For the latest 2012 generation of Impreza, Subaru’s designers and engineers focused on the two reasons car shoppers gave for rejecting the model: styling and gas mileage. The 2012 Subaru Impreza is a handsomer vehicle with a sleeker profile, helped by a more steeply raked windshield, a higher seating position, and a lower waistline. The new Impreza is hardly fashion-forward, but it is no longer dowdy or awkward.
At the front, Subaru has returned to its traditional trapezoidal grille after recent flirtations with a variety of inconsistent grille shapes and styles. Along with “hawkeye” headlights, the Impreza at last gains a face that is recognizably related to the better-known Outback crossover utility. Along the sides, exaggerated wheel arches nod to the Outback, but also serve to break up the height of the flanks. The only disappointing area of the 2012 Impreza is the side view of the front fenders, where the wheels appear a size too small for the tall cowl and substantial front overhang.
The four-door sedan can come off as tall and stubby from some angles, but the five-door hatchback is quite neatly styled at the rear. A number of Impreza details echo other cars—the front hood line has a touch of Chevrolet Cruze, the taillights a hint of 2012 Honda Civic, the sharply defined bumper edges recall the Chevy Volt, the hatchback roofline evokes the Dodge Caliber—but the overall form is far crisper and more coherent than the 2007-2011 Impreza it replaces. Attention to smoothing air turbulence and a longer undertray also reduce air drag, which helps with that other issue: gas mileage.
Inside, the 2012 Impreza is straightforward and functional. A half-oval cowl in front of the driver covers the speedometer and tachometer, with a square digital display screen between them. At the top of the center of the dash, an eyebrow cowl shades a wide multifunction display where less mission-critical data is displayed in larger and easier-to-read type. Modest matte silver accents divide the top dash and door surfaces from the vertical lower portions.
While dash-top surfaces in all Imprezas are black, some models offer a two-tone interior in which lighter-colored lower dash surfaces match the upholstery—greatly lightening the interior. Overall, the Impreza offers a sensible, no-nonsense cabin with few extraneous frills or electronic distractions. Only in a few places does the design come off as cut-rate; the plain, flat silver gear-shift surround is one, the plain black radio surround is another.
The 2012 Impreza has neither the fashion-forward shape of the Ford Focus hatchback nor the interior panache of the Chevrolet Cruze’s twin-cockpit dashboard. But having lost the gawkiness of the last generation, it’s also no longer the wallflower at the ball. Shoppers who rejected the last model out of hand for its appearance are likely to give the 2012 Impreza a second look.