Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.
You'll Like The 2012 Subaru WRX If...
The 2012 Impreza is the practical choice if you value the no-nonsense reliability, security and all-weather traction benefits of standard all-wheel drive combined with roomy comfort and top-notch fuel economy in its class.
You May Not Like The 2012 Subaru WRX If...
If Subaru’s traditionally excellent safety ratings or the Impreza’s standard all-wheel drive traction isn’t a big factor in your purchase decision, there are compact competitors that offer more features for less money.
Subaru made the Impreza a comfortable, roomy, attractive place for customers downsizing from mid-size cars. The Impreza’s safety credentials are bolstered by a standard driver’s knee airbag for 2012. Last year’s Outback Sport is discontinued, replaced by two range-topping 5-door wagon models: the 2.0i Sport Premium and 2.0i Sport Limited.
Although overall length is unchanged from 2011, the 2012 model is the roomiest Subaru Impreza ever. It has more rear-seat legroom than some mid-size cars thanks to a skillful wheelbase stretch and scalloped front seatbacks. Hip and shoulder room improve courtesy of carefully contoured door panels. Larger door openings make getting in and out easier than in many competitors. Raised seat heights, increased glass area and a lowered dash help give a command-of-the-road feel. Front seats get pressure-distributing bottom cushions, increased lumbar support and new tilt-adjustable headrests. Soft touch coverings adorn the dash, door panels and console.
The 2012 Subaru Impreza gets all-new sheet metal. Both the more-formal 4-door sedan and sporty 5-door wagon feature more sharply sculpted, Legacy-derived styling with prominent wheel arches and hawkeye-shaped headlights. In silhouette, each has a light and airy greenhouse with large windows and slimmer-looking roof pillars for improved visibility, highlighted by a more rakish windshield. With blind spots reduced or eliminated, the new Impreza is one of the easiest cars in its class to maneuver and move through traffic.
Like comfortable sneakers, the 2012 Subaru Impreza offers surefooted all-wheel-drive traction under all road and weather conditions. It may lack the sharp steering response of a Focus or road feel of a Civic, but the Impreza imparts confidence and feels unflappable at all times. The all-new 2.0-liter boxer engine is 13 percent less powerful than last year’s 2.5-liter, but acceleration is decent, especially with the available continuously variable transmission (CVT), which replaces 2011’s 4-speed automatic. The CVT responds quickly to changing road grades and driver input without shift lag, although with the radio and fan turned off, a slight transmission whine is heard. New front seats offer more comfort and improved support. Outward visibility is among the best in the segment. The wagon’s split rear seat folds completely flat and the rolled-up cargo cover stows under the cargo floor – two examples of Subaru’s thoughtfulness.
Despite all the improvements to fuel economy, roominess, comfort and infotainment technology, the base price (MSRP with destination charges) of the 2012 Subaru Impreza Sedan is the same as 2011, just over $18,000. Five-door Wagon models go for $500 more. Last year’s top model, the Outback Sport, is replaced by a pair of loaded, wagon-only models (the Sport Premium and Sport Limited) that range from $21K to just above $23K. That puts the top Impreza models up against the better equipped VW Jetta, Mazda Mazda3, Ford Focus and Chevy Cruze models, but these competitors don’t have all-wheel drive. The closest AWD rival is the Mitsubishi Lancer, with the tiny Suzuki SX4 and larger, more expensive Suzuki Kizashi and Ford Fusion rounding out the small field. As with other Subarus, we expect the 2012 Impreza to hold its resale value well. To get a better idea of what people in your area are paying for their 2012 Subaru Imprezas, check out Kelley Blue Book’s Fair Purchase Price in the "What should I pay for a new car?" section on our homepage.
The base Impreza 2.0i rolls on smallish 15-inch steel wheels, but otherwise is cheerfully equipped with standard all-wheel drive, A/C, remote keyless entry, 60/40 split folding rear seat, carpeted floormats, wagon cargo tie-downs, auto-off headlights, 4-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo, height-adjust driver’s seat and tilt/telescoping steering column. The 2.0i Premium gains 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, wagon cargo cover, sliding center armrest, and a 6-speaker audio with Bluetooth streaming, iPod connectivity, hands-free phone capability, and a USB port. The 2.0i Limited adds leather trim, 17-inch alloy wheels, the CVT (automatic transmission), heated seats and HD radio with 4.3-inch display. Well-trimmed and wagon-only, the 2.0i Sport Premium and Sport Limited models lack only standard navigation and a moonroof.
The only option available on base 2.0i Imprezas is the CVT. With the Impreza 2.0i Premium, the optional CVT comes with shift paddles that allow the driver to manually select six ratios. Also available on 2.0i Premium models are an all-weather package with heated seats and outside mirrors plus wiper de-icers, and a 17-inch alloy-wheel package that adds stainless-steel exhaust tips and a leather-wrapped shifter and steering wheel. A power moonroof and 6.1-inch touch-screen navigation system with XM satellite radio is optional on all but the base model. Last year’s removable Tom Tom nav unit is no longer offered. Neither are power seats.
INCLINE START ASSISTCalled "Hill Hold" in popular parlance, this nifty feature keeps your Impreza from rolling back or forward as you release the clutch when starting out on an incline. It’s standard on manual-transmission models.ECO GAUGENew for 2012, this dash-mounted analog gauge gives Impreza drivers bio-feedback on how fuel-efficient they are driving. It’s simple, effective and if you keep the needle to the right, you’re saving gas.
Under the Hood
The 2012 Subaru Impreza sticks with its unique, compact boxer engine that’s known for reliability and a low center of gravity that helps handling and safety. But while the 2011 2.5-liter Impreza had one of the larger, more powerful standard engines among compacts, the all-new 2012 2.0-liter version is among the most advanced and fuel-efficient with a 36-percent boost to its EPA combined city/highway rating. Subaru engineered the new engine for improved low- and mid-range torque, which improves around-town responsiveness. A switch to a new dual-overhead-cam configuration with variable valve control for both intake and exhaust boosts efficiency and performance. Adapted from the Legacy, the 2012 Impreza upgrades its automatic transmission to the Lineartronic CVT, which – unlike earlier CVTs that droned on – gives a more linear response to the gas pedal.2.0-liter flat-4148 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm145 lb-ft of torque @ 4,200 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/34 mpg (manual), 27/36 mpg (automatic)
For 2012, Subaru introduces an all-new version of its capable and dependable compact sedan and wagon. The 2012 Subaru Impreza is roomier and better-trimmed inside than many competitors, and continues as the only passenger car under $20K with standard Symmetrical all-wheel drive (AWD). Courtesy of reduced weight, a new, more-efficient 2.0-liter boxer engine and continuously variable automatic transmission, the 2012 Impreza offers the best EPA-estimated fuel economy of any gasoline-powered all-wheel-drive passenger car, better even than the base-engine/automatic-transmission mileage of front-drive compacts like Toyota Corolla, Chevrolet Cruze, Volkswagen Jetta and Nissan Sentra.