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Mark Savage's auto review column, Savage On Wheels, looks at a new vehicle every week and tells consumers what’s good, what’s not so good, and how the vehicle fits into the marketplace.

2024 Subaru Impreza RS review

2024 Subaru Impreza RS low right side
Mark Savage
Savage On Wheels
2024 Subaru Impreza RS low right side

Whoa Nelly! Subaru has gone and upped its entry-level game with its new 2024 Impreza RS hatchback. Honda, Hyundai, and Mazda best be taking notes.

While the auto world has been backing away from cars for a decade or more, Subaru has instead refined its Impreza and now limits it to only a hatchback model, already the most popular style. Now there’s more power, a refined and upgraded interior, but still, and this is key, its standard AWD system.

That’s right, while most other compact hatchbacks only dream of offering AWD, it’s standard here giving the zippy Impreza amazing grip and nimble handling, thanks to Subaru wisely incorporating the dual-pinion power steering gear from its hot rod WRX into this value-oriented hatchback.

Don’t go jacking your nose into the air because I said value-oriented. Instead, celebrate!

That’s because nearly anyone can afford this funster, starting at (DRUM ROLL) $24,085 including delivery for the base Impreza, or $26,085 for the Sport model, both of which include a standard 2.0-liter 4-cylinder boxer engine. While it makes an acceptable 152 horsepower, the tested Pure Red RS slips in a more enthusiastic 2.5-liter boxer 4 that creates 182 horses and nearly identical 178 pound-feet of torque.

Entry fee for the RS is $28,975. That’s an eye-bulge moment!

Heck, the only thing more it could use is a manual transmission, but that’s not offered in any Impreza trim.

Still, you can use paddle shifters to slip through the fake gears in this smooth-shifting CVT. That makes this efficient and racy. There’s even a reasonable engine tone, although you won’t hear the boxer punching away under the hood as much as in a Forester or Outback because Subaru has figured out sound deadening at last. No, the interior is quiet here, but more on the innards in just a minute.

Key here is the RS’s power and AWD to create a wicked, fun hatchback that allows a driver to point and shoot into a corner’s apex and zip out the other side like you’re a slot car snuggly set in your groove. More amazing, the Impreza ride is quite good, even better than our family’s Outback, which has a longer wheelbase.

Subaru has stiffened the Impreza chassis by 10%, which sounds like not so much. But trust me, it, along with revised engine mounts, softer springs, and firmer shocks transform the handling and ride helping it ease over pavement imperfections like a much longer, pricier vehicle. This is on par with VW ride quality, which has moved to the front of the pack in recent years.

Of course, the AWD system with active torque vectoring along with 18-inch Yokohama tires give Impreza excellent grip and turn-in for corners. The AWD system also is smart enough to put more traction to the rear wheels under heavy (performance type) acceleration. Bingo!

There still is the SI-Drive system for taking the Subaru off-road to ensure better traction in the muck, but primarily Impreza will impress on damp or slushy roads and highways.

Move inside the sporty Impreza RS and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by its refined, quiet nature, plus its stylish and comfy seats. The windshield is insulated to cut noise and more sound deadening has been added. Even the doors latch now with a solid clunk, instead of clank.

The RS seats are dark gray and red cloth with supportive side bolsters on top and bottom cushions. They look as good as they feel. Subaru adds red stitching on the leather steering wheel wrap and door arm rests for a bit of flair and there’s a flat black textured dash and console but gloss black trim just around the shift lever. A gunmetal gray trim that’s a bit shiny extends from the door panels into the passenger’s side dash. It’s a sophisticated youthful look.

Not only are the seats comfy and supportive, but front seats offer two-level heat and the driver’s seat has 10-way power, part of a $2,070 RS upgrade package. That also adds a sunroof and shade, 432-watt amp and 10-speaker Harmon Kardon stereo that makes AC/DC sound like Dynomite.

Granted these are things one could live without, but with the car’s low starting price the package only brought the test car to $31,055. That should be flashing BARGAIN in your cerebral cortex!

Subaru upgrades the dash too, now placing its large 11.6-inch vertically mounted touchscreen mid-dash, as in its other models. A 7-inch screen is still standard in the base model, but Sport and RS go big with their screens. Certainly, the screen works quickly and easily, including dual-zone climate controls. But I find the screen awfully busy, so sometimes a bit time consuming to read and re-adjust while driving.

Radio functions are easy though, plus there’s an actual volume knob and tuning knob on the screen. Smart!

Below the screen is a wireless phone charger in the console. Plus, there are USB ports in the console’s rear for back seat folks to plug in.

Speaking of which, back seat room is fine for average size adults and naturally those rear seat backs split and fold down to extend cargo room. But with this redesign, cargo space has grown to 19.9 cubic feet behind the back row. That’s bigger than a Ford Taurus trunk 20 years ago. Flip the seats down and cargo space grows to 54.7 cu.ft. There’s also a wiper on the rear hatch, a necessity here in fall and winter.

Safety equipment? Oodles as is the norm. Subaru includes its EyeSight system that now includes automatic emergency steering with blind-spot detection and lane keep assist and rear cross-traffic alert. Smart cruise is standard as are fog lights and headlights that react to steering inputs on the RS.

One downside though is the black box that surrounds much of the EyeSight sensors and gear is large and extends out in the windshield behind the rearview mirror. That intrudes on the passenger’s view quite a bit on the left.

Ironicall, Subaru is intent on creating great side sightlines by designing its vehicles with a small vent window between the A-pillar and side rearview mirrors. Bravo there!

Yet sadly there’s the annoying chime the Impreza entones every time the car is turned off. It warns that one should check the rear seat. Ugh, thanks litigation team! This is a growing trend in new cars, a rear seat warning even when no one has opened a door to put anything in back, babies, groceries or otherwise.

Enough crabbing! Gas mileage with the bigger engine is still good as the Impreza RS weighs in at less than 3,300 pounds. The EPA rates it at 26 mpg city and 33 highway, just one mpg short of the smaller Subie engine. I got 31.2 mpg in a good mix of city and highway miles.

I’ve loved driving Mazda3s for years and Honda’s Civic is quite good too, as is Hyundai’s Elantra. But Subaru has jumped back to the front of the market with Impreza, especially since AWD is standard and its new styling is much fresher than previous Subie designs.

For the record, RS blacks out the grille, chin spoiler and side mirrors for visual impact, plus adds aluminum alloy pedals inside. All good stuff, and all affordable!

FAST STATS: 2024 Subaru Impreza RS

Hits: Sporty hatchback with good power, nimble handling, refined ride plus standard AWD. Quiet interior, sporty cloth seats, comfy supportive heated seats, sunroof, good cargo space and safety equipment. Big touchscreen with volume/tuning knobs, wireless charger, fancy radio, smart cruise, good side sightlines, rear wiper and good mpg.

Misses: Big black electronic EyeSight box behind rearview mirror imposes on passenger’s view, big screen has too many visible entities making it distracting while driving, annoying chime reminder to check rear seat.

Made in: Japan

Engine: 2.5-liter 4-cylinder boxer, 182 hp /178 torque

Transmission: CVT automatic

Weight: 3,275 lbs.

Wheelbase: 105.1 in.

Length: 176.2 in.

Cargo: 19.9 – 54.7 cu.ft.

MPG: 26/33

MPG: 31.2 (tested)

Base Price: $28.975 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $27,427

Major Options:

RS upgrade pkg. (sunroof w/shade, 10-way power driver’s seat, 432 watt amp, Harmon-Kardon stereo w/10 speakers), $2.070

Test vehicle: $31,055

Sources: Subaru, www.kbb.com

Mark Savage writes the auto review column, Savage On Wheels, for WUWM (formerly for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) and Savageonwheels.com. He is the former executive editor of American Snowmobiler magazine and FineScale Modeler magazine, both part of Kalmbach Media in Waukesha.
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