By Keith Griffin
There is an automotive press association I belong to that annually votes on the Winter Vehicle of New England. The membership, myself excluded, took the easy road and honored the Jeep Grand Cherokee two years running.
The group overlooked a much better choice: the fully redesigned 2012 Subaru Impreza. It should have run away with the honors because you are not going to find a better vehicle for handling whatever New England winters throw at you while get 36 mpg highway. Both should be of great comfort as the temperatures are dropping and gas prices are jumping.
The 2012 Subaru Impreza is equipped as standard with Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. It provides great handling in normal conditions and will churn through the snow probably better than most SUVs and CUVs because it’s lower to the ground. Plus, it’s going to stop better because of its lighter weight (ultimately the most important thing when fighting winter’s icy demons).
Choice of Transmissions
Powered by an all-new 148-hp 2.0-liter Boxer engine, the 2012 Impreza comes with a choice of a five-speed manual transmission or the enhanced, second-generation Lineartronic CVT (continuously variable transmission). In the past, a CVT was considered the kiss of death because it was clunky and seemingly always in search of the gear. I forgot the Impreza came with a CVT and thought it was a smooth shifting six-speed automatic until I looked at the specs. That’s how good the CVT is.
The 2012 Impreza offers the highest fuel economy of any all-wheel drive car in the United States, with EPA ratings of 27 mpg city / 36 mpg highway / 30 mpg combined for models with the CVT. In a week with a mixture of a lot of highway driving, I averaged 28.9 mpg but I (a) didn’t feather the gas pedal and (b) cruised well above recommended highway speeds.
The latter is a testament to how quiet the Impreza rides at highway speeds. I needed to set the cruise control to protect my wallet along the Mass Turnpike and I-84 on a Hartford-Boston-Hartford sojourn.
Needs More Oomph
As mentioned, the gas pedal was used aggressively only because the 2.0-liter Boxer engine has about 90 percent of the oomph it needs. That’s the price one pays for great fuel economy. However, it’s a price worth paying.
Lest I forget, the Impreza does come in a hatchback but the sedan served me just fine for carrying things. Its trunk managed to hold 10 hearty mum plants that I delivered for a local non-profit. People were surprised by the depth of the trunk.
The model loaned to me for a week was the Subaru Impreza Premium. It has 16-inch alloy wheels, steering wheel audio and Bluetooth control switches, a rear stabilizer bar for better handling, adjustable console armrest (which consistently annoyed the heck out of me because it wouldn’t lock in place), body-color exterior mirrors and chrome interior door handles.
The standard audio system in the Premium models features Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and audio streaming, iPod control capability, USB port, 3.5mm aux. input jack and six speakers. An optional All-Weather Package adds heated front seats, heated exterior mirrors and a windshield wiper de-icer. Of course, those are must-have options, especially, well, all of them.
A power moonroof and a navigation system are available for the Premium models. The new navigation system includes a 6.1-inch touch screen LCD display, voice control, iTunes tagging, SMS text messaging capability, XM Satellite Radio and XM NavTraffic (both XM services require subscriptions). An updated map data can be downloaded to a personal computer and then transferred into the system via secure digital (SD) card. Any of those things are purely subjective. I could live without any of them and be fine but others like the built-in, consistently high-priced navigation systems that fund the CEOs’ stock options.
Ah, those pesky options and what they can do to the bottom line. The Impreza Premium starts at $18,795 but goes up from there. The model loaned to me had a price tag of $23,880. It’s still a good price but don’t expect to get what you want at anything less than the premium price.
By the way, on the safety front, all 2012 Impreza models add a new driver’s knee airbag to the roster of safety features. The passenger-seat front airbag, features a shell-type design with a center groove, thus exposing the passenger to less impact force upon deployment. All Impreza models feature standard front side pelvis/torso airbags and side curtain airbags that offer front and rear outboard seat coverage.
All Impreza models for 2012 are also equipped as standard with Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC), which combines stability and traction control functions. Likewise, all 2012 Impreza models are equipped with a standard 4-wheel disc Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and the Brake Assist safety system. The new Brake Override system ensures that the engine power will be cut when both the brake and accelerator are pressed simultaneously.
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- Wheelbase: 104.1 inches
- Length: 180.3 inches
- Width: 78.2 inches
- Height: 57.7 inches
- Curb weight: 3009
- Engine: 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder, horizontally opposed Boxer
- Horsepower: 148 @ 6,200 rpm
- Torque: 145 lb.-ft. @ 4,200 rpm
- EPA estimated mpg city/highway:
- Base price: $18,795
- As-tested price: $23,880
- Also consider: (a comparative vehicle) Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Suzuki SX4
Photos © Subaru