2012 Subaru Impreza

Fuel efficiency

Two AWD systems

The hatchback is back

Premium cabin tech

Optional navigation

More to come

The 2012 Subaru Impreza loses a few pounds and a few ponies as it continues its evolution from a quirky little car into an efficient midsize volume seller. The new design has been criticized for being bland, but the new front end retains a distinct Subaru grill and aesthetic. The profile, however, is rather anonymous.

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Under the hood is a new 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder engine mated to a CVT. The new model now returns 27 city and 36 highway mpg making the 2012 Impreza "the most fuel-efficient gasoline engine all-wheel drive passenger car in America," according to Subaru.

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The efficient CVT is an option, but a five-speed manual is the standard transmission. Shifting your own gears will cost you a few mpg in the city and on the highway. The two transmissions have unique AWD systems. The manual gets the viscous coupled Continuous AWD system that we're already familiar with. The CVT gets Active AWD with an electronically managed transfer clutch that helps it to achieve the high fuel economy numbers mentioned earlier.

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We've seen the sedan variant, but the 2011 New York auto show is our first look at the five-door Impreza. Predictably, the hatch looks sportier than the four-door, thanks to its more visually pronounced rear fender flare.

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The vehicle's physical footprint has remained the same, but inside there is more cabin space, thanks to a revised wheelbase. The Impreza gets a new cabin tech package at the Premium trim level. Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming are now standard, as are USB connectivity and iPod control.

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Also available is a new touch-screen navigation system with voice control, iTunes tagging, SMS text messaging capability, and XM Satellite Radio with NavTraffic.

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Upcoming STI and WRX variants will likely feature wider bodies and more polarizing styling. We can hardly wait, but we're told that these hi-po variants may be upwards of a year away. Until then, STI and WRX models will continue to use the old Impreza chassis.

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