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How to Impreza the Neighbors

The 2012 Subaru Impreza

We’re just kidding ourselves unless we admit that when we buy a brand new car we want people to notice it. After all, a car is, for most of us, the second biggest purchase we ever make. (For some, the second biggest over and over and…) So no one wants to buy something the neighbors are going to look at and ask, “What the…?” And although many of the earliest Subarus brought into the U.S. certainly fit into the “What the:?” category, the new 2012 Impreza is far from it—and a huge improvement over the 2011 model, which I thought looked like one of those generic cars you see in insurance ads.

I picked up my test car one day last week at Northtown Subaru from sales consultant Mike Stepien. I had planned this test drive well in advance, figuring, hey, it’s still winter and I should be able to reap the full advantages of Subaru’s famed all-wheel drive. So, as I was driving down Sheridan Drive, opening the sunroof and adjusting the air-conditioner, I glanced down at the in-dash outside thermometer—which read 73 degrees. Yeah, just your typical afternoon the Thursday before St. Patrick’s Day.

I soldiered on to the backroads of Northern Erie County, which, if you’ve never ventured up that way, have some pretty great curves. The all-wheel drive, while not exactly needed for traction that day, still made its presence known with superior grip around those curving roads of East Amherst. It’s not hard to figure out why cars like this are popular in international rallying.

My test car was a 2.0i Premium five-door in Dark Gray Metallic with a dark gray cloth interior. There is also a four-door sedan; other trim levels are the lower-rung base 2.0i, and the higher 2.0i Limited, Sport Premium, and Sport Limited models. The 2.0 designation on at Subarus refers to what’s under the hood, which is an all-new (surprise) 2.0-liter Boxer engine. Two transmissions are available: a five-speed manual (which is standard on all but the Sport Premium and Sport Limited); and the Lineartronic® CVT (continuously variable transmission) with six-speed manual mode and steering wheel paddle shifters, which is what the test car came equipped with. I’m not one for doing much paddle shifting—I’d prefer the manual if I’m going to be choosing my own gears. But try it I did, and I must say that the paddles are conveniently located and the response was quick. Although not a big fan, I am impressed with the amount of technology that must go into these things to make them work.

Impreza pricing for the five-door starts at $17,995. The Premium test car had a starting price of $19,295; options (all-weather package and floor mats; alloy wheel package; moonroof, cargo tray) brought the sticker to $23,746, which, in this day and age, isn’t that bad for an all-wheel-drive, five-door hatchback. Although not the largest Subaru, the Impreza has plenty of interior space. I was most comfortable driving it, and I’m six feet tall. I also climbed into the back seat and could easily withstand a long trip back there. Headroom was also good, even with the often-offending moonroof robbing some space in the front seat. (The roof in the rear seat is unaffected by the moonroof.) Cargo space is great, especially with the back seat folded down. Gas mileage, too, isn’t bad at all for an all-wheel-drive car: 27/36 miles per gallon city/highway, as per the EPA estimates.

All in all, although Subarus seem to have lost some of that oddball, granola-eaters-only-need-apply personality of the earliest models, the new Impreza is a great little family car. And if it ever snows again around here it’ll be that much better.

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