New York 2011: 2012 Subaru Impreza Gains Style, Loses Thirst For Fuel

Subaru's Impreza has long been a competent player in the compact car segment, but in recent years, it's lagged behind competitors in terms of both fuel economy and interior decor. The 2012 Impreza, which debuted this morning at the 2011 New York auto show, appears to resolve both issues.

First, the matter of MPGs. Presently, today's Impreza is EPA rated at 20/27 mpg (city/highway), provided the 2.5-liter boxer-four-cylinder is mated to the base five-speed manual transmission. Opt for the four-speed automatic, and those numbers drop to 20/26 mpg. Never mind the all-wheel-drive -- that's rather low for a compact car, and it's hard for non-Subaru loyalists (or buyers who don't demand all-wheel-drive) to wrap their heads around.

Thankfully, those figures take a giant leap upwards for 2012, due in part to some new powertrain. The signature symmetrical all-wheel-drive system remains, but the SOHC 2.5-liter flat-four is eschewed for a new DOHC, 2.0-liter boxer-four-cylinder. At 147 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque, the engine does trail the outgoing 2.5-liter ever so slightly, but the reward is a thirst for fuel that's vastly reduced.

Finalized EPA figures are still forthcoming, but at this stage, Subaru estimates a 2012 Impreza, fitted with the five-speed manual transaxle, will earn a 25/ 34 mpg rating. Opt for the new continuously variable transmission (which replaces the aging four-speed auto), and those figures rise to 27/ 36 mpg. An impressive improvement, and Subaru says that 36-mpg figure bests any other AWD vehicle presently for sale in the U.S.

Owners will appreciate the improved efficiency over time, but they'll likely immediately appreciate the interior revisions. As is the case with the Impreza's exterior, the new cabin borrows a number of cues from the larger Legacy sedan, and designers labored to rid it of the hard, plasticky materials that were peppered throughout the previous car. Softer materials were used liberally on areas frequently touched, including dash pad, arm rest, door panels, and more. It's a refreshing departure, and we're also happy to see Subaru crafted a new nagivation system from scratch. Our time with the system has been limited, but it immediately looks, feels, and functions much better than the current Impreza's awkward TomTom-based system.

Pricing hasn't been set, but officials tell us the new car won't be much more expensive than the outgoing 2011 model, which starts at $17,495. Expect finalized figures to emerge this fall, when the 2012 Impreza hits U.S. showrooms.

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