Caraganza First Drive Review 2024 Subaru Impreza RS: Where’s the soul

I admit to having been a Subaru fan for almost time immortal. From the Brat I had in 1984 to the Crosstrek I had just a few months ago, Subaru has usually done a pretty good job.


The Japanese company that sometimes lost among the other, bigger, Japanese companies, seems to do its best work delivering models to niche markets; the aforementioned Brat a small pickup with passenger seats pointing rearward in the bed, to the Crosstrek which is a great little off-road sort of station wagon are good examples.

But when they try to go all mainstream, that don’t always hit the target.

I’m thinking of models like the Legacy I had a few years ago. It was good but didn’t exactly set my soul on fire.

A 1983 Subaru Brat

Recently Subaru delivered me an Impreza for a week. This was a 2024 model which marks the debut of the sixth generation for the compact sedan.  Throughout its 32 years the Impreza has been offered as not only a sedan, but a coupe, a station wagon, and a hatchback. Perhaps the best known of the Impreza lineup though is the WRX version based on the World Rally cars the company competed with and the WRX STi a hi-pro model that was loved by street racers the world over.

Today’s Impreza is strictly a hatchback, the sedan has been sent packing. It’s offered in Base, Sport, and RS trims. Under the hood the first two get a 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 152 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque. The RS gets a 2.5-liter four-cylinder Boxer engine with 182 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque.

When the 2024 lineup was first announced, there was some excitement as the RS, which had last made an appearance in the late 1990s seemed to be a return of a rally inspired WRX models of the past.

Sadly, it’s not.

When I first took hold of the Impreza RS, I found a car that has misplaced its soul. It’s like meeting an old friend who’s gone through a midlife crisis and now insists on wearing beige cardigans.

Looking at it, well it’s has though Subaru hired a committee of people who have never seen a sports car before. The design is so bland that it makes a plain boiled potato look like a culinary masterpiece.

The same committee I suspect designed the interior as well. While the RS does dress it up a bit, it was like I was stepping into the waiting room at my doctor’s office. Everything is so… sterile. Despite being labeled “Sport” the seats are about as exciting as a wet weekend in Dayton, Ohio, and the dashboard is so uninspiring that I suspect it may have been designed by a committee of accountants.

I was hoping things might improve on the road. Yes, the all-wheel drive is great, and the optional Harmon-Kardon 10-speaker sound system my tester had sounds fantastic, but the once mighty Boxer engine seems trapped by the Continuously Variable-Speed Automatic transmission. It muted the Impreza on the road. like putting a gourmet chef in charge of a microwave the CVT left the driving experience about as engaging as reading the phone book.

Yes, it’s a good value at $31,045, but in the end, Subaru is trying to make a small SUV that is trying to compete with those others in the market. Perhaps if they had put the rear passenger seats facing rearward or something, anything to give it some soul.

What they ended up with is a car that seems to have traded its soul for a sensible pair of slippers. It’s lost the fire, the spirit that once made it a rally champion. It’s like a rebellious teenager who grew up to be an accountant. Subaru, you’ve given us a car that’s forgotten how to dance. And that, my friends, is a tragedy.

The 2024 Subaru Impreza RS
MSRP: $24,885
MSRP (as tested): $31,045
Engine (as tested): 2.5 liter Boxer 182 hp @ 5,800 rpm, 178 lb-ft torque @ 4,400 rpm
Transmission: Continuously variable-speed automatic
MPG (EPA): 26 city, 33 highway, 29 combined
MPG (as tested mixed conditions): 31 mpg
Base curb weight: 3,275 lbs

Exterior Dimensions
Length:176.2 in.
Overall width with mirrors: 79.4 in.
Height: 58.3 in.
Wheelbase: 105.1 in.
Ground clearance: 5.1 in.

Interior Dimensions
Front head room: 39.8 in.
Front leg room: 42.9 in.
Front shoulder room: 56.8 in.
Front hip room: 55.1 in.
Rear head room: 38.0 in.
Rear leg room: 36.5 in.
Rear shoulder room: 55.3 in.
Rear hip room: 53.2 in.
EPA interior volume: 120.9 cu.ft.
Cargo capacity, all seats in place: 20.4 cu.ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 56.0 cu.ft.

Basic: 3 yr./ 36,000 mi.
Drivetrain: 5 yr./ 60,000 mi.
Rust: 5 yr./ unlimited mi.
Roadside assistance: 3 yr./ 36,000 mi.

Greg Engle