Subaru updated the Impreza model, the bottom of its lineup, for 2012. For this update, Subaru improved fuel economy by reducing weight, downsizing the engine, and switching to a continuously variable transmission.

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Updated:Caption:Photo:James Martin/CNET
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The styling of the new Impreza has not changed much from the previous generation. The new car looks more refined, with a tighter grille. The hatchback profile looks very similar to the previous model.

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Subaru took the engine down to 2 liters, but retained the flat-four design. This new engine produces 145 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque.

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Updated:Caption:Photo:James Martin/CNET
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Subaru increased the interior room. The cabin feels more spacious, and access feels easy, as the doors open at almost 90 degree angles to the car.

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All-wheel drive is still standard for the Impreza. The system uses an electronically controlled transfer clutch that actively balances torque.

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The suspension feels like it was tuned for the mass of everyday drivers, with comfort in mind. In turns, the body is prone to more sway than you would get in a sport car.

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Updated:Caption:Photo:James Martin/CNET
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The hatchback allows plenty of cargo space, and even more with the rear seats folded down.

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The cabin of the Impreza is nice in this top-trim model, but doesn't feel like that of a premium-level car.

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Updated:Caption:Photo:James Martin/CNET
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Another look at the Impreza's interior.

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Subaru offers a navigation system and iPod integration in the Impreza as options. A Bluetooth phone system is optional.

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The electrically boosted power-steering system retains a solid feel.

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White gauges are a nice touch in the Impreza Sport Limited. The LCD in the instrument panel is a completely different style from other displays in the car.

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Updated:Caption:Photo:James Martin/CNET
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This eyebrow display shows fuel economy information.

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Updated:Caption:Photo:James Martin/CNET
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Standard in the Sport Limited model is a continuously variable transmission. It includes six virtual shift points, selectable with paddles on the steering wheel.

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Updated:Caption:Photo:James Martin/CNET
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iPod integration lets you browse music libraries based on album and artist, but the controls are difficult to figure out.

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The standard Bluetooth phone system includes an internal phone book, but copying contacts over from a phone is a manual process.

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Updated:Caption:Photo:James Martin/CNET
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