Safety has long been a Subaru hallmark, with the brand’s cars almost uniformly achieving top crash-test ratings. While it hasn’t yet been rated either by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the 2012 Subaru Impreza is likely to continue the string of top ratings.
In addition to long-standard anti-lock brakes and the usual array of electronic safety features, for 2012 Subaru has added a seventh airbag to protect the driver’s knees. Also new for 2012 is brake override, which cuts power to the engine if both accelerator and brake are depressed simultaneously—a response to Toyota’s “sudden acceleration” safety issues of the last two years.
Admirably, Subaru has also worked to improve visibility from the driver’s seat, both slimming the windshield pillars and reducing the blind spots at their bases. With front-seat occupants sitting almost an inch higher in the new model, a lower dashboard, and a side-window “shoulder line” 2.4 inches lower, the driver has good visibility in most directions—which is not the case in a distressing number of new models designed to meet increasingly stringent roof-crush standards. The door mirrors are also 20 percent larger, and provide a full field of rear view, again unlike many competitors.
Our one safety complaint is that the control to cycle through the different modes on the central multifunction display is a stalk on the right side of the instrument cluster. No other car we’ve ever tested has put the control there, which requires an awkward reach through or around the steering wheel. That’s simply unsafe is the car is moving, and the control should be moved to the steering wheel or a more accessible position on the dashboard.