, considerably less visceral car. The Subaru doesn’t beg to be flogged the way the Evo does. It’s happy to relax and go with the (traffic) flow. It’s cushier, roomier, and has a rear seat that folds to expand a larger trunk. If Subaru offered one with an automatic, my wife could drive it without complaint—and even without realizing its performance potential. For a reminder of what’s missing from nearly every car sold today, we still need the Evo.

Mitsubishi provided the Evo MR with insurance and a quickly depleted tank of gas.

Rory Williams of Dwyer and Sons Surbaru in West Bloomfield, MI, provided the slightly pre-owned WRX. He can be reached at 248-295-2082.

Michael Karesh operates, a provider of car reliability and pricing information.

Warning: not an ordinary car Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Styled to resemble an Outlander Sport For once, a big grille serves a purpose Almost elegant from this angle Much better than an Evo IX! Roomier than it looks here Not roomier than it looks here 291 horsepower from 2.0 liters Common sight Eye of the beholder Makes the Evo appear clean A better angle A Lexus compared to the Evo ]]> 73
Capsule Review: 2012 Subaru Impreza Sport 5-Door Thu, 29 Mar 2012 15:51:09 +0000

Its squat boxer architecture meant a low centre of gravity, and by building in a low rate of roll and very little offset or castor in the MacPherson strut front suspension, the handling was truly revelatory, refreshingly neutral with precise steering…endlessly chuckable. [They]…were willing rather than fast, and there was more grip than the boxer engine…could ever hope to exploit…away from straight roads it still took a genuinely quick car to catch one.

Does this sound like a review of the 2012 Subaru Impreza? You may be surprised to read that the words here describe a car from a completely different country, with a culture and ethos that couldn’t be more different – but a car that may be the spiritual predecessor to the Impreza.

That quote, despite being hacked up to remove identifying details, is from Evo magazine’s retrospective on the Alfa Romeo Alfasud. The Alfasud was a scrappy little hatchback, powered by a fairly impotent boxer engine that was regarded as a supremely fun car with somewhat spotty build quality. Sound familiar?

Unlike the high-end, leather-clad sedan driven by Michael, my tester was a 5-speed hatch and the cabin was decidedly barebones. Black fabric covered the seats and the dash was also adorned in a dark, dour plastic. Subaru interiors have never been spectacular, but this car took it to new levels – while looking for the hood release, I managed to grab a handful of loose dashboard plastic that had a few inches of play to wiggle around. Unfortunately, my camera’s memory card corrupted, but Brendan’s preview drive has pictures of the exact same interior (minus the errant dash trim pieces, hopefully). The Impreza’s seats were too flat and firm for my liking, but the driving position itself is refreshingly old school. You can actually see that the hood exists, and you sit lower than most pseudo-CUV compacts these days.

Subaru decided to trim some weight out of the car in an effort to improve fuel economy (apparently they cut nearly 200 lbs from the car, which makes me wonder how it got so bloated in the first place), but the trade-off is less power compared to the outgoing model. The 2.0L boxer now puts out 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft, and this tester came with the 5-speed manual gearbox, a rubbery, notchy unit that continues the Subaru tradition of building rubbery, notchy-feeling transmissions.

Any fears that this car would be a watered-down, slowpoke, mass market version of the old Impreza are immediately put to bed once the road opens up and John Law is absent from your rearview mirror. The steering is well-weighted, though hardly a paragon of feel or feedback. But the growl of the boxer is intoxicating, and the chassis communicates so well, it was probably tuned by a marriage counselor. Hit an on ramp in third gear and let the boxer get to its sweet spot around 4,000 RPM and the Impreza is absolutely tenacious, with endless grip allowing it to slingshot out of the corners. Oddly,the brake override system mentioned by Brendan didn’t make itself known during heel-toe downshifts, with chunky winter boots being the biggest obstacle. In a straight line, it’s no speed demon, but let the boxer wind up for just a second and the power is more than adequate for passing trucks or merging on to freeways.Compared to the Mazda3 SkyActiv or the Ford Focus, the boxer feels more robust, but only instrumented testing will determine that conclusively. All that driving yielded 24 mpg in mixed driving – poorer than Michael’s CVT equipped sedan got, but understandable given the chunky Bridgestone Blizzaks (10 percent poorer fuel economy right off the bat), the cold temperatures and the, ahem, spirited driving that the Impreza encourages.

Around town, the main drawback is the firm, unsettled ride. Even though Toronto’s roads are a tough test for any car, the Focus and Cruze feel much more composed than the Scoob, perhaps a trade-off made in the name of driving dynamics. The stereo system could also use a major overhaul, frequently sounding tinny and washed out. The hatchback bodystyle and compact footprint make it great for darting in and out of traffic, and rear seat room is fine for four average sized adults. The Impreza would be a very easy car to live with every day, but then, what current compact isn’t?

Canadian trim levels differ slightly, with the American equivalent of this car being the $20,295 (plus $750 destination) Impreza Sport Premium 5-door with the 5-speed manual. In Canada, the 5-door Sport costs $24,795 plus $1,695 for “Freight and Pre-Delivery Inspection” (our version of freight). So, $26,490 PLUS another $3,443.70 in sales taxes. Nevertheless, Subarus have a loyal following across the country. Independent analyst Timothy Cain’s sales figures for Canada shows that Impreza sales, year over year, are up a fair amount. People here are willing to pay for all-wheel drive, in a hatchback body style, and with Subaru dealers setting up shop in far-flung rural areas a few hundred kilometers away from major urban centers, the brand has established a foothold in snow-ridden areas similar to their strategy in New England. The faithful won’t be disappointed by these new revisions, but other consumers will have to ask themselves whether the higher cost of entry and reduced levels of refinement are worth it to get all-wheel drive, superb handling and the unique character not available anywhere else.

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Review: 2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Limited Sat, 28 Jan 2012 18:15:05 +0000

Some cars appeal to the head. Others to the heart. Judging from the marketing pitches that festooned the corporate-owned, dealer-supplied 2012 Impreza, Subaru hopes the redesigned compact will appeal to both. On the rear bumper: “The most fuel efficient All-Wheel Drive car in America at 36 MPG.” And on each front door: “Experience love that lasts.”* Will the Impreza truly “love you long time”? We went on a date to find out.

The Impreza certainly isn’t a one-night-stand sort of car, especially not when dressed in virginal white. You’re not going to lock eyes across a crowded parking lot, because you’re not going to notice it in a crowded parking lot. There’s no risk of hot-blooded lust, doomed to burn quickly but briefly. Like those of the larger Legacy it resembles, the new Impreza’s lines could have been penned by engineers. Elements that attempt to inject some character, most notably the ultra-wide bi-centric wheel arches, instead come off as clunky.

The new Impreza’s interior styling is similarly conservative to a fault. The curves that bounded across the previous Impreza’s instrument panel? Gone. Some of the materials might be a step up from the previous generation, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at them. Compared to a Ford Focus or even a Hyundai Elantra, my eyes see an appliance, and a dated one at that. Any chance the Limited’s leather seats had of suggesting luxury is obliterated by the dollar store center console and lower door panels that flank them. The black interior that attends four exterior colors, including a lusty red, should help. Beige (mandatory with the other four colors) rarely does an affordably priced car any favors.

Yet, if functionality was the predominant priority, why are the rocker switches for the heated seats located beneath your elbow? A mere afterthought, or did some human factors engineer thinking a bit far outside the box decide that this would make for one-stop-shopping when buckling up? Latch the belt and turn on the seat heater, all in one quick motion! Warm the buns of your partner while you’re at it!

Like VW, Subaru has figured out that a roomy rear seat sells cars. The new Impreza remains about the same size as the old one on the outside, yet there are a couple more inches of rear leg room on the inside. A 2005-2009 Legacy was a tighter fit. Just don’t expect adult passengers to feel much love from the rear seat on long trips: like many, its cushion is mounted too low.

So, after sampling the charms of the exterior and interior, love hasn’t bitten. Perhaps it’s the driving experience? The car’s priorities aren’t promising, as the list appears to have been headed by fuel economy, rarely a Subaru strong suit in the past. To this end, curb weight has been reduced nearly two hundred pounds, to under 3,000. Doesn’t seem light for a compact sedan? Recall that a couple hundred pounds of symmetrical all-wheel-drive goodness is standard in all Subarus…for a few more months. With less weight to motivate, fewer cc’s are required. Last year’s 170-horsepower SOHC 2.5-liter flat four-cylinder engine has been replaced by an all-new DOHC 148-horsepower 2.0-liter boxer. A five-speed manual remains standard, but those who aren’t turned on by a third pedal now get a CVT instead of an antiquated four-speed automatic. The CVT’s wider ratio spread and ability to keep the engine in its sweet spot make for decent acceleration. It’s not quick, but it’s not slow, either. A larger concern: the engine is loud, and its buzz resembles that of a garden variety inline four rather than the oddly appealing burble of a boxer. Your ears won’t find this engine’s sweet spot very sweet. The rubber band effect typical of CVTs is present, but can be avoided by employing the paddles to shift among six fixed ratios. The touted fuel economy: EPA numbers of 27 city and 36 highway, way up from the 2011’s 20/27. The trip computer reported high 20s when I cruised through suburbia with a light foot, low 20s when I got jiggy with it.

Just when all chances of love seem lost, there’s the chassis. The steering provides only modest feedback, but the seat makes up for it. The chassis tells you what it will do for you, and then does it with commendable balance, poise, and agility—that low curb weight paying some clear dividends. The all-wheel-drive system might also deserve some credit, though it’s not being called upon to manage much torque. The Imprezza’s intuitive handling makes it very easy to drive quickly and confidently along a curvy road. I enjoyed driving it far more than its specs and appearance led me to expect.

The flip side of the low weight and communicative chassis: a noisy, at times jiggly ride. Like VW and Toyota, Subaru has placed a bet opposite that of Chevrolet, Ford, and Dodge. If you’re seeking a premium feel in a $20,000 car, look elsewhere.

A base 2.0i with the manual transmission starts at $18,245. The 2.0i Limited with its mandatory CVT: $22,345. If you don’t want all-wheel-drive in your compact sedan, you’ll likely buy a different one. If you do, you have a choice between the Impreza and a slightly larger (but no roomier) Suzuki Kizashi. With a quarter-ton more curb weight to enfeeble a 180-horsepower, 2.4-liter engine, the Suzuki’s no quicker but manages only 23 / 30 in the EPA’s tests. In SE trim with leather, it lists for $26,014. Adjusting for the Kizashi’s additional amenities using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool reduces the gap by $900, but even then there’s a nearly $2,500 difference. While one of the buff books fell in love with the Kizashi in a few days (as touted on Suzuki’s home page), car buyers still haven’t after a few years. There’s likely to be serious cash on that hood—if you can find a dealer with a pulse. Actual transaction prices won’t be so far apart.

[Update: A reader informs us that Mitsubishi recently started offering a non-turbo Lancer with AWD. At $20,990, the 168-horse, 22/29 MPG Lancer SE is priced VERY close to a similarly-equipped Impreza (Premium 2.0i, $21,045 with All-Weather Package). But you're more likely to find rebates and discounts on the Mitsubishi--if you can find a Mitsubishi dealer.]

So the Subaru wins the battle for the head. But the numbers aren’t everything. What about love? Both the Impreza and Kizashi claim to offer it. If you’re turned on by style and refinement, then you’re much more likely to find love in the Suzuki. The way the new Subaru looks, sounds, and feels recalls old style “penalty box” small cars just a bit too much. But if you’re seeking a chassis that talks to you, and that’s a willing dance partner, then the Impreza delivers. A quiet love, perhaps, but they did promise it in small lettering.

*Before you run out and similarly adorn your ride, be warned that Subaru has likely trademarked the phrase for automotive applications.

Dwyer Subaru in West Bloomfield, MI, provided the car. They can be reached at (248) 624-0400.

Michael Karesh operates, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

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