There used to be two versions of Subaru’s Impreza – a sedan and a five-door hatchback.
Now there’s just the hatchback.
Also gone is the manual transmission that used to be available in the Impreza – and which you can’t get anymore in any new Subarus except the four-seater, two-door BRZ sports car and the WRX (Subaru’s high-performance four-door) which currently – interestingly – comes only as a sedan.
But there is a new engine upgrade for the Impreza that’s shades of WRX – at a much-less-than-WRX price.
Plus a new (available) 11.6 inch touchscreen, if that floats your boat.
The Impreza is Subaru’s entry-level small car. It offers – comes standard with – at least two things that are hard to find in any other car, at least for $22,995 to start. That’s the base price of the base trim Impreza hatchback, which comes standard with a horizontally opposed or “boxer” 2.0 liter engine and standard “symmetrical” all-wheel-drive, by which Subaru means the drivetrain is equally split down the centerline of the car, with half the engine’s weight on the left and the other on the right. Subaru says this results in a lower center of gravity and better weight distribution, for better handling.
There’s also a new RS trim, which centers on a larger, stronger (2.5 liter) engine that echoes the engine that used to be available in the WRX STi – which (for now) is no longer available.
Word is that when the STi returns, it won’t have an engine at all.
What’s New For 2024
The Impreza gets a makeover for 2024 that includes an updated interior and exterior, along with the new RS package.
Also new is a significant uptick in the Impreza’s price. Last year’s Impreza five-door listed for $20,295 – and the sedan you can no longer get listed for $19,795. Apples to apples (that is, five-door to five-door) the ’24 Impreza’s base price is $2,700 higher than the outgoing ’23’s base price.
New RS package brings almost-WRX performance within reach of people who can’t afford a WRX.
Very good gas mileage is standard.
Standard boxer engine has a unique personality that gives the Impreza personality.
What’s Not So Good
CVT automatic is standard – and manual is no longer available.
Steep price increase for the base trim.
No more option top choose the sedan – and a lower price.
The ’24 Impeza comes standard with the same 2.0 liter, 152 horsepower four cylinder engine that came standard in the ’23 Impreza. It also comes standard with a continuously variable (CVT) automatic transmission as the only available transmission. Last year, it was possible to choose a five speed manual transmission instead of the CVT automatic.
Why isn’t it possible this year?
Here’s why: 27 city, 34 highway. That is the EPA rated gas mileage the Impreza advertises with the 2.0 liter engine and the CVT automatic. The ’23 Impreza – with the same 2.0 engine pared with the no-longer-available five speed manual transmission advertised 24 city, 31 highway.
Maybe 3 MPG doesn’t sound like much to you. But it means a lot to Subaru – in terms of at least coming closer to meeting the federal government’s mandatory MPG minimums. These are about to go up so high that nothing with an engine that isn’t paired with an electric motor and battery pack is going to be able to make the cut. Eventually – and not that far from now – nothing will be able to meet the minimum, which is on track to ascend to 58 MPG on average by 2032 – that isn’t solely propelled by a motor that is powered by electricity exclusively.
So, while 2023 was your last chance to buy an Impreza without a CVT automatic, it is likely that within a few years, you may not be able to buy a new Impreza with an engine, either.
While the manual is no longer available, an optional engine is. There’s a new RS trim and it comes standard with a 2.5 liter four that makes 182 horsepower and is capable of getting this version of the Impreza to 60 MPH in a little over seven seconds, which is about two seconds sooner than non-RS Imprezas with the smaller, less powerful 2.0 liter engine can get them there.
The RS seems to be a kind of low-bucks WRX, similar in concept (for those who remember) to lower-bucks (and less powerful) versions of high-powered ’70s muscle cars. Examples include the Rallye 350 Olds Cutlass – which was a lower-bucks version of the 442. And the Heavy Chevy, which was a lower-bucks version of the Chevy Chevelle SS. These were cars meant to appeal to people who wanted – but could not afford – a 442 or an SS Chevelle.
But the cool thing then – and now – is that all the essential ingredients were there. And you could pretty easily turn a Rallye 350 Olds into a 442 – and who’s going to know? The same as regards this RS, which has most of the ingredients you’d need to create your very own WRX.
As always, all Imprezas come standard with all-wheel-drive. Subaru’s system is one of those that does more than just shift the flow of power from front to rear, according to which wheels are slipping. This system can also modulate power flow to individual wheels, which is the reason why Subarus handle so well. Most AWD systems are designed to keep you going – in a straight line – by preventing you from spinning your wheels on slick surfaces. Subaru’s is designed to help you go faster in the curves, by using the application of engine power to correct for over or understeer.
Subarus also have the traction and handling advantage of an engine that is flat rather than standing up. This lowers the center of gravity and it spreads out the weight of the engine evenly across the car’s centerline.
Porsches are the only other new cars that have this type of engine – but you’ll need to spend about three times what an Impreza costs to own one.
On The Road
It’s sad about the no-more-manual as this made the Impreza with the 2.0 liter engine much more fun to drive than it is now. This is true of any car that is basically an economy car and so a car without a lot of power. A manual lets you have fun with what power you’ve got. You can really wind the engine out – which is fun to do when the engine a growly boxer engine; these have a unique-to-them sound and it’s fun to able to modulate the sound using the gears to do that. You can also get going quicker – for an economy car – because you can rev the engine up into its powerband as you simultaneously feather and then release the clutch.
With an automatic, you just push down on the gas and wait for the engine to build a head of steam. And with CVT automatics, there isn’t even the consolation prize of being able to exercise some degree of control over the shifts -as via “sport” or “manual” mode – because CVT automatics don’t shift through gears; they vary the leverage, continuously. Some mimic the gear changes that aren’t happening with “steps” that seem to go from first to second and second to third, etc. – but it’s not much to get your heart pumping fast. It also makes the Impreza much more like so many others in that it’s not anything especially special anymore, though the boxer engine does impart a flicker of personality.
The real story is the new RS.
It, too, has the CVT – but it also has the engine that sets this Impreza apart from its brethren. It is noteworthy to mention here the fact that the last-generation WRX STi was powered by a 2.5 liter engine that’s kin to this one (the current WRX has a 2.0 liter engine, turbo-boosted to put distance between it and the 2.0 engine that’s standard in the Impreza). What that means is probably some of the go-fast stuff that made the WRX STi’s 2.5 liter engine what it was could be used to make the Impreza’s 2.5 liter engine what it could be.
And what it is already is pretty good, too. Even with the CVT – because there’s 30 more horsepower under the hood. At just shy of $28k to start, the RS isn’t cheap – but it’s also not expensive, as the WRX (let alone the WRX Sti) are.
Especially to cover.
The larger (18 inch) wheels and grippier tires that come with the RS (and also the Sport, which gets them too – but not the 2.5 liter engine) and firmer suspension calibrations (the Sport has that as well) plus the larger engine make the RS a near WRX in the curves. Add a turbo to the 2.5 engine and you could probably keep up with a WRX in the straights.
At The Curb
It’s not hard to understand why Subaru decided not to update the sedan version of the Impreza. Though its lower price was attractive to people looking to save some money, its relative lack of space made it harder for people who needed something more practical than a commuter car or second car to buy it.
And that made it harder to sell it. The hatchback sold better; Subaru made more money – and the rest, as they say, is history. Well, the sedan is.
It had a 12.3 cubic foot trunk. The five-door hatchback has more than four times as much cargo-carrying capacity – 56 cubic feet with its second row seats folded and it still has almost twice as much with its second row up (20.9 cubic feet). Plus, the wider-opening hatchback layout allows all of that space to be increased by leaving it open (if need be) to allow for the carting-home of longer items that won’t otherwise fit.
The point is, the hatchback layout greatly increases the practicality of the small car layout. It’s why there aren’t many small cars left on the market that aren’t hatchbacks.
Interestingly, the current WRX comes only as a sedan. That’s because its performance trumps its practicality. But Subaru used to offer it in both sedan and hatchback versions, which made it a more practical performance car. A hotted up Impreza RS would be even more like an older WRX hatchback you can’t buy anymore.
Though there’s no third pedal, there is a dead pedal to the left of where the clutch would be, if there was one. It’s a nice place to rest your left foot during long drives. Also nice – depending on your drift – is the absence of a becoming-as-common as smartphones LCD main gauge cluster that emulates the look of what you’re carrying around in your pocket. The Impreza still has needle and dial analog gauges. These have a timeless look that will still look good in ten years’ time.
How good does a ten-year-old smartphone look?
Here’s a tip about the new Impreza: If you don’t want Subaru’s Eyesight system – which includes additional “advanced driver assistance technologies” such as a kind of creepy eye-tracking system that pesters you if the car thinks you’re not looking where it thinks you ought to be looking – stick with the base trim, which does not include the Eyesight system.
Unfortunately, the appealing new RS Impreza comes with it standard. As compensation, you can choose to add a very good Harman Kardon audio system and a sunroof. A wireless phone charging pad and heated windshield wipers (and outside mirrors) are standard.
The Bottom Line
The manual will be missed – especially by people who don’t think you ought to have to give up driving fun when you drive an economy car. On the other hand, the new RS will be welcomed by people who would love to be able to drive a performance car that doesn’t cost as much as a luxury car.
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