2012 SUBARU IMPREZA REVIEW
Subaru’s new-generation Impreza hatch and sedan range has hit these shores with three model grades on offer, two transmissions and one engine choice.
Interior quality and passenger comfort have been massively enhanced for the 2012 model; we found there’s much to like about the new Impreza’s cabin.
However, though sporting an all-new engine (the same as found in the Subaru XV small SUV), power and torque outputs remain unchanged from those of the previous model.
And while both manual and automatic gearboxes are improved, we’re unconvinced about the merits of the new engine. It’s a little weak and diminishes what is otherwise a very appealing small car.
One of the headlining changes for the new-gen Impreza (and arguably the one that consumers will notice most) is the interior.
Subaru has improved the ergonomics, design and quality of the Impreza’s cabin, finally bringing it up to par with most other small car entrants - but not quite as polished as the more expensive Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf.
The cabin is now more spacious too, with a stretched wheelbase creating slightly more rear legroom. Taller back seat passengers may find headroom to be a little tight, but there’s plenty of space to seat four adults in comfort.
Seat cushioning materials are revised, however they may be a bit on the soft side for some. On the plus side, the front headrests are adjustable both horizontally and vertically.
Boot volume comes in at 340 litres for the hatch and 460 litres for the sedan, with plenty of room for a pram or the weekly shopping in either.
A space-saver spare sits beneath the false floor, and the hatch now has child-seat top-tether anchorages on the back of the seatrest to help preserve boot space.
The centre seatbelt spool for the hatchback has also been relocated from the roof to the side of the boot compartment.
Even in base form, the Impreza is pretty well equipped. Bluetooth, single-zone climate control, a USB audio input, steering wheel-mounted controls, cruise control and a trip computer are all standard.
Opt for the automatic, and you get wheel-mounted shift paddles too.
Seven airbags are standard across the range (dual front, front side, curtain and driver’s knee), along with anti-whiplash front headrests, stability control, traction control, EBD and ABS.
On The Road
The 2012 Impreza’s 2.0 litre flat-four’s power and torque outputs of 110kW and 196Nm are identical to the outgoing Impreza’s engine, despite being an entirely different design.
It produces those numbers differently, though.
Peak power now arrives 200rpm earlier at 6200rpm, and peak torque is produced 1000rpm later at 4200rpm - odd, considering the new engine has a longer stroke and narrower bore, which would typically bring the peak torque point lower in the rev range.
In the new Impreza, the FB engine feels a little underwhelming. It could definitely use some more torque to help it get moving, and it loses speed quickly up hills.
Even on moderate inclines, it becomes necessary to drop the tall-geared manual transmission back a ratio (or two).
The optional CVT transmission copes with hills better thanks to its infinitely-variable gearing, however at high rpm and under high load it emits a high-frequency whine from its chain drive.
CVT responsiveness to sudden demands for power is also slow; its nowhere near as sharp a transmission as the Mitsubishi Lancer’s CVT (for instance).
But while power and torque figures are unchanged, the new FB20 engine offers greatly improved efficiency compared to the old Impreza’s EJ20 powerplant.
When fitted to the new six-speed manual transmission, the 2012 Impreza will average 7.1 l/100km on the combined cycle, while Subaru claims the CVT automatic-equipped Impreza consumes just 6.8 l/100km.
All 2012 Impreza variants come standard with engine start-stop, which cuts power when the car is stationary to conserve fuel.
Re-start times are reasonably brisk, and a hill-hold system in the manual helps prevent roll-back when doing hill starts.
We drove both transmissions at the Impreza’s Australian launch, however while the manual came remarkably close to the factory figure - 7.2 l/100km - the best we could get out of the CVT was 8.4 l/100km.
Still, despite its extra thirst and noise, we’d pick the CVT over the manual.
It makes better use of the Impreza’s power and torque outputs, and it’s easier to live with around town. Besides, its high-pitched whine only becomes apparent at high rpm, so it shouldn’t be an issue during every-day driving.
While we have some reservations about the 2012 Impreza’s powertrain and drivetrain, we had no complaints about its chassis and suspension.
It corners flatly thanks to retuned springs, dampers and swaybars, yet it’s supple enough to soak up the undulating tarmac that is so typical of Australian country roads.
There’s also the extra grip and wet-weather safety of the Impreza’s standard all-wheel drive system, something that’s not available in the majority of its competitors.
Refinement is a mixed bag. There’s tyre roar on coarse chip roads and a fair degree of wind noise from the wing mirrors, but the boxer engine’s note is quite muted compared to the outgoing Impreza and we heard no trim rattles during the launch drive.
TMR First Drive Verdict
With a starting price of $23,990 for the Impreza 2.0i hatch and sedan, the new Impreza is not the cheapest option in the small-car market.
However, factor in the extra value offered by its all-wheel drive drivetrain, engine start-stop, Bluetooth, seven airbags, cruise control and other mod-cons, and it starts to look like a more compelling proposition.
It’s also a substantial improvement over the 2011 Impreza in terms of quality and interior fit-out.
Our brief first taste of the new Impreza leaves us with the impression that there’s still work to be done in terms of engine output and drivetrain refinement, but in every other area the 2012 Impreza range stacks up well against its competitors.
A comprehensive road test will tell the full story though, so stay tuned.
- 2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i 6MT: $23,990
- 2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i CVT: $26,490
- 2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i-L 6MT: $26,990
- 2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i-L CVT: $29,490
- 2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i-S CVT: $31,490
- Option pack for 2.0i-L: $3000
- Option pack for 2.0i-S: $4000
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price (unless otherwise noted) and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
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