The more things change, the more they stay the same; that adage has applied to Subaru for decades. These concise, tough, traditionally plain cars have an exceptionally devoted following in the marketplace, largely because Subarus have the lived-in familiarity of a favorite pair of old shoes.
The skeletal aspects of the all-new fourth-generation 2012 Subaru Impreza, its structure, minimalist boxer four-cylinder engine and on-demand all-wheel-drive, follow faithfully in the Subaru tradition. But for 2012, something new, and almost un-Subaru, has been added.
The new 2012 Impreza is the most dashing, stylish car Subaru has ever dared produce. Dared? Yes. Given Subaru's conservative, don't-rush-me tradition, this 2012 Impreza is, in its own way, revolutionary. Subaru fully intends the new Impreza to continue to appeal to its traditional buyers on the basis of its sturdy, capable all-weather characteristics. But at the same time, Subaru hopes the new car will reach out to brand-new buyers with its well-styled looks.
With Subaru's penetration of the American market inching constantly upwards, its market share is 3.47 percent, the highest ever, the company has good reason to look beyond its current owner base for new sales. A primary obstacle is that, at present, few people think of Subaru as a sedan-maker; they are more inclined to associate the brand with crossover SUVs.
But the new four- and five-door 2012 Impreza models are mass-market sedans, or in the case of the five-door, wagon-like utilities. Though many American buyers eschew hatchbacks, the five-door Impreza is perhaps the most well-proportioned model of the line.
The 2012 Impreza is revolutionary in other Subaru-like ways. Its all-new 148-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, downsized from last year's 2.5-liter, produces similar power and performance, while increasing fuel efficiency by a massive 36 percent. At a stellar 36 mpg Highway/27 mpg City on the EPA cycle, the Impreza is the most fuel-efficient all-wheel-drive car in America. At the same time, while many competing cars continue to get heavier, the new Impreza, depending on model and equipment, has lost up to 165 pounds in curb weight, contributing to increased fuel efficiency.
Subaru has long established itself as a builder of rugged small cars. According to the company, 95 percent of Subarus sold in the past 10 years are still on the road. With the fourth-generation Impreza, Subaru fully expects to outsell the previous model, the best-selling Impreza ever. Only the loss of six weeks' production due to the tsunami in Japan slowed 2011 sales. But the efficient new 2012 Impreza, starting at the same base price as the 2011 Impreza, achieves a significant jump in efficiency, value for dollar and appeal. Subaru means to climb still higher in the market with a car that will beckon to more Americans.
The 2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i comes in 4-Door and 5-Door models in several trim levels, all with the 2.0-liter DOHC 16-valve flat opposed four-cylinder engine. Most models come standard with a 5-speed manual gearbox; a CVT continuously variable transmission (which works like an automatic) adds $1,000. The Imprezas in some states are tuned to meet government regulations for Partial-Zero Emissions Vehicles, which increases all the prices listed here by $500. (All listed prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include destination charge and may change at any time without notice.)
The Impreza 2.0i sedan ($17,495) comes with cloth upholstery, air conditioning with air filtration, height-adjustable driver's seat, 65/35 fold-down rear seats, four-speaker AM/FM/CD, radio data system, two 12V outlets, power door locks, power mirrors, power windows with driver's auto up/down, rear window defroster, rear-seat heater ducts, remote fuel door release, tilt/telescope steering wheel, dual overhead map lights, dual visor vanity lights, ECO fuel-economy gauge, automatic-off headlights, trunk light, variable intermittent wipers, 15-inch steel wheels, 195/65 R15 all-season tires, green tinted glass, roof-mounted antenna. The 2.0i 5-Door ($17,995) includes all the above plus cargo tie-down hooks, grocery-bag hooks, rear window wiper/washer, rear roof spoiler.
Impreza 2.0i Premium sedan ($18,795) and 5-Door ($19,295) upgrade to 16x6.5-inch alloy wheels, 205/55 R16 all-season tires, six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3, Bluetooth, hands-free phone, iPod, USB, body-color exterior mirrors, adjustable center armrest, chrome interior door handles, cruise control, fog lights, illuminated ignition switch, rear stabilizer bar, steering wheel cruise/audio/Bluetooth controls, and cargo cover (5-door). Impreza 2.0i Limited comes standard with the CVT, 17-inch alloy wheels, and upgrades to leather-trimmed upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, rear-seat armrest, premium audio, 4.3-inch display, Bluetooth, iPod capability, All-Weather Package, automatic headlights, climate control, chrome exterior accents, fog lights.
The 2.0i Sport Premium 5-door ($20,295) adds 17x7 alloy wheels, 205/50 R17 all-season tires, HD radio 4.3-inch display screen, iTunes tagging capability, 3.4-in. aux. input jack, heated front seats, heated exterior mirrors, windshield wiper de-icers, auto on/off lights, climate control, chrome exterior door handles and grille accents, chrome-trim fog lights, leather upholstery, leather steering wheel and shifter, dual rear cup holders. Impreza 2.0i Sport Limited includes the CVT and upgrades to leather-trimmed upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, rear-seat armrest, premium audio, 4.3-inch display, Bluetooth, iPod capability, automatic headlights, climate control, silver-accent grille.
Options include an All-Weather Package ($500) with heated front seats, heated exterior mirrors and windshield wiper de-icers; Moonroof ($1,000); Moonroof plus Navigation System ($2,000).
Safety features on all models include the mandated airbags plus a driver's knee airbag, anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), VDC electronic stability control, TCS traction control, brake assist, brake override system, hill-hold start, all-wheel drive, mandated internal trunk lease, child-restraint anchorage system, mandated tire pressure monitor, whiplash-preventive front seats, 24-hour roadside assistance.