For several years now, Japanese automaker Subaru has seen its sales steadily increase. This encouraging trend notwithstanding, Subaru still wants to improve its product line. This time, it’s the Impreza’s turn for a profound transformation. Not only was it time to bring this vehicle up to current standards, but research revealed that this model wasn’t always associated with the brand and that many drivers considered it to be almost in a category all its own.
Refined silhouette, redesigned passenger compartment
First of all, note that both of the body types that were previously offered – a five-door version and a sedan – are still available. And although the new Impreza is more spacious, the exterior dimensions remain identical despite a 25-mm longer wheelbase. As for the vehicle’s shape, Subaru stylists went to great lengths to keep the same exterior look as the previous models, while making it more refined and more dynamic. For example, the beltline is 200 mm lower, the hood is shorter, and the A-pillars have been modified to create a better interior configuration and to improve visibility. Also note that the “eagle eye” headlamps are back to guarantee continuity between the old and new generations.
The new sedan maintains its classic shape, but it’s more balanced, dynamic and contemporary. We’ve come a long way from the old square Subarus that people didn’t take very seriously.
One of this car’s most notable improvements is its fully redesigned dashboard. In the past, it was much more utilitarian than esthetically-pleasing, featuring fairly hard plastics. Fortunately, much softer materials have been used this time. Incidentally, the quality of the materials and assembly is excellent. The dashboard is still just as practical and the controls are laid out very efficiently.
A test drive of a few hundred kilometres was enough to convince me of the comfort and good lateral support of the seats. According to Subaru, the headrests are more comfortable, and although it’s a compact car, the back seats have a surprising amount of legroom. In the hatchback version, the baggage hold has a capacity of 300 litres when the rear seat back is in place and 638 litres when it’s lowered. As for the sedan, the trunk capacity is 340 litres, and the hinges of the lid have been redesigned to maximize available space and prevent damage to your luggage.
The biggest surprise with this new Impreza is under the hood. Indeed, the 170-hp 2.5-litre four-cylinder has been replaced by a brand new engine. Of course, Subaru stays true to its flat cylinder boxer engine, but the displacement is now 2.0 litres and output is 148 horses, 22 less than with the previous engine. It has 145 lbs.-ft. of torque instead of the previous 170 lbs.-ft.
The two available transmissions – a five-speed manual and an automatic CVT with six electronically-simulated sequential gears – have been modified and improved to make them lighter and more efficient. The manual features the Hill Holder anti-roll-back system, while the CVT has seen its internal mechanics revised to make it more efficient and quieter.
Of course, Subaru still features all-wheel drive on all its models. However, there are two different systems depending on whether you opt for the manual or automatic gearbox. They also used better quality and more rigid steel body components to make the vehicles lighter and safer. Subaru is very proud of the fact that all models received top marks from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Easier on the pocketbook!
The mechanics have been updated for improved fuel economy – which is now 30% lower. Now Subaru can boast that it sells the most fuel-efficient compact vehicle with all-wheel drive on our market: 7.5 L/100 km in town and 5.5 L/100 km on the highway. In fact, you can go 1,000 km on a single tank of gas.
Personally, I was concerned about performance. The regular Impreza was never really known for its thunderous accelerations, so I wasn’t optimistic, especially considering the rather significant reduction in horsepower and torque. But I had the opportunity to test drive both the manual and automatic versions, and I wouldn’t characterize the accelerations as weak in either case. According to the manufacturer, the new Impreza needs a little less time to go from 0-100 km/hr. It used to require more than 10 seconds, whereas now it takes just 9.8 seconds. Granted, the improvement isn’t exactly staggering, but I found it reassuring nonetheless.
Subaru mentions that it has improved the manual gearbox, but while it’s better than it was before, there’s still a long way to go. Shifting is still neither precise nor smooth and on several occasions, it took me more than one try to shift from third to fourth gear. What’s more, I would have liked to have a sixth gear on the manual gearbox, which was not included for budgetary reasons (they wanted to keep the price of this car very competitive compared to its rivals).
As for the CVT automatic transmission, it’s respectable and efficient. In spite of the engineers’ best efforts to reduce the sound level, it remains noisy, but after a few minutes at the wheel, you get used to it. The handling is predictable and directional stability is good. Moreover, the brakes are efficient and easy to adjust. The power steering is proof positive that Subaru has made a great deal of progress in this area. On the other hand, regardless of the model, you have to be careful in tight turns as the car tends to understeer, like most Subarus.
More modern and cheaper to buy and operate, the new Impreza represents a step forward for this manufacturer. And the offer is even more attractive considering the improved quality to price ratio. Note that the WRX and WRX STi trims have not been changed and now constitute a different category.
|Test model||2012 Subaru Impreza|
|Trim level||2.0 Limited 5 Door (CVT)|
|Price range||$19,995 - $28,095|
|Price as tested||$28,095|
|Warranty (basic)||3 years / 60,000 km|
|Warranty (powertrain)||5 years / 100,000 km|
|Competitive models||Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda3, Mitsubishi Lancer, Nissan Sentra, Suzuki SX-4, Toyota Corolla, Toyota Matrix, Volkswagen Jetta|
|Fuel consumption||Noticeably better|
|Value for price||Well-suited to Canadian conditions|
|Performance||Average, but not laboured|
|Overall||Very well balanced|