2024 Subaru Impreza First Drive Review: Great Value Built for Subaru Stans
If only Subaru offered a manual transmission, the 2024 Impreza would be tough to beat.
Somewhere in an office in Tokyo, there’s a mountain of data about how Subaru has more customers with pets, active lifestyles, and open-toe sandals than any other competing brand. However, despite its abundance of buyers who make their own granola, Subaru also knows it won’t put up the sort of sales numbers that Honda or Toyota do. So instead of trying to beat its competitors at their own game, Subaru decided to make the best car possible for the people who actually buy them and what it came up with was the 2024 Subaru Impreza.
The sixth-generation Impreza comes with countless small improvements and refinements over the previous-gen car. The chassis is improved, the body is not only better looking but also more practical, and its pricing and options list make it more sensible for buyers. Subaru has upgraded everything customers need, removed what they don’t, and added a few new tweaks.
After a day with the new Impreza on the spectacular roads of Paso Robles, California, I can say that most of the changes work, some of them don't, and some I didn't even notice. However, I have a feeling most Subaru customers will love it.
2024 Subaru Impreza Specs
- Base price (RS as tested): $24,095 ($28,975)
- Powertrain: 2.5-liter four-cylinder | continuously variable automatic transmission | all-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 182
- Torque: 178 lb-ft
- Seating capacity: 5
- Curb weight: 3,275 pounds
- Cargo volume: 20.4 cubic feet behind second row | 56 cubic feet behind first row
- Ground clearance: 5.1 inches
- Fuel economy: 26 mpg city | 33 highway | 29 combined
- Quick take: A fun, practical hatchback with good looks and a great interior that Subaru customers will love but is let down by its CVT.
- Score: 7/10
What makes this Impreza different from the last? Let's start with the chassis, which is 10% more rigid than before, thanks to new welding techniques and far more structural adhesive. That strengthened chassis allowed Subaru to increase the shock damping force while making the springs softer for improved ride comfort and reducing chassis vibration by 20%. It features an electronic brake booster, improved sound insulation, and standard crossbar mounting supports on all models.
An updated chassis brings a new exterior design, but it isn't radically different from the old Impreza. Most of the updates are up front, where new slim headlights and a larger grille do most of the visual work. The rear end gets new taillights, a slightly different tailgate design, and a different rear bumper, but the changes are subtle. For 2024, Subaru ditched the Premium and Limited trim levels to streamline the lineup, so now there's only Base, Sport, and RS. I only had access to RS models, which come with sharper LED headlights and snazzy 18-inch wheels.
Unfortunately for any sedan lovers, the 2024 Impreza is hatchback-only. While Subaru wasn't originally opposed to offering a sedan option, last-gen Impreza sedan sales weren't good enough to justify a new model.
Most customers who sit inside the Impreza will be pleasantly surprised. Subaru gave the interior a noticeable leap in build quality, design, and comfort. There are surprisingly few cheap or scratchy plastics throughout the cabin, despite the top-spec Impreza RS starting at under $30,000. All of the materials that you regularly see and/or touch are made from pretty high-quality materials, such as soft-touch plastics. The RS's unique fabric seats are also lovely, with a great blend of comfort and support and a sporty design, and there are more places for Nalgene water bottles than a Dick's Sporting Goods.
Subaru also upgraded the infotainment system. The base model comes standard with two seven-inch touchscreens; an upper display for infotainment and a lower screen for climate controls. Upgrading to either the Sport or RS trims gets you a single 11.6-inch portrait-style touchscreen, with crisp graphics and some physical climate controls.
There are two different engine options for the 2024 Subaru Impreza, depending on which trim level you get. In the Base and Sport models, you get a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 152 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque. Step up to the RS model and that engine becomes a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, producing 182 hp and 178 lb-ft. Sadly, however, Subaru killed off the manual transmission option, making the Impreza CVT-only, regardless of engine. All-wheel drive is still standard across the board, though.
The first thing I noticed when I jumped behind the wheel was its steering. Subaru gave the 2024 Impreza a dual-pinion power steering setup, similar to the WRX's, and it feels very direct, building up weight nicely as you add steering lock. A few twists of the wheel and you immediately know you're not in a Corolla; the Impreza is meant to have some fun.
Through the gorgeous wine country roads, which were filled with delicious elevation and camber changes, the Impreza had the chance to show off its skills. Responsive steering helped to precisely place the Subie wherever I wanted, a playful chassis let me snake corners together with ease, and a balanced ride quality handled bumps without ever feeling either too stiff or too floaty.
That's not to say the Impreza is perfect. Its engine, being a small-displacement naturally aspirated four-cylinder, is completely gutless. To be fair, 182 hp isn't bad for the segment, but it's how the power is made that lacks. Without turbochargers to help, the 2.5-liter boxer engine needs to be revved high to make peak power, but it doesn't seem to particularly love higher revs. It groans with a coarse, gravelly voice as the tach needle swings higher. Making matters worse is the infuriating CVT.
I get why Subaru ditched the manual—no one was buying it—and I understand that CVTs are great for fuel economy. However, the Impreza is supposed to be the sportier car in the segment and the CVT just isn't good enough for any sort of playful driving. Subaru supposedly updated its shift logic and gave it more natural-feeling steps to simulate an automatic transmission's gears. Unfortunately, it still causes the engine to drone at higher revs, and its simulated "gears" rarely put it in the right rev range for fun. I hate to sound like an old man yelling at clouds, but I wish Subaru kept the manual as the new Impreza would be fantastic with three pedals and a stick.
On the subject of flaws, there's also quite a lot of wind noise at highway speeds, so much so that I thought I accidentally left a window open.
Subaru Impreza Features, Options, and Competition
Even in its base spec, the 2024 Subaru Impreza comes shockingly well-equipped. At a starting price of $24,095, the Impreza comes with steering responsive LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, and wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It even comes with Subaru's Eyesight driver assist, which consists of advanced active braking, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control. Stepping up to the RS gets you blind spot monitoring, automatic emergency steering, 18-inch wheels, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a sport-tuned suspension, and an all-weather package.
The 2024 Impreza faces some stiff competition from cars like the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Hyundai Elantra. Subaru's big advantage over the segment is its standard all-wheel drive. But customers who don't need that will see the Civic's sharper-looking interior, turbocharged engine, and available manual transmission and might find it more attractive. The Hyundai Elantra is also sharp looking, is available with more potent turbocharged engines, and even offers both hybrid and performance models. The only other hatchback in the segment, though, is the Toyota Corolla, which offers similar equipment, a naturally aspirated engine, and a CVT transmission at a similar price. However, the Corolla is only front-wheel-drive.
If I were buying the new Impreza, I'd spec it very similarly to my test car—an RS with very few additional extras. However, I'd choose the new Sapphire Blue color, rather than my test car's Oasis Blue Pearl. The latter looked good but I like the darker maturity of the former.
Despite pretty good claimed fuel economy figures—26 mpg in city, 33 mpg on the highway, and 29 mpg combined per Subaru—I didn't get close to them during my test. I averaged 22.6 mpg over the course of several hours on both twisty back roads and highways. However, to be fair to the little Subaru, it rarely saw less than 3,000 rpm. Taking full advantage of the Impreza's impressive chassis on some fantastic wine country roads, it worked hard that day.
Value and Verdict
The 2024 Subaru Impreza is a lot of car for the money. It's good looking, practical, has a great interior, can be genuinely enjoyable to chuck around, and comes standard with all-wheel drive while coming in at under $30,000 in its most loaded spec. For someone looking for an affordable all-wheel-drive daily driver, it's pretty much the only game in town.
The other aspects of its powertrain do let it down, keeping it from being the sporty car that its looks and heritage promise. If you're looking for something sportier, there are probably better options, such as the Honda Civic. And something like the Hyundai Elantra will have more features and models to choose from. However, existing Impreza customers will appreciate the new car's improved design, driving dynamics, standard safety gear, and active lifestyle feel. Subaru didn't change its formula with the new Impreza but instead amplified its strengths. If you like Subaru, you'll almost certainly love this new Impreza.
Got tips? Send 'em to firstname.lastname@example.org