For a brand of car I have never personally owned, Subarus hold a place in my heart. Never afraid to march to the beat of their own drum, growing up reading car magazines, I was bemused a car company would simply call a car a DL or GL. Their funky boxer four cylinder engines sounded like nothing else, and of course, all-wheel drive was a given. It was my cousin Tommy’s 1976 blue Subaru station wagon that drove me, windows down in Spring on I-95 to my very first pizza at the famous Pepe’s Pizza in New Haven, CT when I was in first grade. When I was 15, it was this same Subaru Tommy taught me how to drive a stick shift. It broke my heart that beloved blue Subie’s frame was rotting and I could not own it myself.
Fast forward twenty five years, thanks to our friends at Subaru, the completely redesigned 2012 Impreza appeared on my driveway, ironically in blue, and blessed with a five-speed manual. The only thing missing was my cousin Tommy giving me pointers on working a clutch while nursing a Budweiser in the drug store parking lot near my Grandparent’s house.
Subaru has made strides in trying to mainstream themselves in hopes of greater sales and profits, but with the new Impreza it is best described as a Legacy in miniature, and just quirky enough to keep the Subaru faithful satisfied. During my week with the Impreza no one complimented or criticized the car. Style-wise, I think the Impreza falls short of far slicker offerings like the Ford Focus, Hyundai Accent or Kia Rio. There’s not a bad line on the car, but the competition is sporting far more sophisticated duds.
If past Imprezas had a weak point, it was interior that bordered on crude. With the new Impreza, driver and passengers are treated to a comfortable, airy cabin with high quality plastics and soft touch materials. All gauges are easy to read, controls are a cinch to figure out. I found the seats fairly comfortable, and there was plenty of room for my 6’1″ frame. Lacking satellite radio, I used the CD player in our test car, and found the audio quality not quite on par with the competition.
In the engine room, Subaru has certainly reacted to the current economic climate. Typically when a car is redesigned, we talk of more power, but with the Impreza, it is the opposite. Subaru has opted for a smaller displacement 2.0L (from 2.5) boxer four rated at 148hp, which is also down on power from the larger engine. The good news is fuel economy, which is clearly what Subaru was after. Our Impreza shows EPA fuel economy figures of 25/34 MPG city/highway-pretty good numbers considering this car is all-wheel drive. The Subie gets off the line just fine, and I am still a sucker for the engine noise from that boxer four. The five-speed manual was a joy to use, and really added to the enjoyment of the Impreza. If you cannot, or do not want to shift for yourself, the Impreza is available with a CVT transmission, but I have read this drastically changes the character of the car, and not in a good way.
The Impreza is offered as a four door sedan or five door hatchback with five trim levels. Our test car was a 2.0i Premium, one step up from the base model. With 16″ alloys, Bluetooth, keyless entry and USB plug for your iPod. Fitted with the optional All-Weather package which adds heated seats and mirrors and a windshield wiper de-icer, our Impreza rings in at a respectable $20,414USD, including destination.
Driving the Impreza, I kept thinking back to that quirky ’76 Subie wagon of my cousin that held so many memories for me. Obviously, the Impreza is light years ahead of that car, but Subaru, with its new Impreza, has managed to build a perfectly competent compact sedan without compromising its character. For us gearheads and rally fans, now we wait for the WRX…..stay tuned. Oh, and decades later, my cousin still has a Subie in his garage- a 2012 Outback.