First Photo: 2012 Subaru Impreza

We won’t have our first complete look at the all-new 2012 Subaru Impreza until its debut at the New York auto show later this month. That said, the automaker’s PR department is all too happy to tease Imprezaphiles around the world with the first official image of the new car, along with a few bits of information.

Chances are if you’ve laid eyes on the Impreza concept shown at the 2010 Los Angeles auto show, the four-door model shown above doesn’t surprise you. The profile is nearly identical to the concept, lending the production car a larger, Legacy-like form. Predictably, some of the pizzazz found on the show car — including the tinted headlamps, camera-based side-view mirrors, and large aluminum wheels — has been lost in the translation to a production vehicle. No surprise, especially considering this is Subaru’s high-volume, entry-level offering.

Few details have been released in correlation with this image, but corporate officials are proclaiming the new car is expected to achieve a 36-mpg rating on the EPA’s highway test cycle. That’s a sizable improvement, considering the current Impreza achieved between 25 and 27 mpg on the highway, depending on the powertrain installed.

At first, 36 mpg may not sound like much when several competitors, including the 2012 Ford Focus, 2011 Hyundai Elantra, and 2011 Chevrolet Cruze, attain 40 mpg on the highway. Still, the figure is impressive considering the Impreza remains an all-wheel-drive vehicle. In fact, the Impreza appears to surpass most compact all-wheel-drive competitors in this regard, including the Suzuki Kizashi, SX4, and the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.

As we previously reported, these new fuel economy gains are primarily achieved by means of an all-new boxer engine, along with a new transmission choice. The 2012 Impreza uses a 2.0-liter horizontally-opposed four-cylinder, which actually debuted in Europe earlier this year. Rated at 148 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque, the engine is slightly down on power compared to the outgoing 2.5-liter four (170 horsepower and 170 lb-ft, respectively), but makes up for the deficiency in fuel economy gains — particularly when mated with the new continuously variable transmission, which replaces the antiquated four-speed automatic.

Will the new Impreza win new buyers while simultaneously appeasing Subaru loyalists? That remains to be seen, but Subaru officials insist fuel economy is already a prime factor in luring consumers to the brand. In that case, a 44-percent improvement in highway fuel economy over the previous model certainly doesn’t hurt.

Further details — especially those tied to performance and pricing — have yet to be announced by the automaker, but expect the full skinny on the 2012 Impreza sedan and wagon to be revealed on April 20, when the car makes its first public debut at the 2011 New York auto show.

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2012 Subaru Impreza

2012 Subaru Impreza

MSRP $17,495 2.0i (Manual) Sedan

0-60 MPH:

9.4 SECS


27 City / 36 Hwy

Safety (IIHS):

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