Whenever I’m helping someone pick out a new car, I ask four questions: What do you need, what do you want, what don’t you want, and how much are you willing to spend? Those first two questions are important — they split the requirements from the desires, to make a prospective buyer think about what really matters to them. Subaru, it seems, asked its owners the same few questions when developing the 2024 Impreza.
Impreza buyers need to haul dogs, mountain bikes, kayaks — y’know, Subaru things — and the new wagon-only Impreza handles those needs well. But Subaru’s data says that buyers want sportiness, engagement, something more fun to drive than a crossover. On that mark, the 2024 Impreza comes close — but makes you long for the real solution that Subaru won’t build.
Full Disclosure: Subaru shipped me out to Paso Robles to test out the new Impreza. The company paid for my airfare, lodging, and food.
The 2024 Impreza marks a new generation for the car, which means a whole host of changes. The bodywork is new, and it’s a nice evolutionary refinement on the older car’s looks. The old car’s 2.0-liter boxer engine returns, but its accompanying CVT has been given a broader range of ratios— and re-tuned to transmit less noise into the cabin. Subaru’s EyeSight system, too, has been upgraded with a wider field of view.
The Impreza’s interior has been upgraded with more sound deadening and new, anatomically-researched seats for added driver and passenger comfort. It also features more tech, in the form of an 11.6-inch portrait-oriented screen taking up the car’s entire center stack in the upper trims. Wireless CarPlay and Android Auto are part of that package, and the highest trim gets a Qi wireless smartphone charger in the center console.
Most notably, the Impreza lineup has been reworked to bring back the RS trim level. Subaru added some displacement to the model, giving it the 2.5-liter engine out of the Legacy, Outback, Forester, and Crosstrek, so it makes sense to harken back to the 2.5RS trims of old. By contrast, the luxurious Limited and plebian Premium trims are gone, leaving only Base, Sport, and the “big-block” RS.
The 2024 Impreza is available with the 2.o-liter flat-four making 152 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque, or the 2.5-liter in the RS that makes 182 hp and 178 lb-ft. Both are mated exclusively to a CVT, and send their power to all four wheels. The lightest version of the car, a base model with optional alloy wheels, weighs in at a claimed 3,167 pounds; the heaviest, a fully decked-out RS, comes in at 3,323 pounds.
Subaru cites an interesting statistic for the Impreza, not often highlighted on a gasoline-powered car: Range. The thinking is that Subie owners want to travel far out into the wilderness, but still need enough fuel onboard to get back. So, for the curious, the 2.0-liter cars, with their estimated 27 mpg city and 34 highway, can drive 500 miles on a single 16.6-gallon tank. The RS drops those estimated fuel economy ratings to 26 city/33 highway, and can’t quite make 500 miles on a tank.
Good! The 2024 Impreza is more smoothed-over than the outgoing car, rounded off in a way that seems to echo Mazda. The roof slopes more towards the rear, the headlights are tucked closer into the body. The style is no less creased than the prior car, there’s no shortage of body lines, but they flow together more cohesively. It’s all been streamlined.
The looks are helped by the new-for-2024 Oasis Blue Pearl color seen in the first image on this article, which reintroduces the concept of bright, interesting colors to the Impreza. It’s a bit darker than Toyota’s Blue Flame, a bit flatter than Ford’s Nitrous Blue. If you’re buying an Impreza, skip the grays and whites. Just buy Oasis Blue Pearl, and enjoy your life more.
This is where Subaru wants the Impreza to stand out. The company’s research shows Impreza buyers do many of the same things as Crosstrek, Outback, or Forester owners — hiking, biking, dog-owning — but they want something that drives a little sportier. Those large-object-based hobbies require a hatchback or wagon, meaning the WRX – which has been sedan-only since 2014 – isn’t an option. The Impreza, and specifically the new Impreza RS, is the best those buyers can get within Subaru’s lineup.
That “best” isn’t bad. The Impreza’s handling punches above its weight class, feeling composed through high-speed rolling corners that would unsettle less-sporty models. The car’s steering, a new dual-pinion rack, is pleasantly weighted and surprisingly precise — a perfect recipe for slow-car-fast fun.
The engine, too, could hit that marker. The 2.5's 182 horsepower isn’t earth-shattering, but it’s entertaining enough to wring out — on the rare occasion the CVT lets you. That transmission, more than anything else, drags the car’s excitement level down. It’s often confused; refusing to hold revs despite mashing the “downshift” paddle in the twisties, yet sticking itself at 3,000 RPM to maintain speed on the highway. Floor the pedal out of a turn, and the CVT ponders the meaning of life for a minute before allowing you any increase in revs.
At first, familiar. Take out the 11.6-inch center dash display, and you could be in any Subaru of the past few years — the chunky steering wheel buttons, the analog gauges astride a vertical center display. But, spend some more time in the Impreza, and you begin to see the results of those years of improvements. The plastics are nicer, there are more soft-touch materials around, and it overall feels like a nicer place to be.
Once you notice that, you start to notice the other choices — for better or for worse. Subaru could have done a digital dash, but the new Impreza sticks with analog speedo and tach — one that’s, admittedly, beginning to feel a bit dated. But, those big steering wheel buttons match oversized touchpoints on the center console and the sides of the giant screen — even on that screen, the buttons are huge. Even the window switches are massive, everything is easy to locate and press with just a quick glance (or, likely, with gloves on). The Impreza’s interior may not win any sleekness awards, but it’s pleasantly usable.
That’s not to say it’s perfect. The Harmon Kardon stereo in the RS model would be underwhelming even without that high-dollar badge — it’s begging for a subwoofer — and despite Subaru’s claims of added sound deadening, a surprising amount of tire noise makes its way to the cabin. But for a base price of $22,995, or even my fully-loaded tester’s $29,955 sticker, those foibles are forgivable.
The world of wagons is ever-shrinking, as is the world of reasonably-sized passenger cars. The Impreza goes up against the Civic and Corolla (both available as hatchbacks), as well as the sedan-only Hyundai Elantra and Kia Forte. Of those, the Impreza sits comfortably in the middle on price — certainly more expensive than the Korean competition, but cheaper than the other Japanese brands (if only by $10, in the Corolla’s case).
Yet, out of all these, only the Impreza and Forte lack a high-performance variant. Hyundai has its Elantra N, Toyota has the GR Corolla, and Honda gives us both the Civic Si and Type R. The WRX sedan competes with the Elantra N, sure, but Subaru has nothing to throw at the hot hatches from Honda or Toyota.
And that’s where the questions start to arise. The five-door Impreza has a great chassis and competent-enough suspension, let down by a drivetrain package that doesn’t have much interest in fun. Subaru wants this car to appeal to performance-minded buyers, people who intentionally eschew the more all-terrain-capable Crosstrek for a better driving experience, but the company still won’t give it a performance-oriented engine and transmission.
The Impreza hatchback, then, is a tease. It shows off the capability of the car’s newly-stiffened chassis, but makes you dream of a vehicle you just can’t buy. There’s a perfect all-around car hidden within Subaru’s lineup, an unbeatable mix of enjoyment and practicality, but its parts are split between two different product lines.
The Impreza is a comfortable daily driver, a more than competent way to get the kids and the dog from A to B. But that B can’t be somewhere you’d need a Crosstrek’s ground clearance to access, and the route can’t be so fun that you’d want a WRX for the journey. The Impreza meets all the needs for Subaru’s buyers — but the wants are lacking.