2012 Subaru Impreza Long-Term Road Test - Wrap-Up

2012 Subaru Impreza Long-Term Road Test



Read the 2012 Subaru Impreza introduction to our long-term fleet.

See all of the 2012 Subaru Impreza long-term updates.

What We Got
Our decision to get a 2012 Subaru Impreza was simple. It sits at the heart of the brand's expanding lineup and it was redesigned for 2012. Figuring out which one was even easier since all-wheel drive was standard and every non-WRX Impreza is powered by the same naturally aspirated, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. The horizontally opposed engine generates 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque.

We did have to pick a transmission, since the Impreza offered a continuously variable transmission (CVT) or five-speed manual. Fuel economy was important to us, so we favored the more frugal CVT. From a sea of trim level options we settled on the top-of-the-line Sport Limited. This included 17-inch wheels, roof rails, leather upholstery and heated seats to name a few. The only optional equipment on our Impreza 2.0i Sport Limited was a $1,000 sunroof.

2012 Subaru Impreza

The total MSRP on our 2012 Subaru Impreza was a reasonable $24,645. And so the test was under way. We had one year to gather impressions before it was time to return the car to Subaru, who loaned us the Impreza for the test. Here's how it went.

Our Impressions

  • "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." — Dan Frio

  • "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." — Erin Riches

  • "I drove the Impreza to Vegas for our annual trip to the SEMA show on Monday and found it to be a surprisingly 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

  • "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. Sort of. 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...and beats slipping the stick into "M" if all you're doing is dispatching a freeway dawdler." — Josh Jacquot

  • 2012 Subaru Impreza

  • "I took our Impreza for a drive today to get more of a feel for its handling capabilities. I came away pretty impressed. It 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

  • "Suddenly the instrument panel went berserk with warning lights and the tach jumped to 5,000 rpm at about 70 mph. The most telling of the lights was the AT Oil Temp warning. I slowed way down and nursed the car the few miles left back to my house. Once on surface streets, the CVT was very sluggish taking off from stoplights, acting like it was massively slipping the clutch. And it no longer allowed manual shifting. Next morning, the four warning lights (plus a flashing cruise control light) were still on, but the transmission was working normally again, including manual mode. We immediately took it to the Subaru dealer for a look-see." — Mike Monticello

  • "I've noted before that the engine bay in our Impreza is not pretty and that's fine. It's not a high-dollar sports car after all. It is, however, a commuter car to many, so keeping it properly maintained is likely a priority for owners. Subaru seems to have taken this into consideration as the engine bay is not only well-marked, the important parts are easily accessible. I mean, check out that oil filter; it's just begging to be changed. And once you're done with that, you need only to venture a mere inch or two to refill the crankcase. So easy, yet so rare." — Ed Hellwig

  • "Today I'm here to pour praise on the driver seat of our long-term Subaru Impreza. It is a fantastically comfortable place to spend time. Not too firm, which has become a trend, and not too soft, which is the way too many seats used to be. I'm 5'11" tall and 185 pounds, which means I'm of fairly average size, and the Impreza's seat is sized and shaped perfectly for my frame.... I also like the fact that it is height-adjustable, which combines with a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel with plenty of range, to create a perfect driving position." — Scott Oldham

  • "At first glance the backseats in the Impreza don't look like much. Flat cushions, average room and no toys to play with. But when you actually sit in them they're surprisingly comfortable. Not road trip comfortable, just comfortable. It might sound like a backhanded compliment, but sedans and hatchbacks in this class often cut corners in the backseats to the point where they're barely habitable. Most kids don't mind, but adults find them terrible. I would sit back here without a complaint. At least for a little while." — Ed Hellwig

  • "It was with great pleasure I found this head unit in our new long-term Subaru Impreza. While it might look like a no-frills audio interface, it's a huge improvement over our previous Subaru touchscreen unit with navigation.... Bonus for a highly legible display showing my available HD channels, my Bluetooth readiness, phone charge and reception, and all the info I could ever need from the RDS." — Chris Walton
  • Maintenance & Repairs

    Regular Maintenance:
    Subaru recommends service at 7,500-mile intervals. For severe service, an additional oil swap at 3,750 is suggested. We followed the severe routine, having our first and third services performed by the dealer.

    2012 Subaru Impreza

    We handled the 7,500-mile oil change ourselves. The Impreza was easy to work on, and the price was right. We spent under $10 for the DIY, while the dealer visits averaged $113.

    Service Campaigns:
    One event marred an otherwise spotless record for the 2012 Subaru Impreza. A jaunt through the curves overheated the transmission, cutting power and ultimately requiring a new CVT pressure switch. Our car spent one night at the dealer waiting for parts before it was back in action. The issue did not return.

    Fuel Economy and Resale Value

    Observed Fuel Economy:
    The EPA estimated fuel economy for our Impreza 2.0i PZEV at 27 mpg in the city/36 mpg on the highway and 30 mpg combined. We averaged just 26 mpg after one year with the car. Multiple 30 mpg fill-ups and a range over 430 miles per tank showed promise on the highway. But the reality of driving a CVT-equipped four-cylinder around town involved a heavy foot much of the time.

    2012 Subaru Impreza

    Resale and Depreciation:
    Our long-term 2012 Subaru Impreza arrived with an MSRP of $24,645. At the end of its test the odometer read 18,674 and Edmunds' TMV® Calculator valued it at $20,730 based on a private-party sale. This equated to a remarkably low 16 percent depreciation. For comparison, our similarly equipped 2012 Mazda 3 depreciated 26 percent after 20,080 miles of service.

    Summing Up

    Pros: Comfort and ride quality are good for the segment. It's capable of 400-plus miles per tank. Value retention is well above average. Hatchback utility.

    Cons: The engine and CVT combination felt underpowered at times. Real-world fuel economy was below EPA estimates.

    Bottom Line: This is a classic Subaru. Well made, reliable, functional and affordable. Other than its meager powertrain, this Impreza has few faults and would be an excellent choice for a budget-minded buyer looking for an all-weather hatchback.

    Total Body Repair Costs: None
    Total Routine Maintenance Costs: $236.69 (over 12 months)
    Additional Maintenance Costs: None
    Warranty Repairs: Replace CVT pressure switch
    Non-Warranty Repairs: None
    Scheduled Dealer Visits: 2
    Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 1
    Days Out of Service: 1 awaiting CVT pressure switch
    Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None
    Best Fuel Economy: 31.0 mpg
    Worst Fuel Economy: 17.4 mpg
    Average Fuel Economy: 25.9 mpg
    True Market Value at service end: $20,730 (private-party sale)
    Depreciation: $3,915 (or 16% of paid price or original MSRP)
    Final Odometer Reading: 18,674 miles

    The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

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2012 Subaru Impreza Research