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2012 Subaru Impreza Review | via Autoblog Canada

2012 Subaru Impreza Review
 
2012 Subaru Impreza Review
By Zack Bowen, Autoblog
 
Subaru found itself in an interesting position when the auto market imploded back in 2009. While most manufacturers were busily darting about trying to stop their sales from bleeding out, the quirky Japanese automaker actually posted gains in both market share and earnings during the recession.
 
It was a dark time for most dealers. Salesmen began eying the fairest compacts on their lot for sacrifice in an attempt to appease the sales gods that had abandoned them, and showrooms began devolving into tribal law in earnest. Meanwhile, Subaru dealers watched through gold-rimmed monocles from across the street with a mixture of curiosity and amusement.
 
But what happens when the national financial ship rights itself and social order is restored once again? Will buyers still shun emblems of excess and continue to opt for rough-riding, economy-minded Japanese all-whee-drive wagons and compacts? If the 2012 Subaru Impreza is any indication, the company may be concerned its products aren’t quite mainstream enough to retain conquests acquired through the dark days of ’09. The 2012 Impreza is more comfortable, quieter and offers a more attractive interior than ever before, but those gains come with sacrifices that may alienate the model’s long-time fans, ourselves included.
 
For better or worse, Subaru has held onto the company’s tradition of embracing unconventional styling. We’ve never loved the automaker’s products because of their bodywork, and the 2012 Impreza sedan isn’t out to buck that trend. Designers have blessed the four door with an aggressive face that’s far from anonymous. Large, scowling headlamps lie beneath a nicely contoured hood and are split by an attractive hexagonal grille. The front fascia features a large lower air inlet with sizable fog light bezels set far toward each corner. And speaking of corners, engineers have rolled in the squared-off aero edges popularized by hybrid models like the Toyota Prius, Chevrolet Volt and Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.
 
From the front, the 2012 Impreza looks more like a baby Legacy than an anonymous compact. Unfortunately, that impression wanes as soon as the vehicle is viewed from the side. From profile, the 2011 Impreza simply looks awkward. Individual elements like a strong character line that transitions seamlessly into the tail lights and expressive, exaggerated fender arches look good when taken individually, but make for a muddled finished product when combined. There’s simply too much going on here for the sedan to be considered clean. Combine those issues with the standard 16-inch alloy wheels on our 2.0 Limited tester and a tall ride height, and you have a perfect recipe for awkward pie.
 
Whereas compacts like the Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze serve up sheetmetal that looks either more stylish or more mature than we’ve come to expect from the segment, Subaru seems committed to the unpleasantness of bygone compact design. But, being the generous folk we are, we’re willing to chalk up the sedan’s questionable lines as par for the course from a company responsible for the likes of the curious SVX and infamous Tribeca. Ugly is as Subaru does.
 
We’ve been quick to rail on the Japanese automaker for building interiors well behind the curve in the past, and it appears Subaru has finally moved to cure that ail. The 2011 Impreza now features a vastly improved material selection inside. The driver gets to enjoy a three-spoke, multi-function steering wheel, and our 2.0 Limited tester came equipped with a very attractive two-tone interior. The dash is covered in squeak-fighting soft-touch materials, and while the centre stack isn’t anything we’d consider beautiful, the controls are logically organized and easy to manipulate. Perhaps the easiest place to see an improvement is the vehicle’s front door panels. The pieces have been a wasteland of hard plastic in the past, but with soft touch uppers, well-grained plastics and cloth inserts, the panels now use a multitude of materials to improve the overall feel of the cabin.
 
Subaru has also worked to make the 2011 Impreza more functional inside. Engineers stretched the vehicle’s wheelbase by 25 mm, and thanks to some clever packaging, rear passengers are now treated to 51 mm of additional leg room over the outgoing model. That’s partially due to new scalloped front seat backs that provide space for knobby knees. Even with the extra space, the 899 mm (35.4 inches) of rear leg room in the Impreza just ties that available in the Chevrolet Cruze and still falls to the 919 mm (36.2 inches) available in the segment-conquering Honda Civic.
 
Speaking of those front seats, Subaru redesigned the buckets for long-term comfort, and there’s more lumbar support available than in the past. Even the base Impreza is now packed with convenience features, including power windows, locks and side-view mirrors as well as keyless entry.
 
Subaru found itself in an interesting position when the auto market imploded back in 2009. While most manufacturers were busily darting about trying to stop their sales from bleeding out, the quirky Japanese automaker actually posted gains in both market share and earnings during the recession.
 
It was a dark time for most dealers. Salesmen began eying the fairest compacts on their lot for sacrifice in an attempt to appease the sales gods that had abandoned them, and showrooms began devolving into tribal law in earnest. Meanwhile, Subaru dealers watched through gold-rimmed monocles from across the street with a mixture of curiosity and amusement.
 
 
2012 Subaru Impreza Interior
 
But what happens when the national financial ship rights itself and social order is restored once again? Will buyers still shun emblems of excess and continue to opt for rough-riding, economy-minded Japanese all-whee-drive wagons and compacts? If the 2012 Subaru Impreza is any indication, the company may be concerned its products aren’t quite mainstream enough to retain conquests acquired through the dark days of ’09. The 2012 Impreza is more comfortable, quieter and offers a more attractive interior than ever before, but those gains come with sacrifices that may alienate the model’s long-time fans, ourselves included.
 
For better or worse, Subaru has held onto the company’s tradition of embracing unconventional styling. We’ve never loved the automaker’s products because of their bodywork, and the 2012 Impreza sedan isn’t out to buck that trend. Designers have blessed the four door with an aggressive face that’s far from anonymous. Large, scowling headlamps lie beneath a nicely contoured hood and are split by an attractive hexagonal grille. The front fascia features a large lower air inlet with sizable fog light bezels set far toward each corner. And speaking of corners, engineers have rolled in the squared-off aero edges popularized by hybrid models like the Toyota Prius, Chevrolet Volt and Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.
 
From the front, the 2012 Impreza looks more like a baby Legacy than an anonymous compact. Unfortunately, that impression wanes as soon as the vehicle is viewed from the side. From profile, the 2011 Impreza simply looks awkward. Individual elements like a strong character line that transitions seamlessly into the tail lights and expressive, exaggerated fender arches look good when taken individually, but make for a muddled finished product when combined. There’s simply too much going on here for the sedan to be considered clean. Combine those issues with the standard 16-inch alloy wheels on our 2.0 Limited tester and a tall ride height, and you have a perfect recipe for awkward pie.
 
Whereas compacts like the Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze serve up sheetmetal that looks either more stylish or more mature than we’ve come to expect from the segment, Subaru seems committed to the unpleasantness of bygone compact design. But, being the generous folk we are, we’re willing to chalk up the sedan’s questionable lines as par for the course from a company responsible for the likes of the curious SVX and infamous Tribeca. Ugly is as Subaru does.
 
We’ve been quick to rail on the Japanese automaker for building interiors well behind the curve in the past, and it appears Subaru has finally moved to cure that ail. The 2011 Impreza now features a vastly improved material selection inside. The driver gets to enjoy a three-spoke, multi-function steering wheel, and our 2.0 Limited tester came equipped with a very attractive two-tone interior. The dash is covered in squeak-fighting soft-touch materials, and while the centre stack isn’t anything we’d consider beautiful, the controls are logically organized and easy to manipulate. Perhaps the easiest place to see an improvement is the vehicle’s front door panels. The pieces have been a wasteland of hard plastic in the past, but with soft touch uppers, well-grained plastics and cloth inserts, the panels now use a multitude of materials to improve the overall feel of the cabin.
 
Subaru has also worked to make the 2011 Impreza more functional inside. Engineers stretched the vehicle’s wheelbase by 25 mm, and thanks to some clever packaging, rear passengers are now treated to 51 mm of additional leg room over the outgoing model. That’s partially due to new scalloped front seat backs that provide space for knobby knees. Even with the extra space, the 899 mm (35.4 inches) of rear leg room in the Impreza just ties that available in the Chevrolet Cruze and still falls to the 919 mm (36.2 inches) available in the segment-conquering Honda Civic.
 
Speaking of those front seats, Subaru redesigned the buckets for long-term comfort, and there’s more lumbar support available than in the past. Even the base Impreza is now packed with convenience features, including power windows, locks and side-view mirrors as well as keyless entry.
 
But if there’s a reason to get excited about the 2012 Subaru Impreza, it’s under the vehicle’s hood. The four-door packs an all-new, dual-overhead cam naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre four-cylinder good for 5.5 L/100 km on the highway. If that seems high for the compact segment, it pays to keep in mind that this is the only vehicle in the class that comes with all-wheel drive as standard equipment. And, if a little perspective helps, the previous-generation Impreza managed to drag home a pathetic 11.8 L/100 km city and 8.7 L/100 km on the highway. In 2011. Those numbers were bested even by the likes of the Honda CR-V.
 
But that was then. Now, the 2012 Impreza is good for 7.5 L/100 km in the city. That’s a massive step up, and during our time with the vehicle, we saw an honest 7.5 L/100 km combined. We know previous-generation Impreza owners who would perform all sorts of sinister acts to milk that kind of fuel economy from their thirsty boxer fours. Of course, those numbers come with a sacrifice. At 148 horsepower, the new 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine produces 22 less horsepower than the old 2.5-litre single-overhead cam lump. The story isn’t much better when it comes to torque, with the 2012 model delivering 145 pound-feet to the 2011 version’s 170 pound-feet.
 
To further complicate matters, our tester came saddled with a dreaded continuously-variable transmission. There are companies that build excellent CVT gearboxes. Subaru is not one of them. While we have no problem with the idea of relying on smaller-displacement engines with lower power figures to meet fuel economy goals, the CVT means that the driver is forced to cane the breath out of the engine just to feel like the car’s getting under way. The bands shift the engine from barely above idle to out-right screaming at red line with little to no happy medium, leaving the 2.0-litre lump sounding like a bipolar blender. The experience is simply grating, and genuinely detracts from the overall feel of the sedan. Of course, the fact that we spent a week with the vehicle screaming in the upper registers of the RPM band and still managed to net 7.5 L/100 km combined makes us wonder what we could coax from the standard five-speed manual transmission.
 
Or at least it would if both vehicles utilized the same all-wheel-drive system. Subaru has pulled something of a quick one when it comes to putting power to all four corners in the 2012 Impreza. Buyers who opt for the manual transmission are treated to the same tried-and-true continuous all-wheel-drive system we’ve come to know and love, complete with a viscous coupling locking center differential. CVT models, meanwhile, make use of an active all-wheel-drive system with an electronically-controlled hydraulic transfer clutch. That means that most of the time, the rear wheels are simply along for the ride. Should the vehicle decide you need extra grip, it can kick power to the back tires accordingly.
 
Read Article: http://ca.autoblog.com/2011/12/15/2012-subaru-impreza-review/..