By on December 9, 2011

It’s the particularly unpleasant sort of weather that Vancouver does best: temperature hovering just above zero degrees socialist, wind whipping a smirr of fine rain up and around uselessly flapping umbrellas and directly into your unprotected earhole, an all-pervading dampness seeping up from the puddled sidewalk and penetrating to the very bone. “Beautiful BC” my chilly posterior; today’s as cold and wet as a Beluga’s swim trunks.

Then again, it’s also perfect weather for testing out a new Subaru.

I’m an early arrival to this event, having popped downtown on public transit past the expected snarls of traffic, and so walk into a nearly empty press room. The usual assortment of items is laid out on the table (if I ever decide to open a lanyard n’ thumb-drive emporium, I’ve got at least a year’s worth of stock) along with a Subaru-branded toque.

A toque. How appropriate.

And how telling. During the power-point presentation, we’re shown a picture of a enormous Subaru badge mostly obscuring a silver previous-gen Impreza sedan. Besides the relief of not having to look at the carved-from-a-bar-of-Lever-2000 shape of last year’s Subie, there’s a message here.

The PR folks explain: Subaru is a brand with strong associations. Mention it and the image immediately springs to mind of a Forester with two kayaks strapped to the roof and interior perfume by wet golden retriever. Either that, or some mud-caked, flared-out STi, flinging quad-roostertails of gravel as it pop-pop-pops through the sharp turns of a forest stage, sandblasting the spots off Bambi and giving Thumper tinnitus.

Impreza? Oh, that’s the cheapest one they make. It’s sturdy, and utilitarian, and about as sexy as a tarp. It’s not particularly efficient or stylish, but those are the penalties you pay if want a small, all-wheel-drive car.

Not any more, so sayeth the Subaru sages. It’s time for the WRX/STi line to get a divorce from the Impreza, freeing the smallest Subie to be lightened and dialled in for normally-aspirated fuel economy. What’s more, it’s also time to shift design – and perception – away from “rugged” to “urban”, and by doing so, hopefully onto more small-car buyer’s shopping lists.

From a styling perspective, the Impreza is already a triumph. Discounting the rally special WRXs – box flares and hoodscoops can be a kind of stylistic panacea – there’ve been about four good-looking Subarus ever: this new Impreza is one of them.

Side-by-side with the old model, the sharp, angular lines of the Impreza go beyond “a breath of fresh air.” Front headlights have a touch of Dragonball-Z anime about them, and the Impreza wears the new corporate creases much better than the slab-sided Legacy. The multi-spoke 17” wheels of this Sport package look great, but are sure to be a huge pain in the ass to clean.

Other than that, few of the styling improvements seem to have generated compromises. Just look at the comparative size of the greenhouses in both cars. While the larger, highly-raked windshield is immediately apparent, you can also see that the belt-line’s come down somewhat, improving visibility. The big fix at the rear is, of course, getting rid of those ghastly clear tail-lights – and dig that rear spoiler – but blindspots haven’t really increased.

Inside, the cabin’s also much better. It’s a conservative layout, but quite pleasant, and the amount of soft-touch plastic has quintupled. I particularly liked the boiled-sweet appearance of the park-anywhere button and the chunky dials on the HVAC controls seem designed for easy use by gloved hands. Seats are comfier too, if perhaps not overly bolstered.

Of course, there’s still plenty of room for interior improvement – this is a Subaru after all. The tiny switchgear for the heated seats is crammed just aft of the emergency brake and tricky to use. The stereo is the old double-DIN setup, and while there’s iPod connectivity, it’s not exactly powerful – I didn’t have a chance to try out the Pioneer audio upgrade. The Multi-Function display with the AWD use read-out (put me in mind of the old XT6) is a bit of fun, but it doesn’t display iPod functions.

Cargo-wise, the hatchback takes top bill-of-lading, with seats folding mostly-flat and transforming your Impreza into a gravel-ready moving van. Better yet, both sedan and 5-door have increased rear leg room from the mildly stretched wheel-base, and the rear door openings are also larger. Fans of wind-noise-inducing frameless windows will probably want to buy a CD of didgeridoo music or something.

Anyone who’s ever tried to cram a rear-facing child-seat in the back of an older Impreza will doubtless appreciate the bigger rear portals, as well as the increased boot-space in both the sedan and hatchback variants. Subaru showed a display featuring three golfbags fitting upright in the back; fair enough, but they more usefully could have provided us with one of those enormous running strollers that are like a sand rail with handlebars. However, a quick eyeball test indicates such monstrosities should fit.

Of the dozen vehicles available for testing, only one had a manual transmission. In the interests of research and science, I Occupied it – everyone else was clustered around for show and tell on the display model.

Here’s what you need to know about the new Impreza in terms of performance: the new, long-stroke, timing-chain-driven 2.0L boxer engine has less power than the old 2.5 lump (down from 170hp to 148hp), but the new chassis is slightly stronger and lighter (by 165lbs). It is also slower than the outgoing model – at least in a straight-line.

Subaru makes a big deal about the CVT-equipped car being actually slightly quicker to 60mph than the automatic-equipped ’11, but let’s face it, the antediluvian 4EAT 4-speed wasn’t doing the previous-gen any accelerative favours. I think that thing was originally developed for use in Hannibal’s Alp-crossing four-wheel-drive elephants.

With the 5-speed manual – tweaked for fuel economy with a taller top gear – you notice the decreased low-end power immediately. Is it a problem? Not really.

It took a little time to get out of the city and onto the leaf-littered and sodden streets that run through the far Western part of West Vancouver. These are narrow little capilliaries, twisting and turning up and down the hilly coastline, looking like somebody spilled vermicelli on the map.

The Mazda3 is the current benchmark for fun-to-drive in the compact segment, right? Well, with this new Impreza, that should hold true right up until it rains.

On these wet and winding roads, this little car is an absolute gem. The steering is heavy and direct. The grip from the all-wheel-drive is phenomenal. New, fatter anti-roll bars do their job, and while I can’t claim to feel the extra bite of having disc brakes at all four corners now, the Impreza stops just fine.

Torque is a bit low, but it’s not a bother to continually shift gears to keep things on the boil. This is essentially the same transmission as the old Impreza, but it has a decent shifter feel. Cost may be an issue here, but a 6-speed with closer ratios would be better, given the very moderate power. Also, heel-and-toers take note: you can rev-match your downshifts, but a new brake-override system is going to trip up fancy footwork.

The little 2.0L lacks the lumpy character of the 2.5L, but it’s got a gruff little growl to remind you it’s a boxer, and as such, it’s fun to wring it out a little. Having said that, you will find yourself wishing for more power, but it’s only because the Impreza is so well-composed: it sticks and sticks and sticks and then very slightly washes wide.

Stepping out of the stick-shift and into a CVT-equipped Impreza, things get a little less sporting, but remain good overall. A continuously terrible transmission is never going to be the enthusiast’s choice, but banish all thoughts of the hair-scrunchie-driveline Justy from your head: Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT is actually quite good.

As there isn’t much twist below 4k from the 2.0L boxer engine (145lb/ft at 4200rpm), ascending one of the local mountains in the CVT-equipped car meant that four thousand revs was where we were hanging out. However, during stop-and-go driving, the CVT was smooth and well-behaved, and the paddle-shifters were actually a bit of fun. Not that it’s an objective term, but the car felt less “motorboaty” than the CVT-equipped ’12 Maxima I drove right afterwards.

The real story in the CVT-equipped car was not so much the transmission, which proved perfectly acceptable, but the way it handled the slushy snow we ran into. If Subaru’s 27/36mpg fuel economy figure takes the disadvantage out of AWD, then here’s the advantage: this is still a car that’s happiest when the weather gets poor.

“You’re going too fast for the conditions,” my co-driver admonished me. I backed off, somewhat abashed, but when time came to swap seats, I happened to sneak a peak at the speedo as she ran through the same section downhill – going even faster. PSA: AWD ain’t gonna help you stop with all-seasons, so slow down and use your road-sense, but the lighter, less-powerful Impreza still handles the white stuff like a tank. Make that a Sno-Cat.

Overall, splitting the WRX from the Impreza is a smart move for Subaru. I’d wager there’s not much buyer spillover from the halo effect of the turbo-nutter models anymore: if you can’t swing the payments on a new WRX, you don’t move down to a base-engined Impreza, you start shopping for a used WRX.

And, unlike the whoopsie-daisy 2008 WRX that missed the mainstream mark somewhat, Subaru has managed to add a touch of broad appeal to their small car, while still keeping it alluring to those with the stars of Pleiades in their eyes. In fact, I’m fairly sure one of the local Impreza club members is going to buy one to replace his TSD-rally-scarred ’07 Impreza sedan (he’s got a kid now).

The Subaru faithful will descend on dealerships with their clipboards and check-lists and comparison data, but they’ll inevitably like this little car, and they’ll buy it. More importantly, folks who were looking at a Mazda3, Civic or Focus might find the Impreza showing up on their radar, and if they drive it, they’ll be surprised at how agricultural it’s not.

As for myself, WRX divorce or not, there’s got to be a way to cram a EJ257 in this thing. Hello, Nordstrom? I’m going to need your largest shoe-horn…

Subaru provided the Vehicles tested, insurance, gasoline, some nice sandwiches, and the aforementioned toque which was bloody useful for the cold slog home.

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99 Comments on “Review: 2012 Subaru Impreza...”

  • avatar

    In that first photo it looks like a 10 year old Hyundai Accent.

    • 0 avatar

      I thought it looked like a Toyota Echo in that photo.

    • 0 avatar

      Ummm… no… my daughter owned a 10 year old accent, and the new Impreza looks MUCH better than a Hyundai, Echo, or other small car… in fact, it kinda looks like a small Legacy… nice… and a new interior?… sweet… Now, if only Subaru would bring in the diesel (or a decent hybrid) and we’d have all wheel drive AND fuel economy!

    • 0 avatar

      I thought that in the third photo it looks like Cruze.

      • 0 avatar
        Volt 230

        no matter what it looks like, Subaru just like Mitsu has never been able to compete with the big boys in the segment and now with the domestics having decent products in that class, their market share will go down even further.

  • avatar

    It looks miles better than the 08 model and a return of soft touch plastics seems to bring it back to the level of my 2005 Impreza. That said why put a brake override on the manual transmission?

    Mine’s due in for a corrosion check recall; I’ll see if I can get a test drive while I’m waiting around.

  • avatar

    I have to disagree about the tail-lights. For me the new ones don’t seem right somehow. Use the front end of the new car, and add the tail-lights of the old car and it would be almost bang on. Then again all styling is subjective. Other than that, nice review.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree – I have an ’09 and I like the tail lights. I can’t imagine my car with less power though…. If I can’t get up to 75 mph on some of the on-ramps where I live, I will literally get killed.

  • avatar

    I like it. Quite a bit, actually.

    What’s the word on pricing? I’m kinda drawn to AWD even though I know in Tennessee, we won’t need it but maybe a couple times a year. My grandparents had a FWD Subaru (remember those?), 1994 vintage, and it was a strong-running, mostly solid little car. Only turnoff to the brand for me is thus far, no dealership support near me. I’d have to travel about 90 miles to find the nearest dealer.

    This and the Nissan Juke are in my list of likable next daily drivers, for somewhat different reasons. Common thread is both have AWD. Bonus to the Subie for getting above the 35 mpg threshold with AWD, though. The Juke won’t touch that.

    • 0 avatar

      At least here: cheaper than the outgoing model by about $1000, range wide. US trim levels are entirely different from the Canadian ones.

      • 0 avatar

        And thank goodness too: Subaru makes the manual transmission available on all trim lines of the Impreza in Canada, not so for the US.

        Remaining jealousy: we don’t get the cool two-tone sport package.

    • 0 avatar

      The new Impreza can be configured and compared to the old one / competitors here:

    • 0 avatar

      “I’m kinda drawn to AWD even though I know in Tennessee, we won’t need it but maybe a couple times a year”

      In my experience, that’s exactly where AWD is called for: locales that are ill-equipped to keep the roads clear during the infrequent snow storms. I bought a Subie wagon back in ’79 after getting frustrated pulling/pushing my Corolla out of even the lightest snow, but I soon found that FWD was all that I really needed to get around in Chicagoland (AWD wasn’t full-time in those days) where they usually keep up with all but the worst storms. The only time FWD isn’t enough around here is when the plows can’t keep up, and you really shouldn’t be out then anyway.

      • 0 avatar

        I hadn’t considered this, but it’s a good point. The state is pretty good at clearing major divided highways, but they only do a so-so job at state two-lanes, and the local highway departments in each county don’t typically have the resources to handle even light snow for very long. Last winter, our local highway department was out of salt midway through winter because we’d had half a dozen small snows (normally less than three inches accumulation).

        Also, score one for the Subie because it’s available with a manual transmission. The Nissan Juke, like it though I do, is only available with the manual trans if you opt for the front-wheel drive version. All-wheel drive means a CVT is mandatory. I like Nissan’s CVT for what it is, but would rather have the stick in my personal ride I think. But score one for the Juke because there’s a Nissan dealer within half an hour of my house. Better than the hour-and-a-half to the nearest Subaru dealer.

  • avatar

    Looks like a entry model Korean car from five years ago…….

    I liked how the last one look, especially in STI-hatch trim. This car blends in perfectly on a 2nd rate used car lot; as new.

  • avatar

    I’m thrilled about the supposed fuel economy bump for the CVT. My wife’s AT 2011 Impreza gets 20/28, but we also love the 170 horses of the 2.5 engine, some of which apparently Subaru shot behind the barn for the new model.

    And I totally agree with the decision to split the WRX from the Impreza. I don’t want a car boosted out of its mind with a 3 foot wing on the back, I want an AWD small family wagon that is confident in sand, snow, rain, and ice and rides comfortably on the occasional 10 hour road trip.

    Styling has never been the strong suit of these cars. We probably should have probably waited for this model update.

    • 0 avatar

      While I like the styling quite a bit better, but the 2.5 in the Impreza is probably more enjoyable than the new FB20. The EJ25 pulls our Outback along fine (with a manual, and full-time AWD) but has to be strung out when getting on the interstate during a road trip (2 adults, 2 kids, a decent load, and 75mph speed limit).

      • 0 avatar

        There are rumors of the Forester’s timing-chain 2.5 making it into this car, maybe in a GT model splitting the gap between this and the WRX. Just a rumor though.

        What’s the gearing like on your Outback? I know the Forester is low-geared to give it a bit more low-end punch and it can be quite revvy on the highway in 5th.

      • 0 avatar

        Pretty much the same. It sits around 4k RPM when cruising at 80 MPH, mileage averages at 24-26 MPG on such trips. Really it’s the only fault of the car I can find, but I don’t drive it daily, my wife does. Around town and in the mountains, it’s great. It’s the car (not truck) version of a donkey… I mean that positively.

        Carseat recommendation for the older Outbacks/Legacies and this Impreza: Maxi Cosi. They’re high on safety ratings but utilize a more narrow European frame design. Also are more reasonably priced compared to Britax.
        We have 1 in a booster and the other rear-facing. Took care of my first biggest complaint with the Outback. And the new Impreza is very similar in size, inside.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s interesting; my 05 turbo is at 3,500 at 80 mph. I’d think a small turbo with this new 2.0 would be better than a 2.5, similar to the pre-2006 WRX but with a little less boost.

      • 0 avatar

        It may be somewhere between 3500 and 4000, as always there are many factors. We also have (OE sized) Yokohama Geolanders on the 17-inch wheels.

      • 0 avatar

        Have you considered changing the final ratio in your transmission? From what I’ve heard, its not that costly. I’d love to own a manual OB, if not for precisely the reason you mention.

    • 0 avatar

      I had no clue you could do that, I would definitely consider it…it’ll depend on our vehicle situation in the next few years. If we get something new (whether bigger or smaller) then my wife we’ll most likely drive that and it may become the main trip vehicle. If not, then I’d consider changing 5th gear to something lower as 3rd and 4th are where I spend the time in the tight backcountry roads. The Outback, like most cars, is an absolute blast in 3rd.

  • avatar

    I have to admit, I’ve been anxiously awaiting a TTAC review on the new Impreza. People in the states are getting their cars delivered as we speak, and I know Subaru won’t let TTAC to press events even though Farago has departed.

    However, what I’m really looking forward to it Micheal’s review and a comparison with the Focus SE (hatch, sport, manual) as I am currently considering both cars later next year (to replace the Acura). I love our Subaru, but I’ve always had great luck with Fords in the family.

    • 0 avatar

      I drove a sedan with the CVT last Saturday. Got a number of others ahead in the queue, so not sure how soon I’ll write it up. My quick-and-dirty take:

      –even with the upgrades the interior looks and feels far, far cheaper than that in the Focus. I did drive a car with the beige interior. A darker color as in the interior photographed for this review probably doesn’t look as cheap.

      –afterthought location of seat heater buttons and generally simple, old school controls, as noted in the review

      –engine felt sufficiently powerful but loud; sounds less like a boxer than the old 2.5

      –rubber band effect from the CVT; fix this by manually shifting with the paddles

      –very good, intuitive handling, feels direct and light, easy to drive up to its limits, similar to the new Jetta; Focus has a more solid, upscale, Euro feel

      –ride a little jiggly, road noise above average

      Bottom line: aims to be nothing but an economy car with AWD, and succeeds.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks, I may have to email you soon. I absolutely am impressed with the new Ford, and even still impressed with my brother’s 2006 SE 3-door… Still very tight driving.

        Speaking of seat heaters, I really like the Focus rheostat which is what our Subie has.

  • avatar
    z. beeblebrox

    Some impressions:
    All impreza’s have had 4 wheel discs at least since 2003, so I’m not sure what difference you are going to feel with the new four wheel discs.

    The 2006-2007 Imprezas were the best looking of the bunch…this one is a close second, but only the wagon, there’s something off about the sedan.

    36 mpg is awesome. I have a 2006 that is lucky to hit 28mpg highway.

    Stock Subaru tires suck, the Bridgestone RE92’s were quite possibly the worst tire I have ever driven on a new car.

    If you are getting this subaru for what its proper use (snowy, wet, crappy weather driving), get a second set of wheels and mount summer tires and winter tires. You will find your tires last longer and you have better traction in all situations. If you are getting this car for a dry area (i’m looking at you S. California) because AWD sounds cool, buy a Mazda 3 wagon, or a Ford Focus/Fiesta hatch, or a Honda Fit, or a Jetta TDI, Hyundai Elantra Touring, etc…

    That being said…this looks like agreat car. I live on an unplowed hill in New England and needed something cheap that could make it up my hill and driveway year ’round (which my impreza does admirably) and this looks like a very good replacement (assuming they fixed the damn head-gasket problems)

    • 0 avatar

      Base 2.5i’s had rear drums, at least in ’08.

      I prefer the ’04-05 Hawkeyes to the Pignoses, but that’s styling for you.

      RE92s… let us never spake their name again.

      • 0 avatar

        Yup, my ’08 2.5i has drums out back. Really the only thing I don’t like about the car. Well, that and the cheap black door handles.

        It gets 31mpg all day long on the freeway, but I have a pretty light foot and an easy, flat commute. Wonder what the new model would return on the freeway under similar conditions.

      • 0 avatar

        Non RS Imprezas were mostly drum brakes, though I think rear discs were an option on some early 90s cars before the RS in 98. I’m not sure about the Outback Sport. It was a consideration back in 2000 when I ended up buying an RS with unneeded hood and wing but also with the larger engine and four wheel disc brakes.

      • 0 avatar

        I got the RS in 2000 as well and it’s still my DD. I love it to pieces. Still the best looking Scooby ever to hit the states, IMHO.

      • 0 avatar
        z. beeblebrox

        WOw, Subaru cheaped out in 2008. My 2006 2.5i has discs all around, seems like a bad way to save a few bucks.

        I just looked into it, in 2008, Subaru:
        -Went from disc to drum rears
        -dropped alloy wheels
        -Added fuel consumption meter

        The premium sedan came with drums while the premium wagon came with discs all around. I’m betting the brakes and wheels saved Subaru $$/per car…still, seems like a dumb idea.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah, the ’08 model had drums in the back, but Subaru came to their senses and made drums standard again in ’09 or ’10, I can’t remember which. My 2011 has 4 wheel discs. I would never buy a new car with drums brakes.

  • avatar

    So far, everything I’ve seen about this car looks good. It’ll be on my short list with the Focus & Mazda3.

    One thing that manufactures are missing IMO is that I don’t need/want fancy, trendy tech–I’m looking at you, Ford–I want a solid, bullet-proof, practical car that’s still fun enough to enjoy.

    • 0 avatar

      So you want what I want: SE hatch.

      I also want: Convenience package for cruise control, SE Sport package, and winter package for heated seats. No SYNC, no MyTouch.

      • 0 avatar

        Similar, but I hate the seats in the SE Sport package. If I buy one, I’ll go with the SEL. But even on the low trim levels, they still find ways to monkey with the tech.
        – I won’t get MFT, but the standard radio is just as bad. (I do want HD radio–not available without MFT, IIRC–and a USB input, but you have to go to to Sync to get that.) Also, the base speaker package is pretty weak.
        – They set up the windshield wipers & turn signals to try & think for you. (I think it’s a German, thing.)
        – They added a form of adaptive steering that’s supposed to filter out wind & road forces, but there have been cases of it getting confused and fighting the driver. The result is the car refuses to drive straight on the freeway.
        It’s that kind of thing that bothers me. I’ve never had any problems correcting for wind/road crown. Why complicate the car to add it? I’m waiting to see what they change in the next model year or two.

        Since I’m waiting anyway, I’m leaning more towards a Mazda. I will probably get a 3 when they overhaul it (prob in 2 yrs) so long as they don’t overcorrect with the tech features. (I think the CX-5 will only come with a touch screen.)

  • avatar

    Looks like another boring Subaru. At least it’s not ugly. I see a lot of other cars depending on the angle but that can be said of many makes. Front end is nice at least, Legacy-esque

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    “there’s got to be a way to cram a EJ257 in this thing”

    Naah, just needs a sport model with the BRZ mill.

  • avatar

    This is what the Dodge Caliber should have been. Of course, that would have been truly exceptional six years ago.

    FWIW, I’m not really a big Subie fan, but there seems a lot to like about this car. It’s been less afflicted by the ugly stick at least. It has stellar mileage for an AWD car, albeit at the cost of power and torque. Imagine what the mileage would be on one of these as a FWD car?

  • avatar

    The rear of the wagon screams Pontiac Vibe.

  • avatar

    The new impreza 5 door is almost exactly the same size as my 03 Vibe GT.

    Which is good, because I love love love my Vibe.

    Mmm.. the new impreza hatch, + the 200hp D4-S boxer and 6 speed out of the BRZ.

    Where do I sign?

  • avatar
    Darth Lefty

    The stereo looks like the same one in my 11 WRX. If so, it was designed for the flip-phone era. It’s damned frustrating to use with an iPhone. For voice control it has its own address book it wants you to set up to use with the Bluetooth, and does not interface with the one on the phone. You need to convince it to talk to the Bluetooth and yet not to take over the iPod function with the USB if you want to charge at the same time. Also strangely, my 4S won’t connect to it as well as my 3G would, though once connected there’s no trouble.

    • 0 avatar

      At least the stereo looks like it can be easily replaced. My 06 Outback is stuck with the integrated stereo-HVAC controls, so I can’t easily swap the head unit. Who was selling cars without AUX inputs in in 2006? Maddening.

      On the car as a whole, it has an honest simplicity that some people would call “outdated,” but it’s pretty appealing to me. I’ve grown disenchanted with the complexity of today’s center consoles. I keep my cars for a long time; 10-15 years from now, even if the electronic gizmos are still functioning, they’ll probably be laughably obsolete.

      • 0 avatar

        “At least the stereo looks like it can be easily replaced.”
        Subaru is smart to do this, they know that anybody who cares about a stereo will simply install an aftermarket unit for way cheaper than the upgrade option. An ugly but functional double DIN stereo configuration is a plus in my book as compared to some fancy looking integrated setup.

      • 0 avatar

        Completely agreed. I’d rather have a classic, traditional system/layout than something ‘modern’ because the modern will get old a lot faster.

        IMO, touch screens are like automatic seat belts. They have no place in cars.

  • avatar

    I am looking to replace my 1998 Impreza Outback next year, and pine to still have a Subaru, but with 3 kids [2 boosters, 1 full blown car seat], I just dont see it being viable. Does anyone have exp. with 3 kids (boys mind you) in the rear bench seat?

    • 0 avatar

      Yes. I fit three kids (13, 9 and 6) in the rear of an ’08 Impreza; only the youngest is in a booster. For long trips it’s a bit much, but they are plenty comfortable around town or for a quick 2-3 hour jaunt to San Francisco or Lake Tahoe.

      But for two boosters and one full seat? I’d try before you buy. The Legacy might be a better bet and is only ~$2000 more, and there is also the Forester, which is a bit higher still but has a 2.5 motor.

  • avatar
    Alex French

    The radio is off-center. I saw it, and now I can’t un-see it.

  • avatar

    In many reliability survey is Subaru one of the most reliable car
    but in some older reliability survey, Subaru used to have an engine problem. Are Subaru engines reliable now?

    • 0 avatar

      The new boxer is supposed to absolutely resolve any headgasket issues. The old 2.2l never had headgasket problems and was bullet-proof, the 2.5 was supposed to be improved after 2005. However, myself and some others have had pre-mature headgasket failure but they were replaced under warranty.

      Most older EJ25 models would not have a failure until over 150000 miles, and even then it’s only about $1500 to have them replaced. If the rest of the vehicle is in good shape, really worth considering.

    • 0 avatar

      As TEXN3 notes, headgaskets are a known problem area with the first years of the 2.5. Then with the 2008-2009 WRX/STI they had problems with crank bearings. No reason to expect the new engine to have either problem.

      Beyond this, I’ve noticed in TrueDelta’s stats that Subarus, perhaps to a slightly larger extent than other cars, have a noticeable uptick in their repair frequencies once past the 100k mile mark.

      To check out our reliability stats:

    • 0 avatar

      Our 2000 Forester (142k miles) has developed piston slap (when cold), but so far, no head gasket issues. Otherwise, extremely reliable

      • 0 avatar

        Our 04 Legacy wagon has been piston slapping when cold almost since new, 110K miles now.

      • 0 avatar

        Our 2002 Legacy Wagon has been clattering when cold for a while now, but runs well. However it has been far from reliable, major repairs include:
        -Head gaskets.
        -Wheel bearings.
        -Centre diff.
        -Manual transmission failure.
        -Plus all the normal wear items and expected old car minor problems.

        The car was bought new, serviced by the book, and mostly highway driven. It now has ~190k km (118k miles), problems started at ~110k km (68 k miles). After dumping a bunch of money into it over the last couple of years it seems solid now.

        Despite the problems, I deemed it worth fixing as I like a wagon with a manual transmission. I’ve looked at, and driven, the new Outback but don’t much care for them. I don’t like crossovers in general, I would be more likely to buy something like a Jeep Grand Cherokee rather than the new Outback – you don’t give up much in driving dynamics, but gain a whole bunch of capability.

        I don’t want, or need, something as big and bulky as a JGC though – so I would seriously consider this Imprezza hatch. I would like a bit more power than 146 hp, even at the expense of gas mileage, and a 5MT seems kind of archaic in this day and age. It would be nice if they dropped the 2.5 / 6MT from the Outback in this thing without adding a bunch of boy racer looking trim.

        With the Canadian dollar high, and likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future, I hope Subaru sees fit to keep their Canadian prices roughly in line with US prices when adjusted for feature differences…

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Two quick questions…

    1) What type of CVT have they developed for the Impreza? Is it a Toyota-based unit with planetary gears? Or a belt/chain driven one?

    2) What is the cruising rpm’s for the Impreza at around say, 70 mph? This along with the engine noise at higher rpm’s has been an issue for Subarus here in the southeast where highway driving is predominant.

    Great review!

    • 0 avatar

      if its anything remotely similar to the 2012 outback, the CVT loaf’s at 2000 rpm’s at 70-75. Damn thing is awesome for cruising. here’s to hoping its not high strung. i’m getting flashbacks to my 98 outback where it felt like driving a sewing machine going full tilt.

    • 0 avatar

      Subaru developed their own CVT based on metal chains and pulleys. A short wikipedia blurb:

      My understanding is it has less moving parts than the automatic, which is part of the reason for the higher fuel economy and also should (theoretically) lead to better reliability.

    • 0 avatar

      You can only have a planetary gearset-based CVT with two power inputs–i.e. a parallel hybrid. All non-hybrid CVTs use a chain and pulleys.

  • avatar


    Where are they making these now, are they still in Japan?

  • avatar
    Vance Torino

    You wrote:
    “there’ve been about four good-looking Subarus ever: this new Impreza is one of them.”

    What could THEY be?

    1.) Subaru Legacy – 4th generation 2003-2009 – hands down (especially wagon!)
    2.) Subaru Legacy – 3rd generation 1998-2003 – wagon only! (No Baja!)
    3.) Ummm… GLC?

    Not the BRAT, Loyale, or the sorta sporty one with weird windows!

  • avatar

    Two questions for the reviewer:

    Is the beltline really lower? It’s hard to judge from the one side-by-side photo. If you were given actual measurements for the old versus new model, please say so. A 5’1″ friend bought her first new car (an Impreza premium 5-door automatic) almost 2 years ago on my advice, and before I suggest she test-drive the new one – she can afford to trade in her barely used ’10 if she likes the ’12 – I’d like to know whether it really would be a bit easier for her to see out of.

    How does the 5-speed Impreza 2.0 compare to the previous 5-speed Impreza, heavier but with the 2.5 motor? Or, if you’ve ever driven an AWD Subaru product with a 2.0 and 5-speed (such as a ’90s Impreza or Legacy), were the two experiences similar?

    • 0 avatar

      The beltline is lower: although I didn’t measure it, visibility seems improved. Again, some “test-sitting” may be in order for your friend.

      The 5-speed Impreza is definitely not as quick as the old 5-speed. Having said that, I drive a ~330hp bugeye, and the new 2.0L is just fine. It’s kind of like stepping from the 2.5 Mazda3 into the 2.0L Mazda3. Sure, it’s slower, but not that bad. Very comparable to, as someone has noted, a Focus or similar.

  • avatar

    These are the first photos where the front and back of the car didn’t look weird and awkward. There’s just something off about the front overhang in a lot of the publicity photos that nags me.

    This is the most positive review I’ve read so far.. I wanted this car to be a good fit for me, but I’ve drifted off since the the unveil..

  • avatar

    I’m assuming the Impreza engine is a detuned version of the BRZ’s engine?

    • 0 avatar

      No. Same block, different heads.

    • 0 avatar

      No, it’s almost completely different except for being a flat four.

      The BRZ’s engine is known as the FA with an 86 x 86 mm bore and stroke, and casting not too different from the Subaru diesel engine and with a semi closed deck. It’s extremely compact and will rev to 7400 rpm. It has combination port and direct fuel injection.

      The FB engine is the new mainstream Subaru engine. The 2 liter version is 84 x 90 mm with an open deck construction. It’s port fuel injection.

  • avatar

    How is legroom for a 6’+ driver? Everything I’ve seen talks about how much better rear seat room in this Impreza is, but no mention of the front.

  • avatar

    I’m so glad you got to test this Impreza on something other than dry pavement, because that’s really what separates this car from the competition in a huge way.

  • avatar

    The tailighta are much nicer this time around, but the front end looks like they completely knocked off the Malibu with some Taurus.
    AKA The front end looks fine about from the weird shape of the headlights.

    I don’t like this “Urban” idea that they’re going to do with the WRX, it sounds like it’ll be reduced to a not-so-sport economy car with way too aggressive styling.

    • 0 avatar

      I definitely don’t see any Chevy in the new Impreza. However, I see alot of 05-09 Legacy in the look especially with the two strakes on the hood. The Taurus has a passing resemblance to the same Legacy with it’s narrow headlights and grill.

  • avatar

    “The PR folks explain: Subaru is a brand with strong associations.”
    I couldn’t agree more. Here’s the tally on my 1999 Outback wagon purchased with 84k miles. The vehicle was always maintained and garaged. So what was my association?
    $8000 lost in depreciation and repairs for just four years and 30k miles.

    Bad chassis vibration at 3000RPM.
    A/C compressor fried, contaminating the whole system.
    Transmission leaks, corrosion of fluid filter/body, and in the end, poor shifting.
    Rear wiper froze up.
    Weird, snap-over-steer at a certain steering input, like you crossed a fulcrum.
    Aluminum wheels that leaked air.
    Mileage drops 20% in cold weather, from mediocre to poor.
    Poor cold drive-ability.
    Speedometer works intermittently.
    Dash lights burned out.
    Power window switches failed.
    Seat bolster’s foam crumbled.
    AWD system is simply FWD till the fronts spin enough, offering no directional stability in snow.
    Rear liftgate handle corrodes and become inoperative.

    • 0 avatar

      The AWD system must have been messed up on yours. The 4EAT went 60/40 front rear for the ’99 model year, and has remained so since. The old 90/10 ratio was for the ’88 to ’98 model years. An old wives tale that just will not die is that Subaru AWD system only engages when the front wheels spin. I had an ’88 GL turbo wagon, and it was obviously 90/10. My ’99 Impreza was completely different in deep snow.

      As for your other complaints, (caveat emptor in the second hand market). My out of pocket expenses for my Impreza in 100,000 miles (Oct’98 toFeb ’08) was $760 Canadian. $400 for rusted out gas filler and associated bits and pieces, $200 for leaky O rings around the spark plugs, and wipers, etc. Averaged only 24mpg though. Most amazing trouble-free car I’ve ever owned. Just got fed up looking at it and bought a Legacy GT.

      You bought a bad second hand car, and I looked after my new one. There’s the difference, no more no less.

      • 0 avatar

        Every time I post this saga I always get a comment suggesting, ‘you should have bought it new, or if you bought it new, everything would have been fine.’ I wish. Aren’t good cars good cars? (FYI: I did buy a new Subaru in 1981, and right away it had severe troubles, and regular troubles, and could not be fixed during the warranty.) As for this 1999 Outcash, nothing on the list leaps out as something a previous owner could have neglected to fail like it did. This car looked new when I bought it, and everything suggested it was exceptionally well cared for. I often purchased used vehicles with this kind of mileage, and this Subaru was my biggest money-pit in 20 years, hands-down. Since I traded it in (first time ever trading a car in directly due to the car’s terrible track record), I’ve asked many an older Subaru owner how their car is, and all speak of some terrible, costly problems they suffered. Finally, I recall seeing a reliability survey, and Subaru clearly got worse starting in ownership year four—out of warranty; if that doesn’t speak to Subaru’s spotty reliability, I don’t know what does.

      • 0 avatar

        All of this is anecdotal of course, but I bought my Legacy brand new, had it serviced by the book at the dealer, and it has been one of the most problematic vehicles I’ve had.

        See details in my post above:

        I’d still buy another though, I like the full time 4wd with centre diff and longitudinal engine – Subaru does AWD well, as do Jeep and Audi…

  • avatar

    Minor correction, the 2006-2007 models are referred to as the Hawkeyes. The 2002-2003 are the Bug Eyes and the 2004-2005 the Blob Eyes.

    I have a 2006 Impreza WRX wagon limited. Quite honestly the best WRX Subaru has made to date. Let’s recap:

    Sunroof/moonroof: check
    Leather seats: check
    Heated seats: check
    2.5L engine: check
    4-piston front calipers with 11.5 in rotors: check
    11.3 inch rear vented rotors: check
    Aluminum front a-arms: check
    Steering rack ratio shortened: check

    After 2007 they seem to have reverted to lesser models for some reason. I bought the car with 25 miles on it and it now has 118k miles without one thing going wrong. It still runs as strong as Day 1 and the interior is immaculate.

  • avatar

    Great review Brendan. You are correct, I am very likely buying this new Impreza to replace my TSD rally scarred Impreza for my new baby….but I have an ’06 not ’07 ;)

  • avatar

    Subaru’s have always worked and sold well in the Great White North and you see them all over the country because they’re reliable, hold their value well, and of course the AWD is a gem in the white stuff.
    BTW this is the first time I heard Subaru went back to rear drum brakes the past few model years, was this in the US only?
    I always thought four wheel disc was standard, my 04 Impreza RS hatch has them and has also been a reliable runabout.
    FWIW I like the new car and can overlook the lower power output for better mileage but it needs to be in hatchback form with manual transmission, and most of all fun to drive.
    Having said that a six speed manual would be nice.

  • avatar

    I drove the Impreza today.
    It feels like VW GTI. Very, very good handling.
    Quite good steering, no feedback but I didn’t expect BMW.
    The engine doesn’t feel like 148 hp but like 170 hp.
    Subaru finally got it right. This car is the best value you can have for your money.

    Does somebody know, is the CVT much less reliable than manual?

    • 0 avatar

      Yes it is because it is more complex, but the question is is it less reliable than a regular automatic. Any automatic will never be as reliable as a manual. This is not to say you can’t have a good automatic or there is anything wrong with Subaru CVT.

  • avatar

    So drove the new Impreza (a tester the local cash strapped dealer got to hopefully shore up some orders). It’s crisper handling than our 2011 AND has a smoother ride. The interior quality is above and beyond that of the outgoing model, too. Styling wise, I think it looks like a 3/4th’s scale 4th gen Legacy, which is my favorite Subie.

    The power difference is noticeable from the old 2.5, especially torque-wise and I suddenly know how they got better fuel economy: cut power and install a CVT. Still, for a family hauler I’d settle for less power and more MPG especially given that our car gets 21 MPG city.

    Maybe we can get Subaru to sell their diesels here.

    …maybe not.

  • avatar

    Thanks for the review, as I’m seriously considering one of these for my next commuter. All the press is going to Hyundai and Ford these days (and to how lousy the Civic is), but this is an incredibly appealing package. It’s almost handsome by current compact car standards, still kinda quirky and fun to drive with the boxer and AWD, the interior is decently crafted and not gimmicky, and the mileage is awesome. Sure, it’s down on power from last year, but I don’t care because it’s still more powerful than the crapbox I’d be trading in.

    Of course, if I go into a Subaru showroom to buy one of these next year, there’s a good chance I’ll come out with a BRZ instead…

  • avatar

    Subaru seems to have pulled off another design miracle. Style it like a 10 year old Korean car and pass it off as an all new entry. The ever shrinking engine size shows up for the greenies at the cost of performance for the customer and the interior is a drab as ever. Judging from 3 owners at work that have suffered automatic transmission failure well under 100K in there Subaru’s I have a hard time realizing a Subaru CVT when the warranty runs out. I guess it handles well but I’m somehow not feeling the love here.

  • avatar

    I just test drove an manual and CVT 2012 Impreza. I really wanted to like it. But the manual was horrible, notchy, hard to shift. The CVT made the usual high pitched whine that was incredibly loud. There are so many good segment B and C cars right now, but you know the feeling when you test drive a car and your gut instinct is “NO Freakin’ way”? I hated this car. I just couldn’t find anything remotely redeeming compared to other cars I tested.

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