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Redesign elevates Subaru’s Impreza

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Subaru’s new Impreza is remarkably mainstream for a company that has given us some of the oddest-looking cars in history.

From the Brat pickup to the googly-eyed original Impreza to the downright bizzare first-gen Tribeca crossover, Subaru has often set the standard for unconventionality.

Not this time.

2012 Subaru Impreza Premium sedan
VEHICLE TYPE: Four-door, five-passenger, compact sedan
BASE PRICE: $19,095
PRICE AS TESTED: $23,914 (incl. delivery fees)
POWERTRAIN: 2.0-liter, DOHC “boxer” four-cylinder; 148 horsepower; 145 lb.-ft. torque; continuously variable automatic transmission; all-wheel drive
WHEELBASE/LENGTH: 104.1″/180.3″
CURB WEIGHT: 2,910 pounds
EPA FUEL RATING: 27 mpg city/36 highway (regular grade)

The 2012 Impreza fits in neatly with the Japanese carmaker’s current design paradigm of attractive-looking vehicles. In fact the new sedan is, to my eyes, the best-looking Subaru currently available.

In redesigning the compact for 2012, Subaru stretched the wheelbase to create a more spacious cabin while maintaining virtually the same footprint as the previous car. The expanded volume is immediately apparent, but it’s most noticeable in the back seat where the additional legroom means six-footers can ride in relative comfort (depending, of course, on the generosity of those in the front seats).

Also apparent is the terrific visibility. The view forward over the low dash and sloped hood is downright panoramic. No toad-in-a-hole claustrophobia here.

The Impreza sports one of the nicest interiors in its class, with simple, no-frills climate controls and attractive, straightfoward gauges mounted in a dash of high-quality, soft-touch materials. Nothing flashy – just solid design and execution.

Also impressive is the heavily revised, continuously variable automatic transmission. Subaru engineers have managed to virtually eliminate the “slipping clutch” sensation that plagues other versions of these gearless, gas-saving devices.

Paired with an all-new, 2.0-liter “boxer” four-cylinder delivering a modest 148 horsepower, the CVT-equipped model scores a solid 27 mpg in town and 36 mpg on the open road. Power, while not generous, is certainly adequate.

Handling, steering and braking all deserve top honors.

With all-wheel drive, superb economy, pleasing accommodations and excellent build quality, Subaru’s newest truly is – forgive me – imprezzive.