April 16, 2013
The final day of my road trip in our long-term 2012 Subaru Impreza is mapped out with relaxation and visual stimulation in mind. Instead of taking the faster, easier route down U.S. Highway 101 or Interstate 5, I'm taking California Highway 1. It stretches down the Pacific coast overlooking breaking waves, cliffs and bridges, while on the opposite side of the car there are towering redwood forests and endless greenery. The views are everything I expected. What I wasn't expecting, though, is the horrendous weekday traffic.
April 15, 2013
There are only 250 miles ahead of me on the second day of my road trip in our long-term 2012 Subaru Impreza. Going out with the family for brunch in Nevada City and checking out some local sites takes up most of the morning agenda before hitting the road.
I'm well rested, confident and optimistic about the shortest travelling day on my road-trip schedule. It might not be my favorite car in the compact class, but this Subaru definitely has its moments in the sun.
April 10, 2013
I've lived in California my entire life and I've never driven up Highway 395 or seen Lake Tahoe. This trip to Northern California in our long-term 2012 Subaru Impreza would be different. I wanted to take the long route and see something more than flat, soulless freeways. The first leg of the five-day journey will take me to my father's new home in Nevada City, CA, 532 miles away.
After a few morning hours on the road, my first stop is at a vista point on U.S. Highway 395 to stretch my legs at The Aerospace Valley.
February 22, 2013
So let me get this straight. It's both a PZEV and an Impreza "Sport"? It certainly lives up to its green label, getting 27 mpg city and 36 highway. But where does the "Sport" part of this Subie come in?
In a previous post, I referred to the fact that the CVT makes the engine feel "gutless." A reader took me to task on this issue.
February 7, 2013
Don't get too excited. I'm just driving to Scottsdale, Arizona in our 2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport Limited. Should be about 760 miles round trip. Along the way there will be some of the most mind-numbingly boring desert landscape known to this country. And plenty of it.
Still, there's something about a road trip. Man and machine out on the open road. Good thinking time, good music-listening time, and maybe I'll play a book as well. Certainly good car evaluating time. And MAT (Mikey Alone Time).
February 1, 2013
As an ex-Subaru employee, I have a soft spot for Subarus. I cheer for the company, my friends, and the all-wheel-drive heritage I've come to admire.
That being said, I don't like driving our long-term 2012 Impreza. I like the idea of it — sporty, capable, practical — but the twitchy throttle and numbing CVT kill my Subie buzz every time I leave the parking lot. It then takes me at least a day or two of driving it consistently to remember just how to modulate the rabbit-jerky gas pedal.
This weekend, my daughter's friend said from the backseat: "Don't worry, my mom doesn't know how to drive a stick very good either."
Between the non-linear power delivery and the long wind-up of the CVT, she actually thought I was driving a manual. Poorly.
Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 14,254 miles
January 29, 2013
It's raining in Los Angeles today and the morning news is full of jackknifed truck trailers and hydroplane warnings. Even before I get out of bed, I sigh with relief at the thought of our long-term 2012 Subaru Impreza parked downstairs in my garage.
I recently read that 75 percent of all weather-related crashes occur on wet pavement during, or just after a rainstorm. (No, I don't remember where I read that, so feel free to argue against my "fact.")
Until the arrival of the rear-wheel-drive BRZ, all Subarus sold in the U.S. came standard with all-wheel drive, and our Impreza is no exception. Powering the wheels with the best traction, AWD is obviously a set-up that's ideal for wet and slippery conditions.
As I entertain the giggly all-girl school carpool by splashing the Impreza through the new rivers running across the streets of our small beach town, I give them a brief speech about the differences between front-, rear- and all-wheel drive cars.
They, of course, completely ignore me.
Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 14,140 miles
January 25, 2013
I met my father and two brothers in Las Vegas and they were impressed that I showed up in this 2012 Subaru Impreza Sport. During the two days I spent squiring them around the Strip, and then a side-trip to Hoover Dam, they kept asking me what I thought of the sport hatchback. To tell you the truth, I didn't have a lot of strong opinions; on the 380-mile trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas only two things struck me: the oft-cited weak feeling produced by the CVT and a pleasingly composed ride at highway speeds.
But then, after a few more days behind the wheel, more opinions began to form.
January 17, 2013
Up until 2012, Subaru offered an Outback Sport version of the Impreza hatchback. Sort of an Outback Junior, it essentially consisted of an Impreza hatch with a raised suspension, available contrasting lower body paint/moldings, a few other unique styling tweaks and bigger wheels.
Now, with the debut of the 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, it's déjà vu all over again. Although there's no "Impreza" in its name, the Crosstrek is obviously one with essentially the same tweaks that the old Outback Sport sported. So you have the requisite beefed-up suspension (it rides a full three inches higher), black wheel arch/rocker moldings and unique wheels. Although I'm not a fan of the standard Impreza's styling (too busy), for some reason it works for me much better with the Crosstrek.
I'm from New England, where Subaru's have been popular for ages thanks to their all-wheel-drive traction, solid reliability and (compared to SUVs) good fuel economy. I imagine a Crosstrek with the manual gearbox would make a fine winter/ski car back there...
You can find out more on the Impreza's tough brother here: http://www.edmunds.com/subaru/xv-crosstrek/2013/options.html?sub=suv
John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 13,124 miles
Here's my favorite feature on our long-term 2012 Subaru Impreza: the hatch itself. It's super lightweight and easy to close, whether you use the intended hand grip or grab it from the side while juggling a couple bags.
The hatch is easy to open, too, with the expected latch (well, it's not a mechanical latch per se, but some electronic sensor with a rubber pad over it) right below the Subaru badge and right above the license plate — rather than an unorthodox button release as on our recently departed 2012 Mazda 3.
It makes me happy that Subaru paid attention to these details on the Impreza hatchback. I just wish I liked the rest of the car more. The high level of road noise in this car is barely tolerable, even by budget car standards, and the suspension floats over small road imperfections but feels harsh over the bigger ones. The engine is weak. The cabin looks nice at a glance, but the materials quality has slipped and there's already a major rattle coming from our long-term car's dash.
I've recommended the previous two generations of the Impreza (both WRX and otherwise) to friends, but I can't keep that up with this car. Buy a Mazda 3 and put on snow tires, I'll tell them. Or if you really must have all-wheel drive, just about any of the current population of compact crossover SUVs would be a better choice. Yep, I really said that: Buy an SUV over what was formerly one of the best SUV alternatives.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 12,880 miles
December 20, 2012
Last week, after our usual test day, the still-fully-loaded 2012 Subaru Impreza and I picked up Associate Vehicle & Content Coordinator, Rex Tokeshi-Torres, and we scampered up to Streets of Willow. No, we weren't going to take any hot laps in the Impreza.
But we did opt for the Angeles Crest/Angeles Forest Highway cutoff, which is not only quicker than staying on the highway, but a heckuva lot more fun. Even in the not-so-sporty Subie.
The several hundred pounds worth of test gear wasn't doing us any favors on the twisty, mountainous roads, and it was hard to get up enough speed to even need to brake for most corners.
I used the CVT's paddle-shift manual mode quite a bit for the engine braking. Handlingwise the Subie did fine, but powerwise it was pretty pathetic with all that gear. Plus Rex.
When we got to Streets of Willow, the first thing Senior Editor Josh Jacquot asked was, "Did you blow up that CVT?"
November 20, 2012
Reader fordson1 recently inquired about Impreza ABS and stability control performance, particularly at the low speeds we encounter in the parking garage. So I put the Impreza to the test. I found ESC minimally intrusive, which proved useful for bending around the concrete pillars and outrunning some upset guards on golf carts. They frown on any movement above 5 mph and zealously enforce rules of the road.
ABS works equally well, and really shines when charging up the ramp to street level, trying to make the signal, when the skinny guy on a fixie-bike -- no lights and no reflectors mind you, just a mustache and a tank top -- crosses in front of you. The Impreza exhibits long pedal travel but consistent stopping distances, saving the windshield from a full serving of hipster scramble.
That's the Impreza at low speed. Here's what test pilot Monti said about the hatch at its limits:
"Minimal to zero difference between running with ESC on or off. The system cuts in some, but not enough that you don't still have to adjust throttle yourself. The Impreza could not be coaxed into any kind of drop-throttle oversteer. ESC can't be fully defeated but has high limits before it starts cutting the throttle and adding brakes."
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor
November 20, 2012
One underappreciated aspect of our longterm 2012 Subaru Impreza's continuously variable transmission is its smoothness. No gearchanges equals no shift shock. Just smoooooth acceleration all the time. I do have a quibble about its throttle tip-in at slow speeds, though. It's too abrupt, probably to give the impression that there's more grunt available than what's really there once you delve deeper into the throttle.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor
November 05, 2012
Here's a nice feature of the Subaru's CVT that I've found myself using frequently in the last few weeks. Its paddle shifters have veto power over the tranny when you need it most.
Grabbing the downshift paddle while in Drive (assuming you're at an appropriate vehicle speed) gives you a simulated shift which, if nothing else, is more satisfying than slamming your foot down and waiting. It feels a little quicker than waiting for the CVT to think when you need speed immediately.
Certainly you're still at the mercy of the ever-slipping transmission, but I'd wager that grabbing the paddle gets you down the road a little sooner. Anyway, leaving it in Drive means the engine returns to a normal speed fairly quickly (usually a matter of seconds) without any stick shaking or paddle tapping. Accompany all of this, of course, is the gear display showing a swap into whatever simulated gear the tranny selected and then a corresponing swap back to "D."
It beats slipping the stick into "M" if all you're doing is dispatching a freeway doddler.
Josh Jacquot, Senior editor
October 31, 2012
I drove the Impreza to Vegas for our annual trip to the SEMA show on Monday and found it to be a suprisingly capable companion for highway use. Not rapid, but comfortable and quiet. Still, it's able to execute a pass without causing me to fear for my life. And, at 80 mph, it's perfectly solid and unshakable.
Josh Jacquot, Senior editor
October 29, 2012
The EPA rates our Impreza's 2.0-liter flat four/CVT combo at 30 mpg combined. As of the end of September, with nearly 7,500 miles on the clock, we were seeing a 26.0 mpg combined average.
But there's another transmission option...
Subaru also offers this car with a 5-speed manual, which is rated at 28 mpg combined. I have a friend who's getting exactly that number with his 5-speed 2012 Impreza. He gets more than 30 mpg on the highway (the EPA rating is 33 mpg).
Given those numbers, the choice is an easy one for me.
Manuals for the win!
Josh Jacquot, Senior editor
October 5, 2012
The editors here are in the midst of assessing cars for our 2013 New Car Buying Guide. For some categories, it's a snap. For others, not so much. My ballot at this point is littered with preliminary votes, notes and question marks. All that will be resolved by deadline, however. That's why they call them deadlines.
In the course of surveying the cars, I've found the Edmunds Ratings criteria helpful. For fun, I thought I'd apply them to our Subaru Impreza. (We have rated the Impreza, but that was in 2010, and the test car was a 2011 WRX -- a different critter from our 2012 hatchback, which sports Subaru's new engine and the continuously disappointing -- I mean variable -- transmission.)
I'm not the expert here. My test-driving brethren and sistren are. But here's my quick take on the car. Our ratings employ a one-to-five-star scale:
Engine and transmission performance including acceleration and drivability: Two stars. (I'm downgrading here because of the CVT.)
Outward visibility, blind spots and nighttime exterior lighting: Four stars.
Steering, handling and braking performance; overall agility: Three stars.
Driving position and seat comfort; the logic and ease-of-use of controls: Four stars.
Seat Access & Space
Ease of entry & exit; interior roominess: Three stars.
Ride softness and body motion control: Three stars.
The absence of interior noise, especially from exterior sources such as road, wind and engine: Two stars.
Visible quality factors such as panel gaps, paint quality and interior materials; fit and finish: Three stars.
Cargo & Storage
Available trunk and cargo space and the ease of loading and unloading: Three stars.
If you were rating your ride this way, how would it do?
Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @7,800 miles
September 27, 2012
I took our Impreza for a drive today to get more of a feel for its handling capabilities. I came away pretty impressed. Our Impreza doesn't immediately feel all that sporty through the steering wheel when you're driving around town (it feels dull and a little heavy), but when run through corners there's an impressive level of grip and composure. Of course, there's also all-wheel drive to help put the power down when coming out of tight corners as well.
I was also surprised by how well the Impreza took on bumps and ruts. The suspension does a nice job of filtering out the rough stuff, but it doesn't come at the expense of body control.
Nice job, Subaru.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor
September 27, 2012
We've had a few posts now on the Impreza's CVT. Interestingly, all of them mention the manual shift mode. Dan Frio pretty much summed it up with: "Without paddles, [our] Impreza might be a deal breaker for me."
So what's really going on here with the CVT?
Upon initial observation, the CVT works pretty well. The Impreza moves quickly away from a stop. There's not a huge delay when you go for a passing maneuver. And yes, the manual mode does indeed work quite well.
However, there is a caveat in all of this. Whether it?s the tuning of the CVT or the relative underwhelming performance of the new 2.0-liter engine, something here just isn't harmonious. That that the CVT is quite sensitive to throttle inputs is the quality that I've most noticed. Just an extra little bit of pressure when pulling away from a stop can mean the difference between a held 2,500 rpm versus a held 3,200 rpm or so. Why is this important? Well, the 2.0-liter engine gets noticeably noisier above 3,000 rpm, thereby exacerbating the constant droning-rpm nature of the CVT. I've tried getting that sweet spot of acceleration — between boggy slow and too much rpm — but it takes concentration.
In response, I suspect our editors are resorting to the manual mode. (I'd also wager that this might be why we're on the low side for fuel economy.)
Now, this is a minor issue, and Impreza isn't the only car that we've encountered awkward transmission responses (Sonic, Jetta TDI and 7 Series come to mind just from our fleet). But with the general state of cars today being so good, it's the little things that end up standing out more, especially to us.
I think most buyers would be OK with the CVT. But for now I'd get the manual transmission if I were buying. Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor
September 21, 2012
I've driven our Mazda 3 quite a bit in the past six months. Now I've driven our Subaru Impreza for the first time. Coming out of the Mazda and going into the Subaru does present the opportunity to notice some differences. Thoughts on driving the cars back-to-back follow.
One of the first things I noticed between these two cars is the steering. Through the wheel, the 3 feels nimble, light and eager to turn in compared to the Impreza, which feels heavier and more resistant. It sort of like the 3 says "Hey, let's go party!" while the Impreza says "I think I'm going to stay in and watch Homeland."
But there's some latent capability in the Subaru. I've only driven it around town, but it does seem to offer more grip around corners. As we've covered previously, the 3's tires are rock hard and not big on grip. Test track numbers are also in the Subaru's favor (66.2 mph in the slalom compared to the 3's 63.7 mph).
The situation is reversed when it comes to throttle response. The Impreza, through its CVT, revs up fairly quickly when accelerating from a stop, whereas the Mazda can feel sluggish. This gives the impression that the Impreza is the quicker of the two. But in terms of numbers, the 3 is actually quicker, with a 0-60 time of 8.9 seconds versus the Impreza's 9.7 seconds. And while I need to spend more time with the Subaru and its CVT, so far I prefer the Mazda's traditional six-speed as it seems calmer around town.
In terms of ride quality and road noise, the Subaru is the smoother and quieter of the two cars.
Both cars have great fuel range. The Mazda's doing a lot better in terms of fuel economy, though.
As for the interiors, the Mazda is certainly more stylish to my eyes thanks to its two-tone design. The Impreza comes off as being rather drab in comparison. But the Subaru has superior interior storage (more places to put your cell phone, wallet, etc) and, for me, a more comfortable driving position. I prefer the Mazda for outward visibility, though this runs counter to what Michael Jordan wrote earlier. The Subaru has more rear legroom. Both cars have easy-to-fold rear seats.
I'll withhold judgment on which car I like more since I've spent a lot more time with the Mazda than the Subaru. But overall I'm glad we have the two cars in the fleet at the same time.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor
September 10, 2012
A coolant temp gauge, for one. This is pretty much all you get in the Impreza's display, day or night. For a long road-trip, one that takes you through 100-degree desert, I'd like a temp gauge. When you first start the car, you get a blue dummy light indicating that the coolant hasn't yet reached optimal temp (that light only hangs around for 30 seconds or so here in SoCal).
Even a dummy light that glows red when you're starting to boil doesn't seem very helpful. Just a simple progressive gauge that allows me to plan for an eventual roadside stop at a deserted service station with broken pumps and a maybe a bucket of dirty water.
To the Impreza's credit, it had no issues passing a couple hundred roasting desert miles with A/C going steady.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor
September 4, 2012
A milestone birthday in the family called for a road trip north to Reno. Anyone who's driven up U.S. 395 from southern California knows the parking lot shown above: Erick Schat's Bakkery in Bishop -- maybe the most decadent Dutch carb-fest in the Western states. Cookies, donuts, pastries, candies, biscotti, and more than a dozen different breads, with not a low-fat, gluten-free, soy milk ingredient in sight (I made up the gluten-free part; I think Schat's is hip to that particular digestive sensitivity, but it just read better to disclaim it). They also serve a righteous BBQ turkey sandwich.
A 1000-mile round-trip on mostly highway road, but with slopes, grades, elevation changes and frantic bursts of passing, would be a good test of the Impreza's fuel economy claims.
Schat's is about six hours from Orange County. Reno and Lake Tahoe are still another three hours north. Once you've made it this far, you should know if you're gonna like a car for the duration. The Impreza didn't surprise. It was as comfortable and competent as we've come to know it from long highway commutes. After six hours in the saddle, no complaints with the seats.
The CVT is this Impreza's single biggest weakness, although that's largely a personal complaint. Your tolerance may vary. Only once, while trying to pass a small train of slower traffic on a long uphill, did the CVT and Impreza's modest horsepower reach its limits. Foot to the floor, in the lowest simulated gear the CVT would allow and the engine shouting itself hoarse, I couldn't manage a full pass and had to tuck in behind the lead car as the lane ran out. I was THAT guy, and a little embarrassed.
But that was the car's biggest failing. For nearly the entire drive, the CVT worked well enough. Passing on flatter terrain develops more buzz from the engine bay than you'd like, but you shrug and remind yourself that it's a four-cylinder. The paddle shifters also allow for stealthy moments of engine braking, good for when approaching small towns and the speed limit drops from 65 mph to 25 mph in the space of a quarter-mile.
Nothing subtle about these speed traps, but the paddles help you slow up gradually and avoid the tell-tale nosedive braking that draws the attention of the highway patrolman and local sheriff parked behind a stand of cypress trees.
But the true test of the CVT's competence is how much fuel it saves us. The EPA rates our Impreza at 36 mpg highway and 30 mpg combined. Results in a future post.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor
June 06, 2012
The Impreza has something other cars in its class does not -- standard all-wheel drive. I'm from New England which has some of the most brutal winters you can imagine -- having AWD when the snow's flying certainly helps you get down the road confidently. For years, thanks to their mountain goat-like nature, Subarus were very popular among the Northeastern states.
But nowadays, AWD for street driving in a non-performance-oriented car doesn't strike me as providing the advantage it once did, what with modern cars having traction control and the advances in winter tire technology. If I still lived near Boston, I could probably get through winter there no problem if I threw a set of Blizzaks on my Mustang Cobra.
In light of the latter considerations, would having AWD in a modern compact economy car make any difference to you if you were shopping this segment?
John DiPietro, Automotive Editor
June 01, 2012
We all know about the manual shift function with an automatic transmission, right? You flick the lever back and forth a couple times on the way home from the car dealership and then that's it.
For the rest of the car's life, you pretty much just use the throttle to kick down a gear or two, since there's so much power from the engine that this is about all the manual shift action you need.
Well, those days are over, as a quick drive in the 2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport with its CVT will show you.
First of all, almost every automatic transmission you can name is calibrated to resist the whole kick-down thing, whether it's a conventional automatic, a CVT or even an automated manual. This is especially annoying between 40 mph and 60 mph, when commute traffic is surging back and forth like an accordion.
You can put your foot down hard for a burst of speed, but by the time the transmission shifts, the engine spools up and the power arrives, you've forgotten why you wanted all of this in the first place. In fact, the power generally arrives just as the car in front of you has already screeched to a halt.
The second thing is, the Impreza's console-mounted shift lever simply slides into a slot that activates manual control for the car's CVT. You actually shift with the paddles on the steering wheel, although it's not exactly like the shifting you do with a conventional automatic.
I always feel like a geek when I'm shifting a car with an automatic transmission and especially so with a CVT, but this is the only thing I can do to win my battle with this Subaru transmission's anti-acceleration calibration.
This whole automatic transmission thing is going backwards. We used to have automatic transmissions with just a few speeds because engines were so powerful that you could rely on just throttle control to go faster.
But now that engines only want to run within a very narrow range of rpm for optimum fuel economy, we need lots and lots of gear ratios in our automatic transmissions to make the car move forward.
All this shift lever action, maybe people are going to adapt to manual transmissions again.
Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 1,691 miles
May 29, 2012
Until recently, it was only Nissan who seemed to have cracked the code on programming a continuously variable transmission for intelligent and quick responses based on throttle position. Add to this short list Subaru who also gets a bonus point for temporary override of Drive with these steering wheel-mounted paddles that change the ratio up or down seamlessly and quickly.
Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 1,434 miles
May 14, 2012
It's a hatchback
Ample cargo area with privacy cover
Sporty white gauges that light up red at night
Low-key dark alloy wheels
Loud and sloppy CVT
Lack of mid-range torque
Almost imperceptible seat heaters
Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 919 miles
May 09, 2012
While flipping through the owner's manual for the engine break-in procedure on our 2012 Subaru Impreza, I found this page for new brake pads and linings. This sort of break-in occurs during normal driving. So it isn't something we'd typically acknowledge. But the parking brake section is interesting.
How many of you take the time to break-in your new parking brake as this manual suggests?
Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 813 miles
May 08, 2012
Read it and weep, its the engine break-in procedure for our 2012 Subaru Impreza. Read it because Subaru finds it important enough to include in the owner's manual. And weep because, well, we still have 200 miles of conservative driving before we are officially broken in.
When it comes to engine break-in we often encounter varying schools of thought. Here we are again. In our case, we follow the book. But what's your take on break-in? If the manual says do it, do you do it? Or do you jump right into your normal driving patterns immediately?
Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 813 miles