2012 Subaru Impreza Review and Prices

Last Updated: Feb 11, 2011

Like this Review

2012 Subaru Impreza Buying Advice

The 2012 Subaru Impreza is the best compact car for you if you want the all-new version of this snow-conquering all-wheel-drive sedan and hatchback.

The 2012 Subaru Impreza gets a full redesign with a larger, restyled body, a new powertrain, and other assorted upgrades. Imprezas are already well respected as solid, roomy, fun-to-drive cars with the added advantage of excellent all-wheel-drive (AWD) systems as standard equipment. The 2012 redesign will apply first to the mainstream models. The hot-rod WRX and WRX STI versions will carry over in their current design and probably will be all-new for model-year 2013.

Should you wait for the 2012 Subaru Impreza or buy the 2011 Subaru Impreza? If you’re not in the “fast-and-furious” crowd, wait for the 2012 Impreza. It promises to be mechanically more advanced and far more aggressively styled than the outgoing 2008-2011 generation. Buying a 2011 Impreza puts you in line for some clearance-sale deals, but gets you a lame duck that will seem dated once the new version is released. And it isn’t likely to hold its resale value as well as a 2012 Impreza. On the other hand, if you’re itching for a turbocharged, WRX or WRX STI Impreza you might as well avail yourself of a 2011 version or find a way to stay patient until at least model-year 2013.

2012 Subaru Impreza Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Subaru Impreza will get major design changes inside and out. Returning four-door sedan and four-door hatchback body styles, the new Impreza will take on a more aggressive look. Based on clues previewed by the striking concept model shown at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show, the 2012 Impreza should carry a sleekly rounded coupe-like roof, sharply sloped windshield, and high beltline (the point at which the body panels and windows meet). You’ll likely see a large hexagonal grille, deep side air intakes, and slim cat’s eye headlamps, a tall deck with large air diffusers at the rear, and muscular wheel arches all around.

Throughout the 2008-2011 design generation, the Impreza sedan’s body has been about 6-inches longer than the hatchback’s. Subaru acknowledges the auto-show concept is pretty accurate blueprint for the 2012 Impreza. That suggest both 2012 Subaru Impreza body styles will be about 4 inches longer, 3 inches wider, and perhaps as much as 2 inches lower than the 2011 models, though final specs were unavailable in time for this review.

The sedan and hatchback should continue to share the same wheelbase – the distance between the front and rear axles – and the 2012 versions’ should be stretched about an inch. Wheelbase is typically an indication of a vehicle’s interior spaciousness, and the added inch or so could be used to expand the 2012 Impreza’s rear-seat legroom from perfectly adequate to a real asset. A lower sloping roofline, on the other hand, could impede rear seat headroom and ease of entry.

Again looking at the concept car for clues, the 2012 Subaru Impreza’s redesigned interior will tastefully combine classic round instrumentation with post-modern switchgear and as many as three separate dashboard video displays. The center stack of controls should flow downward into a forward-mounted shift lever and console. Expect the car’s interior materials to be substantially upgraded to help give the new Impreza a richer feel, with trendy indirect lighting used throughout the cabin to give it a more upscale look as well.

Though the concept model featured four bucket seats, expect all 2012 Imprezas to remain five-passenger cars, though the middle-position rider in the back seat rider will likely again experience cramped quarters for all but the shortest excursions. The rear seatbacks should again fold flat on a 60/40 split basis to expand cargo-carrying options as needed. Expect the 2012 Impreza sedan’s trunk space to grow from the outgoing version’s mediocre 1134 cubic feet. Meanwhile, the 2012 Impreza hatchback should again prove particularly practical. The lower roofline should be offset by the longer body, so don’t expect much change from the outgoing model’s impressive 19 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the rear seat and 44.4 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded.

As with the outgoing generation, the 2012 Subaru Impreza will offer multiple trim levels, though as of this review Subaru hasn’t indicated what they might be called or how they’ll be configured. The 2011 Impreza lineup offered sedans and hatchbacks in six trim levels: base, Premium, WRX, WRX Premium, WRX Limited, and WRX STI. The hatchback was also offered in as a faux-SUV Outback Sport version.

The 2012 Subaru Impreza WRX and WRX STI models will continue with the outgoing-generation’s styling for at least an additional year, awaiting a model-year 2013 makeover. As with the current generation, expect the next edition of these versions to be dressed up with oversized hood scoops and rear spoilers and specific wheel treatments.

Mechanical: As do all vehicles from this Japanese brand, every 2012 Subaru Impreza will continue with AWD as standard equipment. That’ll continue to set the 2012 Impreza apart from virtually all other compact models, the vast majority of which come only with front-wheel drive. It ensures the Impreza a steady following in snowbound northern climes. And for the Impreza’s higher-performance models, it adds to handling ability and negates torque steer, the unwanted tendency of high-horsepower front-wheel-drive car to pull to the side during rapid acceleration.

AWD differs from four-wheel drive (4wd), as typically found on, say, a 4x4 pickup truck. Four-wheel drive must be manually shifted out of 2wd while AWD is always engaged and requires no action from the driver. Subaru actually uses several AWD systems, each tailored to a particular vehicle and powertrain, and expect slight mechanical differences depending on whether the 2012 Impreza is equipped with a manual or automatic transmission.

Offsetting some of AWD’s traction advantages is the additional weight and slight mechanical drag associated with powering all four wheels. Indeed, Imprezas tend to weigh several hundred pounds more than similarly sized rivals, that they’ve traditionally been among the least fuel-efficient cars in their class. Its model-year 2011 fuel-economy ratings ranged from a high of 20/27 mpg city/highway to a low of 17/23. By contrast, the newest crops of compact compentitors, such as the Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, and Hyundai Elantra, boast ratings in the mid-20s in the city and up to 40 mpg in highway driving.

Subaru has some catching up to do, and so the redesigned 2012 Impreza line should feature a new and more efficient family of four-cylinder engines. Subaru will continue to feature exclusively horizontally opposed “boxer” engines, in which two banks of cylinders are set in horizontal opposition rather than in a vertical row, as is usually the case with four-cylinder engines. The only other automaker to embrace this type of design is Porsche and it’s claimed to help improve a car’s handling by affording a lower center of gravity.

The 2011 Impreza’s engine lineup consisted of a 2.5-liter boxer four rated at 170 horsepower in mainstream models, 265 in the turbocharged WRX line, and 305 in the top-performance turbo WRX STI model. Expect the 2012 Impreza mainstream versions to adopt a 2.0-liter four-cylinder version of the 2.5-liter four featured in the Subaru Forester compact crossover SUV. Final specs were not available in time for this review, but reports suggest this new smaller standard engine will generate around 150 horsepower. The standard transmission will likely continue to be a five-speed manual that should again include Incline Start Assist, which helps prevent rolling backward from a stop when the clutch is released while facing uphill. Reports suggest a continuously variable transmission (CVT) will be alternately offered instead of a conventional automatic. A CVT eschews gears in favor of a belt and pulleys to deliver strong and seamless acceleration at full engine power (some motorists may actually find the lack of gear changes unsettling) while maintaining good fuel economy.

Carrying over its assorted performance-enhancing steering, suspension, and braking upgrades, the 2012 Impreza WRX line should continue with a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder boxer likely to remain at 265 horsepower and a strong 244 pound-feet of torque (a measurement of how forcefully an engine accelerates) for strong launches from a standing start. Similarly unchanged, the 2012 WRX STI model’s 2.5-liter engine should again generate 305 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque. As before, both should come only with a manual transmission – a five-speed for the WRX, six-speed for the STI -- and feature a modified version of the standard Impreza’s AWD system. In addition, the 2012 WRX STI will likely include a center differential that features driver-selectable performance modes and variable front-to-rear torque distribution settings.

Features: The redesigned 2012 Subaru Impreza mainstream models should include a full assortment of convenience and safety features. Expect the base model to come equipped with all the basic expected items like side airbags for the front seats and head-protecting side curtain airbags for both rows of seats. Air conditioning, power locks and windows, keyless entry, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, and a CD audio system with iPod/USB connectivity should also be among the standard features.

Traction control should again be included across the line for added low-speed grip off the line ty on wet or snowy pavement. So should antiskid stability control to help prevent sideways slides in curves or emergency handling maneuvers.

Features optional or included with higher trim levels should include a premium audio system, touch-screen navigation system, automatic climate control, rear backup camera, leather upholstery, heated power front seats, heated side mirrors, a power moonroof, and xenon headlamps.

2012 Subaru Impreza Prices back to top

Prices for the 2012 Subaru Impreza were unavailable in time for this review but the automaker   likely will work to keep them in line with those of the 2011 Impreza. These cars already trended a bit more expensive than the average compact cars by virtue of the added costs associated with their standard AWD system.

Expect a 2012 Impreza base-price range of around $19,000-$38,000. (Estimated base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Subaru’s fee for the 2011 Impreza was $725.)

The redesigned 2012 Subaru Impreza models should start around $19,000 and stretch to about $21,500, depending on body style and before options.
Estimated base-price range for the carryover 2012 WRX models is $27,000-$30,000, while the 2012 WRX STI models will likely have a base-price span of roughly $35,000-$38,000.

Among options, expect the CVT transmission to add around $1,000 to the mainstream 2012 Impreza line. A power moonroof should run about $500 and a touch-screen navigation system around $2,000.

2012 Subaru Impreza Fuel Economy back to top

EPA fuel economy estimates for the 2012 Subaru Impreza weren’t available in time for this review but expect those of the redesigned Imprezas to improve significantly over comparable model-year 2011 ratings.

The new 2.0-liter engine could help earn the redesigned mainstream Imprezas ratings as high as 25/35 mpg city/highway. While this would be much better than the outgoing versions’ ratings it would still trail such segment leaders as the Hyundai Elantra at 29/40 mpg and the Chevrolet Cruze at 28/42 in its “Eco” version.

2012 Subaru Impreza Release Date back to top

The 2012 Subaru Impreza should reach showrooms in August 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Subaru Impreza back to top

The sporty and speedy Subaru Impreza WRX and WRX STI models should receive the 2012 Impreza’s basic revisions for model-year 2013, albeit spiffed up with specific exterior trim items, air intakes, and rear spoilers. They should, again, continue to come powered by lively turbocharged engines and features myriad performance-oriented enhancements.

Reports suggest the Subaru Impreza will become available in a fuel-saving gas/electric hybrid-powered model for the 2013 model year, with technology supplied by minority shareholder Toyota.

Otherwise, the 2012 Subaru Impreza’s redesign should carry this compact sedan and hatchback without dramatic changes through model-year 2016 at the earliest.

2012 Subaru Impreza Competition back to top

Honda Civic: Redesigned with brasher styling for 2012, the Civic will remain available in sedan and coupe versions, including the sporty Si variants and hybrid and natural gas-powered models. All will feature four-cylinder engines that run the gamut from adequate to exhilarating. The 2012 Civic will include Honda’s Eco Assist technology with driver-selectable performance modes that afford sportier throttle response and more aggressive transmission shift points or maximum fuel economy. As before, the 2012 Civic should be the car to beat in the compact segment, with a well-earned reputation for reliability and generous resale values. Like the other models listed here, it’ll lack Impreza’s standard AWD system, though that may be less of an advantage if you live in a warmer and/or drier climate. The 2012 Civic should have a base-price range of around $16,000-$27,000.

Hyundai Elantra: Wrapped in futuristic-looking styling that’s an amalgam of curves and creases, the compact Elantra will likely add a hatchback body style to accompany the sedan that was redesigned for model-year 2011.The 2012 Elantra should continue with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 148-horsepower and gets an estimated 29/40 mpg city/highway with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The Sonata offers several top-shelf features that include heated front and rear seats and a touch-screen navigation system with real-time traffic, weather, sports and stock market information. Base prices for the 2012 models should range from about $15,000-$21,000.

Mazda 3: Offering expressively styled four-door sedan and hatchback body styles, including the 263-horsepower MazdaSpeed3 rival to the WRX, this roomy front-wheel-drive compact is a good match for Impreza intenders who don’t fixate on AWD. The Mazda 3 lends its basic underpinnings to the highly touted new 2012 Ford Focus, and both exhibit honed European road manners. We’re partial to the Mazda 3 hatchback for its versatility and 43 cubic feet of available cargo volume, though we admit the mad-grin-grille look of both body styles can be hard to stomach. That might be remedied by a mid-cycle freshening on tap for model-year 2013. Meanwhile, the solidly built, fun-to-drive Mazda 3 should have a 2012 base-price range of roughly $17,000-$26,000. This car’s next full redesign will likely come for model-year 2016.

2012 Subaru Impreza Next Steps