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2012 Subaru Impreza Hatchback Road Test Review by Martha Hindes

2012 Subaru Impreza Road Test Review

by Martha Hindes

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Losing weight has its advantages. It can be easier to maneuver, take less energy and in general make one feel more active. Translate that to an automobile or truck and the gains should be obvious. In the case of the redesigned 2012 Subaru Impreza five-door hatchback wagon, cutting back is huge.

That's because some nips and tucks in the new compact Impreza to refine the vehicle have resulted in a whopping 36 percent gain in fuel economy. That's the kind of thing auto makers dream about and budget constrained consumers weep for. But how?

For 2012, a primary change is the new, lighter-weight, but more responsive 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter Boxer engine that replaces the previous 2.5-liter powerplant. It mates with a manual transmission, or a new continuously variable transmission. (A Boxer engine has pistons that pump side to side crosswise, rather than up and down as in a conventional internal combustion engine. Think of two boxers sparring in a ring with each one punching forward then alternating to pull back as the other boxer punches forward. That's the reason the engine got that name, and its efficiency a factor in reducing fuel consumption.) The Boxer engine makes the Impreza the most fuel efficient all-wheel-drive car in American, according to Subaru.

Subaru vehicles are known for their road grip assuredness, since all Subaru vehicles are all-wheel-drive. That's a technology that helps with safety on icy roads and handling stability – a reason it's often favored by nurses and other night shift workers. We've appreciated that during times of treacherous winter driving or on rain-slicked roads when Subaru vehicles feel more secure than others.

All-wheel-drive, with extra weight, usually puts a bit of drag on mileage. But the new version has two different all-wheel-drive systems depending on whether the transmission is manual or automatic. The result of the design and technology changes for 2012 is a 27 city and 36 highway mileage rating that approaches the fuel economy of some hybrid vehicles currently on the road.
Visually, the Impreza five-door gains a sharper image, both in perception and design. Instead of all smoothness and curves, there now are edges that add drama to the overall appearance. A sloping nose and wide set eyes (auto jargon for headlamps) highlight a sleeker front. Aft, a hint of spoiler over the rear hatch anchors the sweeping lines from front to rear, echoed by roof rail rims. Sharp edges now define the sides of the rear fascia. Exterior design changes also help reduce mileage robbing wind drag.

Inside, Subaru has seemingly stretched its size beyond the parameters of the vehicle with the perception of more interior spaciousness. That's a gain from having the windshield pushed and angled more forward. A slightly longer wheelbase also contributes to the effect, although overall dimensions remain the same. Rear seat room becomes less constrictive. The rear load floor of the five-door now is flat with seats folded down. And a newly available, voice activated navigation system has touch-screen command, SMS text capability and XM Nav Traffic.

Two new trim levels join the Impreza lineup for 2012, the Limited and Sport Limited editions. The base model, Premium and Sport Premium models continue. Five-door base pricing is $17,995, the same as for 2011. For budget-conscious buyers, that stabilization of costs has to be the best cutback of all.

Visit the Subaru website, click here.