The length, width, and footprint of the 2012 Subaru Impreza are almost identical to the model it replaces, but the designers focused on increasing usable interior space. The wheelbase is almost an inch longer, the door openings are much larger, the interior door panels offer more shoulder and elbow room, and rear-seat passengers gain fully 2 inches of legroom. Along with new front seats whose backs have been slimmed and scalloped, even six-foot rear-seat passengers can travel comfortably in the rear seat. And they’ll find getting in and out far easier to boot.
Befitting its practical, hey-let’s-go-kayaking-and-spelunking-today image, Subaru enlarged the hatch and trunk openings in the latest Impreza. The five-door hatchback can accommodate a medium-sized dog carrier or a mountain bike with its front wheel in place, and the engineers even scalloped the headliner to accept not one but two mountain bikes, standing upright (with front wheels removed). A redesigned, smaller fuel tank lets the rear seat to fold flat for the first time, which the company says boosts cargo space 15 percent in the five-door and 6 percent (to 12 cubic feet) in the sedan, despite having to accommodate a rear differential and driveshafts for all-wheel drive. And Subaru is proud of the roof rack on the five-door, which accepts many standard roof carriers.
Subaru also put effort into making the 2012 Impreza cabin a more pleasant place to spend time, with soft-touch materials now covering the majority of the dashboard and center console. (At the launch, executives tossed in a few mildly caustic references to “some competitors” in the compact segment that have moved the other way by down-speccing their materials, clearly a dig at the sub-par surfaces of the 2012 Honda Civic). The controls are mostly simple and intuitive, with large round ventilation knobs and a particularly neat optional navigation system integrated into the radio.
The 2012 Impreza isn’t the quietest compact car—that honor almost surely goes to the hushed interior of the Chevrolet Cruze—but it’s perfectly competitive. Only two things keep it from higher ratings: One is wind noise from around the door mirrors, long a Subaru weak spot. The other is tire roar on certain surfaces. The Impreza’s low-rolling resistance tires go mostly unnoticed, holding the road fine and staying quiet. Until, that is, the car travels onto rough asphalt surfaces, some of which prove to generate remarkable tire roar. It only happens occasionally, but it’s noticeable when it does.
The new Impreza interior does offer a useful variety of bins, trays, cubbies, and cup holders, along with a pair of 12-Volt power outlets and (except on the 2.0i base model) a USB jack. Even the door armrests include cutouts to pull them closed that were designed to hold mobile phones.