We've already had our long-term 2012 Subaru Impreza for a year, and that means we have to give it back. But before we do, it's time to reflect on the ups and downs of our time with the Impreza.

Simplicity, Not Luxury

Reading through our previous Impreza updates, two things become clear quickly: This is neither a luxury car nor a complicated car. On a luxury level, the Impreza misses out on many high-end features -- items such as navigation, leather and automatic climate control. The trade-off comes in complexity, for the Impreza is simple to own and operate. There's no touchscreen to figure out, no excessive electronics for simple functions and no power items that do things you rarely need.

The theme is simple: If you want a technologically advanced, high-end new model, the Impreza isn't it. An example is the oft-mentioned Bluetooth system, which required repairs every time you started the car. While some compact models offer cutting-edge gadgets, the Impreza isn't one of them -- a fact that split opinions among our testers. Some enjoyed the respite from technology, while others missed the latest features. If you're considering an Impreza, you'll have to decide where you stand for yourself.

Surprising Performance

Since the Impreza is a compact car, we didn't have high expectations for its performance. What expectations we had only lessened when our test car came with the continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic -- a transmission tuned for fuel economy rather than speed.

Nearly everyone who drove the Impreza, however, marveled at the driving experience. Most noted it was better than they thought it would be, and many agreed the Impreza drives better than its rivals. And we're not just talking about handling: The Impreza also accelerated surprisingly sharply for a 140-horsepower car with a CVT. We chalk it up to its low weight, a focus on driving dynamics and, most importantly, one of the best CVTs in the business.

Holding Up and Holding Gear

Our other primary remarks about the Impreza focused on two categories: how it held up and how it held gear. Holding gear was a positive trait, as many staffers wondered why any driver would get an Impreza sedan, considering the practicality of the 5-door hatchback.

The Impreza's long-term wear and tear wasn't such a strong point. The interior didn't hold up exceptionally well; it showed worn plastics, seat stains and other issues after just a year. Some staffers also remarked that the Impreza became jerky and sluggish over time -- traits often seen in 10-year-old cars rather than recent 2012 models.

Overall, though, our time with the 2012 Subaru Impreza was mostly positive. No, it didn't have the latest gadgets, and it wore down more quickly than we expected. But for a simple and practical compact car, you can't go wrong with an Impreza.

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Doug DeMuro has a wide range of automotive industry experience, from work at a Ferrari dealership to a manager for Porsche North America. A lifelong car enthusiast, Doug's eclectic vehicle purchases include a Porsche 911 Turbo, an E63 AMG wagon, an old Range Rover and a Mercedes Benz G-wagen.

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