2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i
2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i. Click image to enlarge

Manufacturer’s web site
Subaru Canada

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

Photo Gallery:
http://www.autos.ca/galleries/2012/index.php?level=album&id=48

Over the years, Subaru’s excellent symmetrical all-wheel drive system has proven to be a double-edged sword for the company’s passenger car sales. Though Subaru’s AWD provides superior traction and safety when compared to conventional front and rear-wheel drive cars, it also adds cost, weight and a fuel consumption penalty. As a result, consumers looking to buy a compact car often overlook the Impreza when comparing compact models.

The new 2012 Subaru Impreza, coming in late October, will address this problem head-on. Equipped with a new, smaller and more fuel-efficient 2.0-litre horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine that replaces the current 2.5-litre four, and a new optional continuously variable transmission that replaces the optional four-speed automatic, the 2012 Impreza is projected to offer fuel economy numbers of 7.5 L/100 km city, and 5.5 L/100 km highway – a 30 per cent improvement over the current model’s 10.4/7.7 L/100 km (auto).

2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i
2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i
2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i
2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i. Click image to enlarge

That makes the 2012 Impreza the most fuel efficient all-wheel drive car sold in North America, but more importantly, it makes it comparable with popular front-wheel drive competitors such as the Honda Civic (auto) 7.2/5.0 city/hwy, Toyota Corolla (auto) 7.8/5.7, and Mazda3 (man) 8.1/5.9. The point, which I’m sure Subaru will drive home in their marketing efforts this Fall, is that consumers no longer have to sacrifice fuel economy to have the advantages of all-wheel drive.

Equipped with a standard five-speed manual transmission, the 2012 Impreza’s fuel consumption numbers are a bit higher, 8.3/5.8 city/hwy. That’s not worrying Subaru too much as they expect the majority of Imprezas (not the WRX or STI) to be sold with the CVT.

Subaru’s new 2.0-litre four-cylinder ‘boxer’ engine is derived from the 2.5-litre engine that debuted in the 2011 Forester. It has a dual overhead camshaft design instead of the current Impreza’s single overhead cam configuration. It also offers a longer stroke to maximize torque, variable valve timing on both intake and exhaust valves to optimize performance and fuel efficiency, and new catalyst positioning to reduce emissions.

The new engine is not as powerful as the current 2.5-litre engine, but performance will be as good or better, claims the company, in part because the new Impreza weighs less (1320 kg vs 1390 kg (base car, man trans). The 2.0-litre engine develops 148 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 145 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,200 rpm compared to the current model’s 170 hp at 6,000 rpm and 170 lb.-ft. at 4,400 rpm. The new horsepower and torque numbers are in line with the specifications of the base engines of its major competitors.

Subaru’s new “Lineartronic” CVT is a lighter and more compact version of the one first introduced in the 2010 Legacy and Outback models. Subaru’s stated goal is to make their CVT provide smooth, linear acceleration like a conventional automatic transmission while still offering “shiftless” operation and better fuel efficiency. The new CVT also features a “second-gear” start to avoid wheelspin on slippery surfaces. Drivers have the option of shifting the CVT manually with the shift lever or the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel – there are six simulated “gears.”

2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i
2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i. Click image to enlarge

As before, Subaru offers two different all-wheel drive systems in the 2012 Impreza: models with the five-speed manual transmission have a viscous-coupling limited-slip centre differential that distributes power 50/50 front to rear. Impreza’s with the Lineartronic CVT have an electronically managed continuously variable transfer clutch that distributes power 60/40 front/rear under normal driving conditions, but can transfer more power to the rear wheels under certain circumstances.

As with the current Impreza, 2012 models will be offered in four-door sedan and four-door hatchback bodystyles. Though both 2012 sedan and hatchback models are the same length and width, they have a 25 mm increase in their wheelbase but shorter front and rear overhangs. Height is lower by 10 mm.

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