2012 Subaru Impreza Sport hatchback
2012 Subaru Impreza Sport hatchback. Click image to enlarge

Test Drive: 2012 Subaru Impreza Sport
Test Drive: 2012 Subaru Impreza Touring
Feature: Ottawa-Chicago in a Subaru Impreza
DBDR: 2012 Subaru Impreza Sport
Used Vehicle Review: Subaru Impreza, 2008-2011

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Subaru Canada

Review by Michael Schlee
Photos by Michael Schlee and Esmond Yau

Photo Gallery:
2012 Subaru Impreza

Although there was a close battle between the Mitsubishi Lancer SE AWC and Subaru Impreza Touring posted on this site today, it is important to note that Subaru has one trump card up its sleeve: a manual transmission option. Mitsubishi does equip the Lancer with a manual transmission as well, but not when paired to the All-Wheel Control system. If all-wheel drive and a manual transmission are your two biggest prerequisites for a new compact sedan, you only have one option: the 2012 Subaru Impreza.

The Impreza is a bit of an anomaly in the automotive world. It is one of the few cars that actually becomes a better deal the higher the trim and price rise. As a base model, the $19,995 sedan doesn’t offer much more than AWD over the $17,490 Honda Civic LX sedan. However, by the time you reach the Impreza Sport sedan at $23,895, only a similarly optioned Honda Civic EX sedan at $23,838 can match it feature for feature (minus AWD). The Canadian exclusive Impreza Limited sedan comes in at $25,895, which undercuts the similarly equipped Ford Focus Titanium sedan ($27,759) and Chevrolet Cruze LTZ Turbo sedan ($25,930). Of course, neither of these competitors features AWD.

2012 Subaru Impreza Sport hatchback
2012 Subaru Impreza Sport hatchback
2012 Subaru Impreza Sport hatchback. Click image to enlarge

The Impreza’s interior will be familiar to current Subaru owners — shades of black everywhere, broken up by silver accents. This much-improved interior features an easy-to-use information screen that lets you see anything, from which wheels are slipping on the road to minute-by-minute fuel consumption over the past half hour.

Two of the biggest complaints people have about past Impreza interiors has been addressed in the 2012 restyle. Nearly all interior surfaces have now become soft touch plastics, including the all-important door panel. The other big upgrade is the stereo system. Gone is the old tinny sound system that seemed to have been transported from 1993. The new system is nowhere near the best, but it is at least now up to 2012 standards.

Base Subaru Imprezas come equipped with 16-inch wheels and tires. Sport and Limited models come with 15-spoke 17-inch aluminum alloys wearing 205/50R17 all-season tires. Our test car had the all-season tires swapped out for a set of winter tires which was a nice since we received our Impreza during a cold snap.

Handling is one area in which Subaru focused a lot of attention during the development of this new model, and it appears to have paid off. The Impreza is planted and reacts much better than expected for a mainstream compact car. Toss it hard into a corner and you are rewarded with a more neutral turn-in than anticipated. This is not to say the Impreza has reached the handling standards of the WRX or STI, but the gap has shrunk.

For 2012, the Impreza receives an all-new engine. Gone is the old SOHC 2.5L boxer-four unit, replaced by a DOHC 2.0L boxer-four. As can be expected from an engine 20 percent smaller in size, power is down, now just 148 hp compared to the previous engine’s 170 hp. Improved fuel economy is the driving force behind this change. Subaru claims fuel economy for automatic Imprezas has improved by 30 percent over the 2011 model.

2012 Subaru Impreza Sport hatchback
2012 Subaru Impreza Sport hatchback
2012 Subaru Impreza Sport hatchback. Click image to enlarge

Subaru also claims the new smaller engine in the 2012 Impreza is actually quicker than the 2011 model, from a dead stop to 100 km/h, thanks to the new CVT transmission and 74 kg of weight savings. We, however, are testing an Impreza equipped with a manual transmission, so a more apples-to-apples comparison of engine performance can be obtained. On the road, the engine is noticeably down on power. It is not a great deficiency, but it is readily apparent in the mid- to high-range rpm. Thankfully, the new engine makes all the right Subaru boxer sounds. In fact, this new engine seems to make more noise than we remember in previous Imprezas. The fact there is no sound deadening under the hood may be the culprit.

The main goal of the new Impreza is improved fuel consumption. Here the car seems to have hit the mark. Our five-speed manual Hatchback test vehicle returned an average of 8.7 L/100 km over our week with the car. That isn’t quite as good as the Chevrolet Cruze LTZ Turbo we tested in the fall, but beats the Ford Focus SEL hatchback. Considering the Impreza gives up 12 hp to the Focus, but has the same size motor and AWD, that number is impressive.

Overall, the 2012 Impreza has become more modern and moves slightly upscale. Gone are the days of the rambunctious little 2.5RS coupe with its array of hood scoops. No, now we have the grown-up Impreza. It is a mainstream car that has all of Subaru’s trademark qualities and features styling that looks more expensive than the old model, but is actually cheaper. This new model is destined to be a hit with the general public and if you are an enthusiast, fear not — there are still the WRX, the WRX STI, and soon the BRZ coupe to satisfy your sports car needs.

Pricing: 2012 Subaru Impreza Sport Hatchback Manual
  • Base price: $24,795
  • Options: None
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Freight: $1,695
  • Price as tested: $26,590

  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Subaru Impreza

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  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Mazda3
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    Crash test results
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)
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