First Look: 2012 Subaru Impreza

Subaru's Impreza WRX and WRX STI certainly help draw attention to the brand, but ironically, their plebian sibling -- the base Impreza -- may actually be much more important to the automaker. It's understandable, once you've seen the numbers: in both 2009 and 2010, the Impreza -- not the recently redesigned Legacy -- is Subaru's best-selling sedan, and the brand's third-best selling model line altogether.

That's not too shabby, but there's always room for improvement. Critics and consumers alike have docked the third-generation Impreza for its subpar interior materials, sloppy handling, and poor fuel economy. It's no surprise that the new 2012 Impreza, which debuts at the 2011 New York auto show, promises to improve upon each of those shortcomings.

Growing Up, but Barely Growing
You'll be forgiven if you mistake the fourth-generation Impreza for its larger Legacy/Outback sibling from afar. As the 2009 Impreza concept car suggested, the new Impreza bears a close resemblance to its bigger brethren, particularly in the front clip. The rhombus-shaped grille and tapered headlamps echo the Legacy. Five-door models will likely turn the most heads, thanks in part to a tall, chunky rear bumper that does more for aerodynamics than aesthetics.

If the new cars look larger than before, consider this an optical illusion. Subaru officials proclaimed the previous Impreza to be "right-sized" for today's compact segment, so it's no surprise that the 2012 Impreza doesn't stray far from that dimensional sweet spot. Despite riding on a wheelbase that's grown by an inch, the 2012 Impreza's footprint is virtually identical to the outgoing car: overall length (180.3" for sedans, 173.8" for wagons) and width (68.5") are unchanged, while overall height (57.6") actually comes in at a half-inch under than the 2011 model.

Interior dimensions, particularly those for the front passengers, are nearly identical to those of the previous model, although larger windows and a lowered instrument panel give the impression of additional space. Passengers relegated to the rear seats, however, may appreciate the newfound space. Legroom jumps by two inches, shoulder room is increased by two inches, and the rear door openings are slightly wider than before, easing both entry and egress.

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