Subaru set an American sales record in 2010, selling 263,820 vehicles, up almost 22 percent from the prior year. But you can't attribute any of the company's recent success to the Impreza; sales of Subaru's compact were actually down for 2010.
Among the current competition, the Impreza rightfully belongs at the back of the segment. It's a car defined by stodgy design and mediocre driving manners. The Impreza's single standout attribute -- all-wheel drive in a small car -- can even be construed as a handicap among frugal compact-car buyers. Newcomers like the Ford Focus and the Hyundai Elantra are setting the standard with highway fuel economy ratings of 40 mpg, while the most efficient Impreza achieves just 27 mpg. City fuel economy is equally dismal, and standard all-wheel drive means that the Impreza is priced higher than its front-wheel-drive competitors.
Fortunately, the Impreza is due for a complete redesign for 2012, which should address many of the current car's shortcomings. The new Impreza will debut at the New York auto show in April and go on sale later this year, but thanks to a concept car and the opportunity to sample Subaru's newest engine, we already have a good idea of what to expect.
A bolder, more handsome look
Building cars has never been about design at Subaru. The company that once advertised how ugly its vehicles were is an organization that is driven by resolute engineers with a deep respect for practicality. But the Impreza concept, first seen at the Los Angeles auto show last November, suggests something much more exciting than the homely Forester or Outback. It's not daring, but the design theme infuses the Impreza with a bold and aggressive character that feels much more connected to the STI. The concept boasts substantially more presence compared with the outgoing Impreza, thanks to taller body sides and a smaller greenhouse. The coupelike roofline, similar to that of the Volkswagen CC and the Mercedes-Benz CLS, creates a sleek profile while the narrow, angled headlights and large grille project a sporty attitude. If the details and proportions remain intact for production, the Impreza should easily be the best-looking Subaru in the showroom.