The Impreza is a hoot to drive, but we'd love to have it with a manual transmission.
Be honest here: ever since Subaru separated the WRX into its own model, how much thought have you given to the Impreza? The outgoing Impreza was known as the most affordable all-wheel-drive vehicle sold in the USA, but the styling was a bit bland, and it was overshadowed by Subaru's popular crossovers like the Crosstrek. Now in its sixth generation, the 2024 Subaru Impreza arrives with some bold new changes to get buyers more excited - hopefully.
The Impreza sedan is gone, since Subaru says 75% of sales in the previous generation came from the hatch. And, in a nod to enthusiasts, the RS trim makes its return after a two-decade hiatus, sporting a 2.5-liter boxer-four engine just like the 1998 original. Sadly, the sporty RS model packs a continuously variable transmission, as the outgoing Impreza's 5% manual uptake rate wasn't enough to justify it for this new model.
Though pricing is quite tight between the Impreza and the 2023 Mazda CX-30 (Mazda has yet to announce 2024 pricing), the Impreza will likely hold onto its 'Cheapest AWD Car' title. After driving it through an uncharacteristically green Wine Country, California, there's a lot to love about the new Impreza - so long as you don't mind a CVT.
This writer won't miss the sedan much since the hatchback is the far more attractive body style to our eyes. Subaru ensured that this latest Impreza will not be mistaken for the WRX, especially since it doesn't have that rally-inspired cladding around the wheel arches. This new Impreza has the same 176.2-inch wheelbase as the outgoing model, but it's taller, wider, and subjectively sharper.
The base Impreza rides on 16-inch steelies, but alloys are available for just $350. Upgrading to the Sport or RS trim adds 18-inch dark grey wheels. The RS also gets super cool "RS" badges that look like the pistons in a boxer engine firing horizontally. Subaru's color pallet includes Crystal Black Silica, Crystal White Pearl, Ice Silver Metallic, Magnetite Gray Metallic, Sapphire Blue Pearl, Oasis Blue Pearl, and Pure Red. We got to see the RS trim in Oasis Blue and Pure Red, both of which look eye-catching. It certainly looks like a hot hatch, even if the automaker calls it a 'compact car' officially.
Both the Base Impreza and Impreza Sport use a carryover 2.0-liter boxer-four cylinder that's anything but sporty. It produces just 152 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque, going out to Symmetrical AWD through a CVT. The big news for 2024 is the reintroduction of a 2.5-liter engine that delivers 182 hp and 178 lb-ft. It's still no speed demon, but it makes the Impreza feel a lot more lively when you mash the throttle. It's worth noting that the Sport and RS trims add paddle shifters with eight simulated gears, but it still feels like a CVT trying to mimic a torque converter automatic.
Official EPA-rated fuel economy for the Base and Sport trims with the smaller engine is 27/34/30 mpg city/highway/combined. Opting for the RS drops those numbers by one mpg in each category, a worthy trade-off for 30 additional horses. In case anyone needed a reason to choose a crossover over a hatch, the Subaru Crosstrek boasts nearly identical efficiency despite its taller ride height. The Impreza does have a large 16.6-gallon gas tank, allowing it to travel nearly 600 miles on a fill-up, besting most of its compact rivals.
The 2024 Impreza is a momentum car in the truest sense of the term. It has light but accurate steering that's inspired by the WRX, with a playful chassis that never feels upset on a winding road. Combine the enjoyable handling with AWD grip, and the Impreza delivers a grin-inducing drive that even hardcore enthusiasts will like. We'd love to have some more power, but that's why the turbocharged WRX exists. Overall, the Impreza is an amusing, albeit leisurely, outing.
There's just one issue: the CVT. It's not bad compared to other CVTs, it just doesn't match up with the rest of the driving experience. Floor it and the RPMs shoot up, eventually dropping down to a lower range to simulate a gear change; we weren't fooled. Putting the SI-Drive into its sport setting programs the transmission to hold a lower ratio, yielding slightly more immediate acceleration. Even with the larger 2.5-liter engine, the Impreza won't pin you to your seat, but so long as you can stay off the brakes, it delivers confidence to the driver to push it hard through corners.
Subaru kept the Impreza's interior mostly simple for this new generation while adding new technology to make it feel more modern. Base models get dual seven-inch touchscreens, while the Sport and RS upgrade to a single 11.6-inch display for the first time in an Impreza. We love how Subaru didn't completely delete physical controls with buttons and knobs to control the audio and climate. The larger screen adds wireless functionality for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a six-speaker audio system (the Base only has four speakers). A 10-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system is optional on the RS trim, and it sounds really nice for such an affordable car.
All Impreza trims have cloth seats, but the RS upgrades them with more premium material and sporty red accents. Speaking of the seats, heated front seats are standard on the RS and optional on the Sport. Aluminum pedals on the RS add an extra touch of sporty flavor, though we wish there were three of them. Overall, the material quality feels premium and youthful.
With its hatchback body style, the Impreza is a great option for buyers who like to do outdoor activities like hiking or biking. There is 20.4 cubic feet of space behind the seats, a slight decrease compared to the outgoing Impreza. Folding the seats is a pretty short reach, which opens the storage space to 56 cubes, a negligible increase over the previous model. The Impreza's cargo space is comparable to both the Honda Civic and Mazda3 Hatchbacks. Subaru expects its customers to get thirsty when doing those outdoor hobbies, which is why the trunk actually has two dedicated cupholders so you can sit back there with a drink.
In terms of back seat space, occupants receive 36.5 inches of legroom back there, which is average for this segment. There are no air vents in the second row, which is expected at this price, but Subaru did put two rear USB ports (one USB-A and one USB-C) on the Sport and RS trims.
The Impreza also boasts Subaru's EyeSight Driver Assist technology as standard on all trims. This includes stand-out features like adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, and high beam assist, Optional safety features include blind-spot detection with lane change assist and automatic emergency steering. Safety remains a feather in the brand's cap.
It may seem like the 2024 Impreza is way more expensive on paper than ever before, but there's more to it than just numbers. Whereas the base model in the 2023 Impreza lineup could be had for just under $20,000, the 2024 Impreza starts at a still-low $22,995 before a $1,090 delivery charge. Keep in mind, though, that base price was for a sedan with a manual transmission, two options that are no longer offered. In a straight comparison against a 2023 CVT-equipped five-door, the 2024 Impreza is only $1,400 more.
Stepping up to the Sport trim costs $24,995, while the sportier RS with the larger engine is $27,885. Adding the $2,070 option package with the Harmon Kardon audio, moonroof, and power driver seat can push the price to just under $30,000, meaning it's not far off the price of a base WRX.
Factoring in destination charges, the Subaru Impreza is the cheapest AWD vehicle sold in the US, just edging out the Mazda CX-30. It's a stylish package with a ton of standard safety features, excellent road manners, and competitive technology. If you're looking for an affordable vehicle with AWD and you don't want an SUV, the Impreza is a great option.
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