2012 Subaru Impreza
2012 Subaru Impreza. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2012 Subaru Impreza

As we pointed out in our preview of the 2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i last month, it is now not only the most fuel-efficient all-wheel drive car sold in North America, but when equipped with its new (optional) continuously variable transmission, it’s even more fuel efficient than some of its front-wheel drive competitors, including the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3. Natural Resources Canada fuel economy ratings for the 2012 Impreza are 7.5 L/100 km city, and 5.5 L/100 km highway (with continuously variable transmission), a 30 per cent improvement over 2011 Imprezas with the optional four-speed automatic transmission, while 2012 Imprezas with the manual five-speed transmission offer 8.3 city/5.8 highway, a 22 per cent improvement over last year’s model.

2012 Subaru Impreza
2012 Subaru Impreza. Click image to enlarge

Critics are quick to point out that with 148 horsepower and 145 lb.-ft. of torque, the new Impreza’s 2.0-litre DOHC 16-valve horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine is down 22 horsepower and 25 lb.-ft. from the 2011 Impreza’s 2.5-litre four-cylinder H.O. engine. Based on this lower power to weight ratio, the new Impreza should be slower from 0 to 100 km/h; but according to Subaru, the Impreza’s lighter curb weight, more responsive engine (with a longer stroke and variable valve timing on the intake and exhaust cams), and new CVT give it a slight edge in 0 to 60 mph times (0 to 100 km/h times were not provided) over the 2011 model. Its quoted 0 to 60 time of just under 10 seconds (with CVT) is comparable with the base Honda Civic (140 hp) and Mazda3 (148 hp), says the company. Though that’s not quick, it’s probably good enough for 2.0i buyers who will be more concerned with fuel economy and the benefits of all-wheel drive than acceleration prowess. Enthusiasts will no doubt check out the WRX.

2012 Subaru Impreza
2012 Subaru Impreza. Click image to enlarge

But what about that new continuously variable transmission? Many critics dislike them because they prefer the traditional shift feel of an automatic transmission. Yes, this new CVT is definitely “shiftless,” but it’s not a “droner” that allows the engine to hang on indefinitely to high revs until you back off the throttle – it has a more direct throttle response and a more linear acceleration feel. Subaru has a lot of experience with CVTs – I can recall driving a CVT-equipped Subaru Justy back in the early 90s – that was a droner! As well, this new CVT has an “M” manual mode with six simulated speeds and paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. Manual shift times are quick and I found that the manual mode (left, shift down/right, shift up) added a satisfying dimension of driver control and entertainment to the Impreza’s overall driving experience. The shift paddles will operate even in “D” mode when needed, and revert back to automatic mode once the car maintains a constant speed. The “Lineartronic” CVT is a $1,300 option on all Imprezas but doesn’t include paddle shifters on the base model.

2012 Subaru Impreza
2012 Subaru Impreza. Click image to enlarge

Both the Impreza sedan and hatchback models that I drove had the CVT – I didn’t have the opportunity to drive the manual five-speed which is a carryover from last year. The manual transmission includes a hill-hold function that prevents the car from rolling back on a hill as the clutch is engaged.

All-wheel drive is, of course, standard. As before, when equipped with the manual transmission, Subaru’s all-wheel drive system consists of a viscous-coupling limited-slip centre differential that splits power 50/50 front to rear at all times. With the CVT (and with the previous automatic transmission) the all-wheel drive system uses an electronically-controlled multi-plate transfer clutch system that splits power 60/40 front/rear but varies that depending on acceleration, deceleration and traction loss.

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