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The Subaru Impreza RS is back after a two-decade hiatus and serves as the performance-oriented model for the sixth-generation Impreza’s 2024 debut. The new RS is far removed from its predecessor, both in time and overall characteristics. That begs the question — is the revival of the RS merely a marketing ploy, or does the 2024 Impreza RS properly revive a nameplate that served as a blue-collar enthusiast’s special when it washed up on American shores in 1998?

The Subaru Impreza RS doesn’t look too ‘hot’ on paper

The most notable change for the Subaru Impreza’s sixth-gen and the RS is the sedan body style is out — the model is now exclusively a hatchback. That’s all well and good, enthusiasts might say, because now it can be considered a hot hatch. Well, maybe.

The new Impreza RS does have an additional 30 horsepower over the standard model, but at 182 ponies, it’s not exactly a ripsnorter. Also gone is the manual transmission replaced with — cue gasps — a continuously variable transmission (CVT). And other than dark gray 18-inch wheels, some small visual flourishes on the bodywork, and RS badging, it looks more like an Impreza than a sportier version of one. Consider it the poblano pepper of the hatchback segment — far more “mild” than “hot.”

Of course, those factors are most prominent only on paper or among groups of young enthusiasts discussing the RS’s merits, despite not having driven one, while vaping furiously. After all, it’s a performance-tuned Subaru where discussions on such cars invariably include clouds that smell like cotton candy.

However, once you get behind the wheel, the 2024 Subaru Impreza RS spec sheet isn’t nearly as important.

There is still fun to be had in the Impreza RS despite its unimpressive specs

Related The 2024 Subaru Impreza RS Is Far More Mature Than Its Predecessor

The 2024 Subaru Impreza RS Is Far More Mature Than Its Predecessor

Don’t get me wrong, the 2024 Subaru Impreza RS could use a boost of power. Both figuratively and literally in the sense of turbocharging. However, on an undulating stretch of road in which agility is just as important as outright speed, the RS came into its own.

I took the BMW M4 Competition along this stretch of road not long ago. The Competition thrashed the switchbacks, sweeping corners and quick elevation changes like Novak Djokovic playing a tennis set against an eight-year-old — it wasn’t challenged in the slightest. As such, I felt almost disconnected from the process, as if the Beemer could have done all the work without me.

In the Impreza RS, I felt wholly a part of the process, even at far lower speeds.

The Impreza now borrows the steering rack from the more powerful WRX, and chassis rigidity has been increased by 10%, lending itself well to these situations. Steering is fairly quick and responsive. It doesn’t deliver an exceptional “feel,” but neither does it feel as if the steering wheel was disconnected from the front wheels. Additionally, the independent suspension kept the RS firmly planted through corners, providing impressive levels of overall grip. Of course, the Impreza’s standard all-wheel drive only improved matters.

The 182-hp 2.5-liter Boxer engine is certainly not a barn-burner, but it has enough gusto to get you to the next corner with enough time to consider how to approach it. And while it’s easy to bemoan the CVT, it’s tuned well for quick bursts of power. While paddle shifters and a manual driving mode may seem out of place with a CVT, the “shifts” were actually responsive and were a good substitute for a more traditional automatic.

The brakes, 12.4-inch ventilated discs with dual-piston calipers, are also strong and bring the Impreza to a calm and collected stop.

Better still, the sixth-gen model is an overall improvement. The Impreza RS now sports more safety features, Subaru’s 11.6-inch Starlink touchscreen, and the whole cabin feels altogether more solid. On the typical commute, it’s surprisingly comfortable and genial.

So, when you want to figuratively put your hair down, this relatively sober commuter/family hatchback can serve up impressive smiles per mile. It may be lambasted by those who only focus on its specs, but getting behind the wheel showcases that numbers are far from the only essential factors to consider.