The compact car segment has had a rough time standing up to the onslaught of small crossovers. Although the 2024 Subaru Impreza is definitely a strong contender for right-sized utility, its hyper-focus on a specific Subaru customer archetype may prevent it from winning new hearts.
All automakers have enough data on their customer base to know them down to their preferred toothpaste, but Subaru seems to know its drivers better than it knows itself. For 2024, the brand of mostly all-wheel-drive autos has streamlined the Impreza to focus on the active outdoors enthusiast who might be SUV-averse but still wants something sporty to drive. In terms of performance, the new RS model is sporty enough to enjoy any exciting roads its drivers may find in the wild, but its modest power output and CVT transmission don’t make it a go-to for hot hatch excursions.
Now hatchback-only, the Subaru Impreza has a host of upgrades to satisfy this particular breed of customer, whether they’re an existing Subie owner seeking an upgrade or a conquest from the crossover crowd who lives a similar lifestyle. For the former, the new Impreza seems like a dream come true, but the hyper-specificity of the car’s mission and limited options might not be enough of a draw for the latter.
|Quick Stats||2024 Subaru Impreza RS|
|Output:||182 Horsepower / 178 Pound-Feet|
|Efficiency:||26 City / 33 Highway / 29 Combined|
|Base Price:||$22,995 + $1,090 Destination|
Gallery: 2024 Subaru Impreza: First Drive
The all-new 2024 Subaru Impreza is a compact hatchback built on the modular Subaru Global Platform shared with the Crosstrek and, well, every other current Subaru that isn’t the BRZ. Having spun off from the WRX into its own standalone model several years ago, the latest Impreza further distinguishes itself from its sporty sedan sibling as it’s now strictly a five-door. This iteration also boils the trims down to three flavors.
Base and Sport models share a 2.0-liter four cylinder boxer engine that churns out 152 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque, a mill that felt just barely adequate in the Crosstrek Brett T. Evans sampled last month. The RS ups the displacement to 2.5 liters and the output to 182 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque.
In all versions, power is sent through a continuously variable transmission, with the Sport and RS models including eight manual shift points handled through wheel-mounted paddles. All Imprezas send power to all four wheels managed by an active all-wheel-drive system that splits the power evenly between axles, but vectors torque using individual wheel braking as needed.
Looking for a manual gearbox? Sorry, but a lack of interest in previous model years dissuaded Subaru from offering one, despite what you and your car buds may think. DIY thrills are still available on the WRX, though.
The new Impreza brings with it a new streamlined look but mercifully avoids the bloat that often accompanies a generational shift. It retains the same exterior dimensions of the previous hatchback while increasing aero efficiency thanks to grille shutters and an RS-specific engine undercover that increases downforce and stability at high speeds. Thankfully, It’s also free of the abundant plastic cladding that its sibling vehicles have been afflicted with.
Got the blues? You do now, as the new Impreza adds a couple of them to the lineup. A rich Sapphire Blue pearl is available for all models while the more striking Oasis Blue is an option for the Sport and RS trims.
Inside the Impreza is suitably Subaru, as it’s designed to stand up to the knockabout lifestyle of its user base. Its centerpiece is an 11.6-inch touchscreen that houses all infotainment functions, though the Subaru retains important physical knobs and buttons despite the available digital real estate. Newly designed front seats have been engineered to hug more solidly at the hips, while the second row lays flat to maximize cargo space for adventure gear. All in all, there’s 56 cubic feet of room to fill before having to bolt something onto the roof’s standard cross bar mounting points for racks.
An upgraded version of Subaru’s EyeSight drive assist tech finds its way into the new hatchback. Newly designed cameras increase the system’s range of awareness for more accurate behavior when it comes to adaptive cruise control and lane departure prevention. It also includes pre-collision and automatic emergency steering for increased collision prevention, though if all these systems don’t do the trick, Subaru is confident the new Impreza will uphold its five-star IIHS impact rating streak.
The 2.5-liter housed in the RS is a version of the same engine found in other Subarus like the Crosstrek, reworked relative to the base engine to deliver maximum torque sooner than later. Even so, getting up to speed in the Impreza takes a bit of time. From a standstill, our casual and impromptu zero to 60 test took long enough for me to look out the window, daydream, and glance back in time to see the speedo hit its mark.
Once you’ve got enough momentum, though, the Impreza’s handling is quite rewarding. Find the right stretch of road and the Impreza obliges in your rally-stage fantasies with quick inputs and confident footing. Much of what the Subaru delivers hinges on increased rigidity, and thankfully it delivers on that front.
From there, choices like bolting seat rails directly to the chassis and the dual-pinion steering go further to connect the driver to the car, mitigating any floaty disconnect and making input response near-instant. The structural enhancements allowed Subaru to soften the ride without a loss in performance, so the hatchback is tight through undulating road surfaces without any teeth-rattling.
From sunbaked tarmac to loose gravel, the Impreza’s AWD kept a tight grip on the road, only falling short when it came time to power out of bends. In these instances, I wished for a more responsive transmission rather than extra grunt. Left on its own, the CVT was serviceable in a sporty setting but couldn’t really be rushed.
Even in manual mode, the baked-in shift points – all eight of them – were spaced out in a way where they were hardly beneficial in a dynamic scenario. In a “downshift,” it would drop too far and not fast enough, and once it acquiesced to your command, the benefits were negligible. Try to apply any substantial engine braking and the powertrain was more vocal than helpful.
Subaru emphasized the Impreza’s range due to its customers’ keenness to take their hatchbacks on long outdoor excursions, stating that the Base and Sport can rack up around 500 miles on one tank while the RS achieves around 480 miles. With this in mind, it was pleasant to discover the Impreza’s composure on the highway bits of the journey. Increased sound damping and reduction in vibration made the Impreza interior a comfortable place to endure extended driving stints, far better than what’s usually expected from a car in its segment.
Nice Cars Finish Last
All told, my time left me with confusing feelings about the 2024 Impreza. At $24,085 to start, it ticks all the boxes Subaru meant for it to tick. It’s a solid all-rounder and while I had fun on our little twisty country road jaunts, there were no lingering thoughts about it when it was over. There was no “spark” or “fizz.” It was fine. It was good! But safe bets, historically speaking, aren’t the ones that pay off with thrilling wins.
Subaru’s line-toeing prevents the Impreza from excelling in any particular department: It’s fun, but not a barn-stormer, it’s roomy but not remarkably so, it drives with ease and confidence, but does neither in a way that’s a pleasant surprise.
Despite the RS upgrade, the current Impreza lacks the extra bit of zing that would tip the scale in its favor when considered by a potential customer not already indoctrinated into the Subaru way of life. The new Impreza is the perfect fit for a particular owner – one who seeks a vehicle that enables them to live their active lifestyle while still being fun to drive, so long as they aren’t particularly fussed about that last part. In its current state, the new Impreza certainly meets expectations, but it would’ve been nice if it had exceeded them.
Impreza Competitor Reviews:
2024 Subaru Impreza RS