2013 Subaru Impreza
Base price: $17,895 – $22,995
As tested: $24,345
MPG: 27 city/36 highway/30 combined
- Nicer looking new style
- Standard all-wheel drive
- Much-improved fuel economy
- Uninspired driving dynamics
- Not much sets it apart from competitors other than all-wheel drive
- Subpar interior quality
By Jim Prueter
The Impreza line was redesigned for the 2012 model year. But unless you are part of Subaru’s faithful following, that news might have escaped you. Since Subaru avoids marketing to the masses and strives instead to simply set itself apart from the competition, some of their most appealing upgrades are often left unsung. Though their tactics seem to work. After all, is there anyone you know who has owned just one Subaru?
The common knock against Subaru over the years has been its mediocre fuel economy and tight interior space. In response to the criticism, Subaru stretched the Impreza’s chassis, opening up 2 more inches of rear-seat legroom and more cargo space. It improved fuel economy ratings from 5 to 10 mpg over the 2011 model. Impressive numbers, since most manufacturers are content with improvements of just 1 or 2 mpg with a new model.
But those numbers come by way of a new, smaller 2-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 148 horsepower, rather than last year’s 2.5-liter/170-horsepower engine.
Buyers get a choice of either a five-speed manual transmission that features new gear ratios or a continuously variable-ratio automatic transmission (CVT) that replaces the previous Impreza’s dated four-speed automatic transmission. The CVT optimizes torque and engine efficiency by varying the gear ratios.
Subaru engineers boldly suggest the CVT performs like a six-speed, thanks to a manual mode called LineartronicÒ, which allows the driver to pick preset ratios, not unlike set gears.
But with fewer horses and the CVT, acceleration was painfully slow and channeled noise throughout the cabin. Note to serious driving enthusiasts: Skip the Impreza, no inspired driving here.
Still, the Impreza is a journeyman of a vehicle, performing the daily commute requirements with unobtrusive aplomb. And it’s certainly not as hard on the eyes as the previous Impreza.
Standard equipment is plentiful. Incline start assist, which momentarily keeps the vehicle from rolling backwards on a hill, and steering wheel paddle shifters are standard. Our base Sport Premium model comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, power locks/mirrors/windows, keyless entry, cruise, tilting/telescoping steering, seven airbags (including driver’s knee), vehicle dynamic control, AM/FM/CD with steering wheel audio controls, USB and iPod connectivity, and iPad compatibility.
The redesigned Impreza is still available as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback, and is rated at 27 city/36 highway with the CVT and at 25 city/33 highway mpg with the five-speed manual shifter. Those are impressive numbers, considering the Impreza has standard all-wheel drive. Our numbers were surprisingly a bit above that, something we rarely achieve.
Most Subaru owners are loyalists and don’t buy the car on the basis of style like so many other consumers. But the new redesign is appreciably more attractive than previous iterations or its siblings.
Overall there is much to like about the redesigned Impreza and, for some, it’s still a brand whose primary function is to provide a mounting surface for bumper stickers. It won’t attract the masses, however it will fulfill its role in satisfying the faithful.