Subaru redesigned its 2012 Impreza from rubber to rooftop, adding a new Boxer engine, a new CVT transmission and a stronger exterior design with more sculpted lines. Subaru’s fans, among the most loyal in the industry, should be pleased with the results.

They should be pleased that the Impreza gets 36 miles per gallon on the highway, making it the most fuel efficient AWD car in America. They should be pleased that there is increased interior and trunk room, even though the exterior has not increased in size. And they should really be pleased that the base price of the car is the same as it was in 2011.

The fourth-generation Impreza, like all Subarus, comes standard with Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, one of the best safety technologies developed for automobiles. Powered by a new 148-horsepower Boxer engine connected to a Continuously Variable Transmission, the 2012 Impreza is more than 100 pounds lighter than the 2011 model, it has lower resistance rolling tires, and it has electric power steering. These and other factors result in the Impreza’s EPA rating of 27 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the road. And the Impreza has an impressive range of 523 miles on a tank of gas.

The man responsible for many of the improvements to the Impreza, Project Manager Akihide Takeuchi, said Subaru has had three straight years of broken sales records, and the Impreza should help continue the streak. The car is targeted to kids – those younger than 35 and older than 55.

Several exterior and interior style changes give the 2012 Impreza a sportier stance, including a more raked front windshield, narrower A pillars, and a sleeker silhouette with more glass. The car looks sharper and visibility is improved.

Impreza designers made more room inside the sedan as well as the 5-door without increasing the size of either. The front seat backs are scalloped to provide more knee room in back. And on behalf of tall people, thank-you Subaru for raising the top of the center console pad nearly 3 inches to make it a more comfortable armrest.

Offered in base, Premium, Sport Premium, Limited and Sport Limited models, the Impreza aims to keep Subaru’s reputation for safety. All 2011 Subaru model lines were “Top Safety Picks” from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The 2012 model has all the same safety equipment, but adds a driver’s knee airbag. Base prices for Impreza range from $17,495 for the 2.0i sedan to $22,595 for the 2.0i Sport Limited.

On the road, Impreza’s engine and CVT transmission deliver smooth and reliable but uninspiring performance. It’s the wave of the future, folks. Cars will get better and better gas mileage, but performance will suffer as a result. Subaru adds paddle shifters to enhance the driving experience, and a true manual transmission is available.

Still, the Impreza will please loyalists, and it should. There’s an awful lot to like about the 2012 model. The new design is sharper looking, the interior is better, the powertrain will let you pass right by lots of gas pumps, and Subaru’s AWD will keep you safer in all driving conditions. The 2012 models will begin arriving in showrooms next month.