Subaru has been rejuvenating their brand image in the past few years. Between the immense and increasing popularity of their rear-drive BRZ now in its second generation and the latest WRX, there are a couple of picks for enthusiasts. On the crossover side, the Crosstrek has been on sale for a decade now and has instantly found its place as arguably the most capable choice in its segment. That leaves their compact entry in a bit of a tough spot. We took a spin in the 2024 Subaru Impreza RS to determine where its place in the current market is.
First things first: the Impreza is all-new for 2024. To most onlookers it doesn’t appear drastically different than its predecessor, and that’s because it isn’t. With the exterior, Subaru decided to not fix what wasn’t broken, and gave the Impreza the basic nip-tuck to ensure it remains competitive. The Impreza is now only available as a five-door hatchback, which accounts for 70 per cent of Canadian sales. To our eyes, the sedan was rather frumpy and plain looking, so we’re not sorry to see it go.
Under the hood, lower-trim Imprezas get the same antiquated 2.0-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder offering 152 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. With a CVT as the only transmission option, this engine just doesn’t cut it anymore. The RS, which either stands for “Rally Sport” or “Really Safe”, depending on how you look at it, brings with it a larger 2.5-liter flat-four that we have seen making its way through the Subaru lineup as of late. It pushes 182 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque.
While the engine upgrade doesn’t make the Impreza RS anywhere near as quick as a Civic Si or Mazda3 Turbo, the Impreza RS is also priced halfway between the slow and fast(er) versions of its rivals. It doesn’t feel particularly quick on the road, but moves along with substantially more confidence than the 2.0-liter model. With enthusiasts sad that the manual gearbox is completely gone from the standard Impreza — it’s still available on the WRX — it’s probably a good time to mention that Subaru’s CVT is better than most others, with smooth acceleration, realistic simulated shifts, and less of a rubber-band effect.
The Impreza handles reasonably well and has better steering feel than the Corolla. It’s about on par with the Civic, while the Mazda3 still remains the fun-to-drive option in the segment. Standard all-wheel-drive across all trim levels makes the Impreza that much more appealing, though it’s worth noting that the Civic is now the only compact entry from a Japanese automaker that lacks this feature.
Inside, the focal point of the new Impreza RS’ cabin is an 11.6-inch touchscreen infotainment system, an upgrade from a dual seven-inch setup in the base car. The native Subaru interface is on the clunky side with plenty of lag, and many frequent-use items are often difficult to find. We observed the system crashing and rebooting itself on more than one occasion. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can be used wirelessly, and the wireless phone charger on the RS trim is a welcome touch. Overall interior quality is adequate, with rugged surfaces that will likely stand the test of time and hard use.
Subaru’s top priority has always been safety, and while that starts with standard all-wheel-drive on all models except the BRZ, it also means that their EyeSight suite of driver assist features is segment-leading. The DriverFocus camera-based distraction prevention feature is limited to the top-trim Sport-tech, but the Impreza RS does get the full suite of collision warning, automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, and more. Obviously, stability control systems and a rear-view camera are also standard fare across the board.
Canadian pricing for the new Impreza starts at $26,795 for the base Convenience before fees and taxes, and our RS tester comes in at $31,795. Even in base form, the Impreza offers niceties such as dual-zone climate control, EyeSight driver assist tech suite, LED headlights, and heated seats. Outside of the powertrain upgrade, the RS includes 18-inch wheels, wireless phone charging, a power sunroof, the larger 11.6-inch touchscreen system, and the Harman Kardon audio. The top-shelf Sport-tech, at $34,795, adds leather seats, machined-finish wheels, and on-board navigation.
While most of the Impreza’s compact rivals have gone extinct in favour of tiny crossovers, competition in this segment is still somewhat fierce. The torch-holding Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic are better than ever, and offer other powertrain options. The Impreza RS is priced between the Civic Sport and Touring models, and interior quality is nowhere near as good as the Honda’s though the Honda is a front-driver. The Corolla does offer all-wheel-drive and a hybrid drivetrain, and the Hybrid SE AWD is actually priced right in line with the Impreza RS.
While we could do without the RS badges that look like they were swiped right off an older Chevy Cruze, the new Impreza has managed to preserve the niche that it carved out years ago. When we thought that all-wheel-drive in a mainstream compact was unnecessary, Subaru did it, and people bought them. Now we’re 30 years into the model’s existence, and the 2024 Subaru Impreza RS has survived the test of time, and remains a good, value-friendly option against the big players.