2012 SUBARU IMPREZA REVIEW
All three specifications available in hatch and sedan form.
Vehicle Style: Small Hatch, Small Sedan
Price: $TBA (January/February 2012)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 6.8 l/100km CVT automatic, 7.1 l/100km Manual
The current Impreza is the most successful in the model’s nearly 20-year history. Surprised? It is also Subaru’s second-best selling model if you separate Liberty and Outback sales (which Subaru does).
But the market, younger buyers in particular, never really fell head-over-heels for the current car; too conservative, too much like a butter-box. It certainly lacks the youthful cachet of earlier Imprezas - territory it has vacated, arguably, to the Mazda3.
Subaru has been listening to its buyer feedback, and, with the new model, overhauled its approach to design, quality, driver appeal, comfort and space.
The signature quirky styling is back. There is also a host of new technologies under the skin and significant improvements inside and out.
To see how it all comes together, TMR visited Subaru's proving grounds in Japan to drive the Australian-specification 2012 Impreza.
The interior of the current Impreza is not especially inspiring, but, with the new model, it’s a very different story. There are loads more soft-touch surfaces (Subaru says this was a major focus), and plastics feel durable and solid.
There are tasteful chrome highlights to the air-conditioning controls, steering wheel and gear shifter, and the deep-set instrument cluster looks more refined.
The new Impreza’s cabin feels classier than its predecessor and certainly more upmarket.
Features have also been improved; there’s a new 4.3-inch multi-function display mounted atop the dash and loaded with options and settings.
A new touch-screen navigation system, developed for Australia, is also available with the mid-range 2.0i-L and the sportier top-shelf 2.0i-S.
The makeover also extends to practicalities. It’s easier getting behind the wheel of the new model because the doors open wider. Some bulk has also been cut from the door sills and frames to improve access.
Visibility too is better, thanks to thinner A-pillars (a problem for many modern cars), a longer slope to the windscreen and a more compact dashboard design.
Our drive included only a few laps of Subaru’s banked test track and handling course, but we found the seats comfortable and with good lateral and thigh support.
Legroom in the rear of both bodystyles has increased by 25mm, thanks in part to a 5mm longer wheelbase, but more to the scalloped backs of the front seats.
With the driver’s seat in a comfortable position for my five-feet and 10 inches, we threw a big-haired six-footer into the rear and there were no complaints in either row. Rather, there was surprise at just how much room is offered.
Foot room for rear passengers has increased, thanks to slimmer and higher front seats, and shoulder space has increased thanks to thinner door panels. Head room, while not exceptional, is good for a small car.
Rear storage in the sedan has grown from 420 to 460 litres with the 60/40 split-folding rear seats up. Laid flat, storage remains at 1080 litres.
The five-door Impreza’s rear storage, with the seats up, grows from 300 to 340 litres.
In the cabin there are nearly a dozen storage options, including mobile phone spaces, a dedicated pen holder in the centre console and an A4 booklet slot in the door bin.
ON THE ROAD
The new Impreza gets Subaru’s new Euro V-compliant ‘FB20’ 2.0 litre boxer engine, producing 110kW at 6200rpm and 196Nm of torque at 4200rpm.
The new model is on the larger side of small, and the boxer can feel lazy as a result. Low-down power however is improved over the old engine, with a longer stroke and variable valve-timing giving it more urge.
It’s nearly a second quicker to 100km/h than its predecessor, and the improvement is noticeable if not earth-shattering.
Subaru says fuel consumption has improved by 22 percent, down to 6.8 l/100km for the CVT automatic transmission and 7.1 l/100km for the six-speed manual.
The new engine and transmissions can take most of the credit for the fuel savings, but there’s another new trick: an idle-stop/start system is now standard across the range with both transmissions - a first for Australia - and contributes five percent to the savings.
The Lineartronic CVT is a new unit for the Impreza, replacing the four-speed automatic with a smaller and lighter version of the CVT in the Liberty and Outback.
A longer drive will be needed to truly test the new transmission, but our short jaunt showed that while it suffers from the same dragging sensation of most CVTs, it is quieter and more refined than many.
There’s a ‘six-speed’ paddle-shifter option available for the up-spec models, which steps through virtual ‘ratios’. It produces a sensation of gear-changes but adds little to the experience in normal driving except for the ability to change down into corners.
The manual transmission is a smoother operator than its predecessor, but with a close-set shift pattern and notchy gate, it can take some getting used to.
Both transmissions benefit from a taller final drive, and while freeway-speed cruising felt more relaxed in our short drive, this too will need a full test.
Ride and handling is a major focus with the new Impreza, and Subaru showed us plenty of charts that make the outgoing model seem 20 years old.
Suspension continues to be managed by MacPherson struts at the front and a double-wishbone rear, but increased rigidity in the body and suspension deliver much flatter cornering than before.
The lower centre of gravity provided by the boxer engine’s layout and position also helps here.
The improvements to the suspension shone brightest on Subaru’s handling course, where a series of chunky potholes, meaty manhole covers and one unexpectedly mountainous mid-corner bump were taken in our Impreza sedan’s stride. A good preview of what to expect on some Australian roads.
Full Australian specifications will be announced closer to launch, but Subaru has offered a few details:
Impreza 2.0i: Offered with either a Lineartronic CVT automatic or six-speed manual transmission. Auto Stop-Start is standard across the Impreza range.
Impreza 2.0i-L: Adds electric sunroof, Multi-Function Display with rear view camera images, steering-mounted controls, dual-zone climate-control air conditioning, rear privacy glass and front fog lights. The optional satellite navigation has SMS voice to text and voice command.
Impreza 2.0i-S: Adds leather trim, eight-way electronic adjustable driver’s seat, alloy pedals, HID Xenon headlights and washers.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Our first drive, while brief, showed this much: the new Impreza is significantly improved.
For handling, build quality and equipment levels, this new model would seem to be a match for the segment leaders: Mazda3, Golf, and so on. Price, as always, will be the difference; those details will come closer to launch.
The new Impreza sedan will go on sale in Australia in February, with the first showroom demonstrators expected to appear in January.
On the basis of this brief exposure, it merits a close look.
Note: Mike travelled to Japan at Subaru Australia’s invitation and expense to preview the Australian-specification 2012 Impreza range.
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