It’s safe to say the world can be a scary place sometimes. We never really know what’s around the next bend. Some new and exciting technology that could potentially change the world might be under development as we speak, in some secret underground laboratory illuminated by blinding fluorescent lights, lined with cages filled with monkeys (because all laboratories worth their salt have monkey-filled cages).
But in a world filled with change and devoid of continuity we can always count on three things: The sun will always rise in the East, Mondays will always suck, and the Subaru Impreza will continue to be a car we love to drive but hate to look at.
Or will it?
For the 2012 model year the Subaru Impreza — technically dubbed the Impreza 2.0i — receives a much needed facelift. And while it doesn’t quite ignite the small car segment like the radical redesign undertaken by Ford and its fast and fun 2012 Focus, it does possess a raw and unrefined experience we instantly fell in love with.
Okay, so “hate to look at” might be a bit harsh, but we’re not here to pull punches, we’re hereto tell it to you straight. Save for a few earlier iterations, the Impreza has always been rather lackluster in the looks department. Sure you have the WRZ and STI models to provide that performance-geared kick. But overall we’ve been left yearning for more aggressive and innovative design cues from the Japanese automaker.
The good news is the 2012 Impreza aims to fix that, and does an admirable job. Additions like an aggressive new front fascia coupled with redesigned headlamps perfectly compliment the Impreza’s more modern design. Outlined chrome accents give the 2012 Impreza a stronger, more prominent look, while outwardly placed fog lamps and roof rails provide even more styling flair and utility.
It seems some cars are simply destined to look better as hatchbacks and our review unit was no different. Throw in those smoky, 17-inch allow wheels and the 2012 Impreza is just short of handsome.
The only real problem we have with the Impreza stylistically has to do with its sloppy rear-end. While our hats are graciously tipped at the Impreza’s overall design, the back end just doesn’t cut it. Anything would have been better than this polygonal mess Subaru calls a rear end. The taillamps look like they belong shimmering brightly in a game of Bejeweled more than adorning the back end of a car. It’s a missed opportunity and one we’re upset about it, given how sharp the rest of the vehicle looks.
Stepping inside the 2012 Subaru Impreza won’t make your heart skip a beat, but it’s not a cavernous wasteland free of comfort. If anything, it’s like Dad’s old La-Z-boy: perfectly cozy and unassuming. The cabin is extremely well put together and never feels cramped. The instrument cluster remains stubbornly analogue but we didn’t mind, and there are some sporty touches, like silver trim paneling gripping the bottom half of the dash. The steering wheel is flanked by the obligatory audio, Bluetooth, and cruise controls, which are easy to use and smartly placed. Overall the interior’s layout favors practicality over everything else.
Interior space is abundant both up front and in the rear, with the 2012 Impreza offering up the most comfortable cabin we’ve tested so far in the small car segment, plus 22.5 cubic feet of cargo space.
The Impreza 2.0i comes standard with keyless entry, air-conditioning, height-adjustable driver seat, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 65/35 split-folding rear seats, a trip computer and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player.
Higher up the totem pole, Subaru does offer additional options, like navigation and satellite radio, panoramic sunroof, and leather seats; however, all were noticeably absent in our 2.0i Sport Premium model. Other 2012 trim options include the 2.0i Limited and the 2.0i Sport Limited.
For musically-minded drivers, the Impreza’s sound system won’t rock your socks off, but it does include both a Bluetooth audio streaming via your smartphone as well as a USB port located (frustratingly) in the center console. Rifling through your tracks is simple, but you’ll need to do your best Rainman impression by memorizing the numbers of your favorite tracks as the Impreza’s sound system strangely shows track information while streaming your music via Bluetooth but not your iPod.
Mileage and powertain
Under the hood — and replacing last generation’s 2.5 liter — the 2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i sports a 2.0-liter, horizontally opposed boxer four-cylinder engine capable of generating 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. Our Sport Premium model featured a five-speed manual transmission, which comes standard and is coupled to a “symmetrical” all-wheel-drive system utilizing a 50/50 front/rear power distribution configuration.
For purists (and us), manual is clearly the way to go, but shift dodgers can go with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), which is mated to an alternate all-wheel-drive system and tacks on another $1000 to the 2012 Impreza’s base price.
Fuel economy is decent with 2012 Subaru Impreza returning an EPA-estimated 25 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway with a combined 28 mpg rating. Drivers looking for more fuel savings should consider the CVT engine which boosts fuel economy to 35 mpg on the highway while seeing mpg in the city drop to 27.
Maybe it was our heavy foot, but it seems like you’re going to have to coddle the Impreza to eek out mileage close to what the EPA rated figures are. Still for its price, which starts at $18,745 including destination fee and its all-wheel-drive system the 2012 Impreza is terribly efficient and more than a bargain, even with our review unit pricing out at $21,414.
Let the engine speak
We already mentioned how much we loved driving the 2012 Subaru Impreza – and it’s true.
Handling is exactly what you would expect from a Subaru: weighty, solid, and confident. Cornering was never a problem thanks to its AWD system, and the tires always seemed to grip the road evenly, staying planted during sharper turns and twisting kickbacks without any fuss. And even though the Impreza appears from the outside to be more at home on the highway and gravel-filled backroads, it represented itself well during our forays into the city and suburbs, giving the car the sort of flexibility we expect in a four-wheeled companion.
When called upon, the Impreza’s acceleration is admirable, if not the slightest bit lethargic. Dealing with the shifter is rather boring though — an experience that could definitely be jazzed up for future revisions. Our only other real complaint — well, more an observation really — would have to be the Impreza’s tendency to scream instead of purr. It wasn’t something we minded so much — in a way it lent a sportier vibe to our drive experience — but there are those out there that will no doubt want their Impreza to talk to them rather than shout.
Altogether the Impreza is admirably stylish (mostly) spacious (very), and solid (extremely). Yes, there are aspects we would like to see improved upon — we’ll start by asking for a six-speed manual for increase fuel efficiency on the 2013 model, please – but overall we really can’t complain. Our review unit may have lacked some of the more obvious creature comforts we have grown accustomed to, like leather seats, satellite radio, and navigation system/display, but higher/alternate trim levels solve that problem. There is also the issue of its vociferous engine and resulting cabin noise, but it never truly distracted from our ride enjoyment. We didn’t get a chance to test out the CVT, so we can’t speak to whether that makes a difference.
Admittedly, 2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i is the type of car that makes our job shamefully easy. On top of delivering an astoundingly satisfying ride, the Impreza impresses with its excellent fuel economy and overall value for your dollar. There simply aren’t many AWD options available in the small car segment, let alone for such a competitive price. It might lack some refinement, but the Impreza is incredibly satisfying and acts as an effective brand emissary for first-time buyers, and a testament to what Subaru fans have come to know and love with unapologetic zeal.
And because Subaru managed to put out an Impreza we actually think looks great, we’ll take this to mean Monday will no longer suck, right?
Maybe that’s asking for too much…
- Stylish and sporty design
- Acres of interior and cargo space
- Engaging and responsive handling
- Excellent fuel economy (both manual and CVT)
- Bland interior
- Disappointing rear-end design
- Louder than normal drive