Not only is the Impreza the entry point to the Subaru lineup, it has also a gateway to all-wheel drive in the automotive industry. Indeed, offering all-wheel drive (AWD) as standard in a vehicle priced at around $25,000 is something not every manufacturer can do. And we're not talking about just any AWD system here, as Subaru's is rated as one of the best in the industry.
Compact car sales continue to plummet. And the Impreza is no exception to this trend. It has lost its sedan configuration, which accounted for only 30% of sales in Canada. The manual gearbox has also been axed; only 10% of Imprezas sold in Canada in 2022 were equipped with the stick shift.
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For 2024, the Impreza is available in Convenience, Touring, Sport-Tech and an all-new RS variant, which The Car Guide tested in Whistler just last week.
A Nod to the Compact Car's Golden Era
The RS isn’t quite "all-new". In fact, it is a nod to the 2.5 RS variant introduced in 1998 on the GC8 chassis, which served as a precursor to the sporty WRX that took on the North American market at the turn of the millennium.
For 2024, the Impreza lineup receives a physical overhaul that gives it more character, with reworked body panels, a new grille, new wheels and modifications to the rear end including the addition of the C-shaped taillights. Two new colours have also been added: Oasis Blue and Pure Red.
Despite the iterations, the Impreza has retained its overall dimensions. However, its chassis has gained in rigidity, and it receives two important mechanical elements as standard on all variants: torque vectoring and the WRX's electric power-assisted steering rack.
While our RS variant was equipped with the Crosstrek's 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, which develops 182 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque, the Impreza's base engine is still the 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which develops 30 hp and 33 lb-ft less. Both are mated to the continuously variable transmission (CVT), which channels power to all four wheels.
A few more horses in the barn wouldn't have gone amiss during our drive. However, the Impreza RS does surprisingly well when it comes to acceleration. And although it's rare that we have anything good to say about a CVT-type transmission (apart from its positive effects on fuel consumption), the brains at Subaru seem to have found the right recipe for this specific component. It devotes itself generously to distributing power to the wheels, whether at start-off or during highway acceleration and pick-ups.
While we didn't notice WRX-calibre precision in the steering, it did a good job in town and on twisty roads, with consistent feedback in most situations. In terms of handling, the RS has virtually the same suspension as all the other models, but this Impreza handles itself pretty well overall. It is slightly sensitive to rough pavement, but no more so than other compacts in the segment.
A Quieter, Versatile Cabin
The Impreza has always had a nasty flaw: an unusually noisy cabin. This time, however, there seems to be a marked improvement, with the cabin well insulated from wind noise at high speeds. Another thing about the Impreza was its uncomfortable seating. Here, too, improvements have been made to provide greater comfort and support on long journeys.
Technologically speaking, the Impreza RS features a vertically positioned 11.6-inch infotainment screen that displays the latest version of the Subaru interface. This system isn't among the best on the market, but it's useful in that it includes the essentials, and it's supported by manual controls on its sides. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto software suites are standard, and Subaru points out that certain driving aids can now be activated and deactivated via voice command.
Cargo space is often the trade-off in a compact car. But the Impreza limits the damage with 578 litres of cargo space, the same as the outgoing model. And those wavering between the Crosstrek SUV and the Impreza will be surprised to learn that the latter offers an additional 14 litres. Who said SUVs were always more versatile?
Like almost everything else in the industry, the Impreza's price has increased. We're talking about an additional $1,700, excluding inflated shipping costs. Yet even at this price, its value proposition is still very attractive, and demonstrates that Subaru still wants to please compact car enthusiasts. The Impreza's base Convenience model starts at $26,795, while our test RS variant starts at $31,795. Subaru believes that the RS will be the most popular variant in terms of sales.