|Subaru is sending winter packing with arguably the best and least costly passenger-car AWD system in the biz. (Photo: Rob Rothwell/Auto123.com)|
All-wheel-drive value leader
Before delving deeper into Subaru’s latest offering, I think it’s important to set the stage by declaring that the new Impreza is Canada’s least expensive all-wheel drive vehicle. With a starting MSRP of $19,995 for the 4-door sedan variant, Subaru is sending winter packing with arguably the best and least costly passenger-car AWD system in the biz.
Subaru’s setup isn’t one of the reactionary types, which redirect power from the front wheels to the rear when slippage is detected. Rather it’s a proactive, fully-engaged system that Subaru refers to as a symmetrical full-time AWD.
I have off-road tested this technology in the past and found it quite remarkable, and well beyond the “slip and grip” variety that is most often found in the entry-level AWD segment. Not only are the benefits of Subaru’s system derived off-road and in ice and snow, they deliver on clear pavement as well.
Traction at all four corners enhances cornering stability and handling dynamics. This can be most helpful when pulling into fast moving traffic on rain-soaked roads. During my recent Impreza test drive, I did exactly that while knowing that I wouldn’t lose momentum due to wheel spin.
I’m sure that we’ve all experienced the disconcerting “whizzz” of spinning front or rear tires on slick pavement as traffic is bearing down. That propensity is so “yesterday” with Subaru’s symmetrical AWD setup. But the new Impreza has much more to offer than sticky traction.
|I drove the 5-door version up a snow and ice covered mountain road and was truly impressed. (Photo: Rob Rothwell/Auto123.com)|
New exterior styling and upscale cabin
Whether it’s the 4-door sedan or the 5-door hatchback, Subaru has taken their value-leading Impreza upscale in its latest rendition. From the exterior, the vehicle exhibits more conventionality that is expected to appeal to a broader market range.
While remaining the same size – both in 4-door and 5-door variants – the new-generation Impreza gains more real estate between the front and rear wheels, resulting in greater interior room. Seating has been raised slightly and the side glass has been increased in size, the net effect of which is better external visibility.
|Steering wheel-mounted controls, shift paddles and bright trim work serve to diminish any sense of the Impreza’s “entry-level” existence. (Photo: Rob Rothwell/Auto123.com)|
Overall, the exterior design works well and should help gain mass appeal. More significant though in my view is the new cabin, which has largely shed its “low-rent” environs – and that has greatly elevated the Impreza’s desirability.
Occupants will undoubtedly appreciate the higher quality materials in use and the straightforward functionality of the cabin architecture and layout.
Steering wheel-mounted controls, shift paddles and bright trim work serve to diminish any sense of the Impreza’s “entry-level” existence. This notion is reinforced by the refined operation of the new Impreza.
Revised drivetrain is smooth and efficient
The 2012 Subaru Impreza is powered by a 148-hp 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine. This thrifty powerplant is rated at 5.5L/100km and 7.5L/100km, city and highway driving respectively, and that’s darn impressive for a vehicle equipped with a full-time AWD system.
A new continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) functions remarkably well. These units have come a long way since their introduction, and there’s no better example of that than Subaru’s Lineartronic version. The Impreza’s shift paddles allow the CVT to mimic a 6-speed autobox when shifting up and down. I found the paddles highly effective for introducing engine braking when descending long grades.
For true gearheads, a 5-speed manual stick is available; it should be noted, though, that fuel economy will drop slightly with the manual gearbox.
Regardless of transmission, drivers have a lot to appreciate behind the wheel; however, raw power isn’t one of them. This vehicle takes nearly 10 seconds to hit 100 km/h from a stop. That’s not great, but I doubt many drivers will notice or mind. Despite its modest power output, the 2012 Impreza feels spry enough and suitably lively in most driving scenarios.
|The 2012 Subaru Impreza is powered by a 148-hp 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine. (Photo: Rob Rothwell/Auto123.com)|
Delightful to drive in all weather
The two most notable findings I take away from my test drive of the 2012 Impreza pertain to refinement and traction.
The vehicle is far more refined operationally than previous Imprezas, and that’s good. The new generation is for the most part a quiet, smooth operator. I noticed though, that road noise can become elevated on the highway. It’s nothing that should repel a potential buyer, but something that Subaru may want to work on in the future.
Not in need of remediation is the outstanding traction and control that this vehicle provides in slippery conditions. I drove the 5-door version up a snow and ice covered mountain road and was truly impressed with its ability to retain traction and composure in conditions that I’m sure would have had other typical econoboxes sidelined ‘til spring.
The 2012 Subaru Impreza wrap
For an auto journalist, the true measure of a vehicle’s worth is whether he or she would recommend it to friends and family. The answer here is a resounding, “yes,” especially if the criteria for selection include recreational usage and a very tight budget.
|I think it’s important to set the stage by declaring that the new Impreza is Canada’s least expensive all-wheel drive vehicle. (Photo: Rob Rothwell/Auto123.com)|