Quick Drive: 2012 Subaru Impreza Sedan

By Winding Road Staff

January 24, 2012

This is a huge improvement over the old Impreza. The exterior appearance, an admittedly subjective area, looks good and doesn’t give the impression that this is the smallest car in the Subaru range. Frankly, we think it’s remained remarkably true to the concept that preceded, and is considerably better looking than the last-generation Subie.
That theme carries over to the inside. It feels much more spacious and open, with plenty of room and a nice space for the driver to work. Contrast this with the last Impreza I drove, which felt rather cramped in the cabin. The materials still aren’t the greatest, lacking the soft-touch feeling that comes with a Ford Focus or Hyundai Elantra, but are a noticeable improvement over the old car.
Despite having less power than the old Impreza, this new model still felt quite quick to get moving. Initial acceleration was quite good, with the addition of a five-speed manual gearbox (rather than a dreaded CVT) ensuring that the driver was kept adequately involved during the whole process. It’s impressive that, despite cutting power in favor of fuel economy that this new Impreza felt more spritely than the old one.
Still, the Impreza isn’t without its major issues, chief among which is the steering. It’s light and numb, a combination that never gels well with us. This is an agile car, but there’s so little feedback from the tiller, it’s quite difficult to ascertain where the car’s limits are.
—Brandon Turkus, Online Editor
I liked the Impreza even better this time around than when I drove the car at its launch. A couple things stuck out to me a little more this time around, too.
My favorite thing about the new Impreza may be the sound of the motor. Especially when equipped with the manual transmission, it’s nice to hear the engine work through the rev range. Perhaps Subaru was proud of its engine note, because it doesn’t seem like they did to dampen it, and a lot of its song comes into the cabin. This is aurally pleasing, but it also helped me pay attention to what the motor was doing, and letting me know when I should shift. I love it when an engine’s voice is so communicative as to render a tachometer unnecessary.
I really appreciate the grip in this car, too. It’s a fun car to toss around because of the all-wheel drive, and it makes getting around on loose or wet surfaces a bit easier. The only problem here is that the Impreza really doesn’t communicate its proximity to “the edge.” It’ll be going along just fine, gripping like a champ, and just pushing it a little harder will cause it to let go with very little warning. The amount of room you have before you get to that point is pretty generous, but a little more progressive grip loss would be very helpful.
Still I generally feel pretty confident driving the Impreza. Plus, I find I am able to have a lot of fun with it, and it rewards me well for driving it well. It’s good to drive in the city, and can handle all sorts of situations you throw at it. Pretty solid small sedan, if you ask me.
—John Beltz Snyder, Senior Editor
Looks and feels more spacious than the old car
Engine sounds good going through the paces
Offers a good amount of grip
Steering feedback is kept to a minimum
Can be a bit noisy inside the cabin
Doesn’t communicate grip limits well