Going to try and make this quick & sweet, probably less sweet though. Anyway took my '11 Outback in for an oil change & some much overdue and very needed warranty work. They pull out this '12 Impreza, 2.0, cvt sedan and thought cool.
I have secretly been wanting to drive this car anyway in lieu of the newly improved CVT gen II, my '11 Outback has the gen I (If the Outback has gen I what would you call the CVT in the old Justy?) anyway back to the new Impreza. I have to admit the overall design is handsome and a huge improvement over the Corolla-looking Impreza of just a year ago. I wish my Outback had the same design language up front; the back is decent enough for an econobox but definitely nothing over the top. I think this is probably one of the nicest looking sedans in it's respective segment though save for the Elantra or does this compete with the Accent?
The first thing I notice upon sitting in the driver seat is that almost everything is where I would expect it to be in my Outback, and everything in this car has a hand-me-down, parts bin feel to it. Probably more so than any other car I've driven in recent times. As an example a month ago I had my '11 F-150 in for service and they provided a '12 Focus which didn't remind me of anything else in their lineup respectfully speaking.
While you get the idea the new Impreza is very solid car, cheapness adorns the entire cabin in a sort of way that says, this car cost more than it feels. As a Subaru owner I get the idea that you are paying for the durable and trusty AWD system at the expense of nicer trim and materials. The seats are pretty decent for Econobox issue, not quite 90's era Buick comfy like my Outback but very suportive and did not give me any fatigue on the 25 minute drive back to my house. The driving position feels on point, exactly where it should be in a car like this, however the small triangle window (forget what you call these) gets in your peripheral vision and is slightly annoying in the same way it is in the current & last gen Civic, Fit.
As far as the driving dynamics go, the new 2.0 feels and sounds exactly the way my 2.5 does in my Outback, everything from the loud cold start to the rumble and bouncy idle as the engine warms up. I guess I was expecting something a little quieter and smoother being that this is the new boxer motor from the company. Handling is crisp and steering feel is overall good. There is considerable more body roll in this new Impreza than the last Civic I drove and much more than the '12 Focus sedan I rented a while ago.
What I did like was the new CVT, if you just drive this car in a normal fashion the CVT operation is almost transparent unlike that with my Outback. My Outback has one of the best CVT's I’ve ever driven but the one in this new Impreza makes the one in my Outback feel like it's broken or very old tech. With my Outback you get the feeling the cars computer has a pre-selected idea on how you want to drive the car, so the ratios are always slightly behind or too ahead of what you want the car to do. In this Impreza it feels like the CVT is predicting what you want at all times and is just ready. A quick jab at the throttle the motor doesn't wind out like my Outback and wait for the CVT to play catch up. It just shoots up 2-3K with a firm engagement, almost like a traditional transmission and the power feels linear until you let up.
If you stab the throttle from a dead stop there is about 2 seconds of pretty substantial lag then you feel the ratios in the CVT change along with what feels closest to what I imagine being flung out of a sling-shot feels like without the "sling" if that makes sense. Once you get out from the initial launch the car is moving at a decent pace. At cruising speeds the car is smoother that what I expect from an EconoBox but extremely noisy. Not sure if these have less sound-deadening than the Outback/ Legacy but road noise is equal to or a bit louder than most similar Honda products. I think my wife’s previous '10 Honda Insight might have been slightly quieter. Anyway I came away overall impressed and feeling like the only reason I would pick up one of these over anything else in its segment, would be if I lived someplace where needing AWD was a requirement otherwise I think I would rather have a Focus or Elantra for the same money.