2024 Subaru Impreza gets sportier with new RS, is hatchback only

LOS ANGELES — The Subaru Impreza has for years now been the basis upon which more interesting cars have been built. First it was the WRX and later the Crosstrek. While the WRX has drifted away from the Impreza to be its own thing, the Crosstrek continues on as a lifted Impreza hatchback and a go-to choice for those who want go-anywhere capability in a smaller, more economical package.

The 2024 Subaru Impreza is an all-new model, and while that’ll certainly mean big things for the future Crosstrek, Subaru has gone to greater efforts this time around to make sure the Impreza is its own thing rather than just a naked, lowered Crosstrek. In terms of philosophy, that means it’ll be sportier, drawing a clearer differentiation with its off-roadish sibling. There are only three trim levels now, and the two top ones, Sport and RS, err on the athletic side with a sport-tuned suspension, bigger wheels, Subaru’s SI-Drive performance management system (basically a sport mode for the engine and transmission), and sportier styling cues than both the base model and what you might’ve expected from stock Imprezas of the past.

And as already mentioned, the Impreza RS makes its return to the lineup after two decades of sitting on the sidelines after effectively being replaced by the WRX in North America as the sportiest Impreza. Mechanically, it’s the same as the Impreza Sport trim with one key exception: the engine. Whereas the base and Sport get a carry-over 2.0-liter boxer-four good for 152 horsepower and 145 pound-feet, the RS gets a tweaked version of the current Crosstrek’s engine upgrade. The 2.5-liter boxer-four produces 182 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque, an increase of 2 lb-ft that comes on 700 rpm sooner. Every Impreza comes standard with all-wheel drive (shocker!) and a continuously variable transmission that lets the driver select among eight pre-set ratios with shift paddles in the Sport and RS.

Visually, the RS (it's in red above, the Sport is in blue) features lots of gloss black exterior trim and upgraded headlights, plus gunmetal interior trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, alloy pedals, blind-spot warning, and heated sport seats covered in black cloth with red cloth bolsters. A sunroof, power driver seat and 10-speaker Harman Kardon sound system are exclusive options on the RS.

Sadly, the RS won’t be available as a coupe as it was once upon a time, and you won’t be able to get it as a sedan, either – every 2024 Subaru Impreza is a four-door hatchback. Interestingly, the sedan/hatchback take rate for the current-generation Impreza was 50/50, and Subaru says that if the company had unlimited resources, it probably would’ve built a sedan. It doesn’t, though, and the continued diminishment of sedan popularity probably would’ve meant that take rate wouldn’t have stayed even for long. Besides, when you factor in the Crosstrek, the needle was already skewed way in the direction of hatchback.

Other key upgrades for the all-new Impreza include a 10% stiffer construction thanks to additional structural adhesives that also lower weight. Subaru says the front seats were designed for improved comfort and efforts were made to reduce particularly unpleasant sound frequencies in the cabin (getting rid of the CVT probably would’ve helped on that front, but we digress). The interior design isn’t radically different than Subaru’s tried-and-true functional aesthetic, but new infotainment systems do change things up considerably. While the base trim gets the weird dual-screen setup found in the base Outback and WRX, the Sport and RS get an updated version of the 11.6-inch portrait-style touchscreen found in those same Subarus. The graphics look a little more sophisticated (there’s less purple), but we’ll actually have to use it in motion to see if the upgrades make the jumbo touchscreen any better than it currently is – which we’d classify as “serviceable.”

Elsewhere in tech land, the 2024 Impreza’s suite of EyeSight Driver Assist technologies are upgraded to operate “smoother, faster and under a greater range of conditions” and to identify pedestrians and cyclists earlier at intersections. This comes by way of an enhanced camera, updated software and a new electric brake booster. When equipped with blind-spot warning, automatic steering assist is now added.

The 2024 Impreza is basically the same size inside as the outgoing model. The back seat is similarly spacious, with plenty of room for two average-sized adults to ride in comfort. The cargo area is actually just a bit smaller due to the more shapely fenders, but Subaru says it’s a difference an owner is unlikely to notice. Official dimensions weren’t available when we got to see the car in person prior to its official unveil at the L.A. Auto Show, but the current Impreza/Crosstrek has 20.6 cubic-feet of cargo space, which translates into this much real-world stuff. One thing we do know: The new Impreza has two cupholders in the cargo area big enough for a 32-ounce Nalgene bottle. Score.

Should the cargo area not provide enough space, the new Impreza takes one step back and one step forward up on the roof. Roof rails are no longer available – you’ll have to get a Crosstrek for those. However, Subaru added fixed mounting points beneath little covers, which we’ve been told by Yakima are far stronger than relying on clamp-style “feet” to affix crossbars. BMWs and Porsches have had these for years.

Basically, the 2024 Impreza boasts more of the versatility customers have come to expect from Subaru, but with a sportier focus. That includes its standard all-wheel drive. Perhaps that’ll be appealing to those who don’t want or need the Crosstrek’s extra ground clearance and other rugged elements (and also don’t want to pay for them).