May 07, 2012
The Subaru Impreza has dug its niche as a sturdy, inexpensive, all-wheel-drive car that will take you to work in any weather imaginable. Trouble is, most of the U.S. doesn't have to worry about snow for much of the year, so sales outside of the snowbelt have never matched those of competitors like the Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla.
Subaru is hoping to dig out of that rut with the redesigned 2012 Impreza. It has been redesigned to compete with mainstream compact cars while maintaining its standard all-wheel-drive system. More importantly, fuel economy is now a selling point instead of a shortcoming. With its EPA ratings of 27 city/36 highway and 30 mpg combined, our 2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport Limited hatchback is the most fuel-efficient Subie since the three-cylinder Justy.
With these improvements, the 2012 Impreza has everything that it needs to compete. But is it still a true Subaru? We decided to add one to the long-term fleet to find out.
What We Got
All the redesigned 2012 Subaru Impreza models feature a naturally aspirated version of Subaru's new FB-series, horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine. In this car, it displaces 2.0 liters and is rated at 148 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 145 pound-feet of torque at 4,200 rpm. This is considerably less power and torque than you got with last year's normally aspirated 2.5-liter engine (170 hp, 170 lb-ft), but the old motor returned lousy mileage. Its EPA numbers were 20/27/22 with a manual, 20/26/22 with an automatic.
The 2.0-liter engine comes with either a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and a clutch-type AWD system, or a carryover five-speed manual gearbox and a viscous-coupling AWD system. Fuel economy is lower with the manual (25/33/28), and we've never done any extended testing of Subaru's CVT, so we opted for the belt-and-pulley transmission. Hey, at least it has a steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifter and six forward gear ratios (well, more or less) to keep us busy.
Subaru sells the 2012 Impreza in myriad trim levels. Adding to the potential confusion are the WRX and STI models, which aren't part of this redesign — they're still the old body style with the same turbocharged 2.5-liter engines as last year.
Among the redesigned 2.0i models, our Sport Limited model is considered top of the line. For its base price of $23,645, including destination, you get 17-inch alloy wheels with a gun-metal finish, 205/50R17 Yokohama Avid S34D all-season tires, foglights, heated mirrors and black roof rails. Inside, our hatch has leather upholstery, heated seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, automatic climate control, Bluetooth (with streaming audio capability), and USB and auxiliary inputs.
Major options include a $1,000 sunroof and a hard-drive-based navigation system (also $1,000, but you have to buy it with the sunroof). Our long-termer has the sunroof but no navigation system.
The total MSRP on our 2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0 Sport Limited hatchback is $24,645. There was no room to haggle, as Subaru loaned us the car for this test.
Why We Got It
Past Subaru Imprezas were always likable, but they weren't as practical or fuel-efficient as cars like the Ford Focus, Mazda 3, Honda Civic and Volkswagen Jetta. We recommended the Impreza to friends, but always advised, "If you don't really need all-wheel drive, there are better choices out there."
However, the revamped 2012 Subaru Impreza offers a more complete package, and Impreza sales have doubled since it went on sale in November 2011.
After our initial drive of the Subaru Impreza, we had it all figured out: "This Impreza will sell, even if it's not your first pick for bombing down a back road. It will sell because it makes a good commuter car. The ride is comfortable. The acceleration is adequate. Getting 30 mpg is easy. And the cabin is spacious and furnished with quality materials."
Now we have 12 months and 20,000 miles to find out if this 2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport Limited makes a good daily driver in Southern California. We'll be reporting on its fuel economy, ride comfort and out-and-out functionality on the Long-Term Road Test blog.
Current Odometer: 603 miles
Best Fuel Economy: 25.4 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 24.0 mpg
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 24.6 mpg
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.