"Would you like to come over for dinner tonight? We're having two backpacks full of nutritional granola bars," said no one ever. Though pressed with enough soy protein to grow hair on your legs, those individually wrapped caloric boosters are a matter of convenience rather than taste. They call to mind the new Subaru Impreza. It's not as exciting to drive as the BRZ or the WRX, but like a Clif Bar, the Impreza uses only the necessary ingredients, and its handy size and affordable price make preparing for life's real adventures a lot easier.

Although still basic, the sixth-generation Impreza has gotten a bit tastier with bigger screens, a more powerful engine option, and a wider array of standard features. Some things, though, have been lost. After checking the books, Subaru decided to stop offering a four-door sedan and the manual transmission, in favor of making what 73 percent of its Impreza customers were buying: hatchbacks with CVTs.

Design-wise, the new Impreza seems to be doing a Mazda 3 impression, but this car has always been about driving to go do something cool rather than about looking cool. And so the new design didn't change the dimensions of Subaru's smallest all-wheel-drive car: It has the same wheelbase, length, and ground clearance as the previous generation, but is a little taller and heavier. The big functional change is hidden: Subaru has integrated a plastic step into the rear door sills, a big help when you're loading your lifestyle gear onto the roof; and the rear doors are designed to accommodate your hips while you're up there tying everything tight.

The updated body structure is a claimed 10 percent stiffer torsionally, as Subaru engineers weren't shy with the structural glue this time around. The difference could be felt when we were pretending to be Colin McRae driving the paved twisties in Paso Robles, California. The extra support and sound deadening have made the Impreza heavier but easier on the ears. Even on the highways that stretch between the casks of cabernet sauvignon in wine country, this Subaru was pleasantly quiet to drive.

While parts of the new Impreza got tougher, others have relaxed. A newer dual-pinion electric power steering rack, similar to what's used in the WRX, has lightened the steering effort. The Impreza also switched to an electronic brake booster, which has resulted in a lighter pedal effort. The brake-based torque vectoring, previously only offered on more expensive Imprezas, is now standard across the updated three-trim lineup.

2024 subaru imprezaView Photos

That lineup consists of the base Impreza, the Sport, and the new RS. The latter is back as the top-performance model. In place of the standard 2.0-liter engine, the RS uses a 182-hp 2.5-liter flat-four from the Crosstrek and an updated CVT. There are paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, and the CVT tries its best to imitate an eight-speed automatic. The RS gets dark gray 18-inch wheels, a black front grille, side skirts, heated mirrors, and adaptive LED headlights that peek around corners as you drive. Sport and RS models offer a new exclusive color, Oasis Blue Pearl, that's reminiscent of the limited-edition 2016 WRX STI and BRZ Series.HyperBlue. RS badges, illustrated with two opposing horizontal pistons à la the boxer-engine setup, are fitted inside and out.

Despite the bigger engine's 30-hp and 33-pound-feet advantage over the 2.0-liter base unit, the more powerful engine doesn't live up to the enthusiasm of the updated chassis. When you toss the RS into downhill hairpins hard enough to make the all-season Yokohama Avid S34P tires cry out, the delightful chassis carries speed without a hiccup. Unfortunately, stomping on the gas pedal on corner exit is met with little urgency. Still, it's a much-needed advantage over the base engine, which in our last test took 9.0 seconds to reach 60 mph. We're certain the RS will be quicker than that, but so are most cars.

The new Impreza gets a larger fuel tank: 16.6 gallons, up from the previous car's 13.2. However, fuel economy has dipped marginally. When comparing base hatchbacks, the EPA estimates the new Impreza gets 27 mpg city and 34 mpg highway, down from 28/36 mpg previously. The new RS trim is 1 mpg behind at 26/33 mpg. Regardless, the bigger tank gives base Impreza and Sport trims nearly 500 miles on a single tank of gas.

The changes most people will notice are inside the cabin. A larger 7.0-inch screen is standard on base models, but move up to the Sport or RS and you get an 11.6-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The system is intuitive and thanks to the physical buttons that border the digital display, things happen at the push of a button rather than at the sometimes-laggy speed of software. The RS we drove was equipped with an option package ($2070) that adds a 10-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system, a power sunroof, and a 10-way power driver's seat.

Subaru's latest version of its EyeSight driver-assist suite uses a new camera with a wider field of view. During highway driving, we noticed the system now only beeps when it needs to, rather than all the time. While passing when using adaptive cruise control, the car accelerates before the lane change is complete, which feels closer to how humans drive.

It's not as exciting to drive as the Honda Civic, and its interior isn't as lavish as the leather-lined Mazda 3, but the Impreza is one of the most affordable ways to get all-wheel drive, and it's a great tool to get you places. If the old Impreza was a Clif Bar, the new one is a Clif Bar with chocolate chips—still basic, but with a little more taste.

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2024 Subaru Impreza
Vehicle Type: front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback

Base: $24,085; Sport, $26,085; RS, $28,975

DOHC 16-valve 2.0-liter flat-4, 152 hp, 145 lb-ft; DOHC 16-valve 2.5-liter flat-4, 182 hp, 178 lb-ft

continuously variable automatic

Wheelbase: 105.1 in
Length: 176.2 in
Width: 70.1 in
Height: 58.3 in
Passenger Volume, F/R: 55–56/44 ft3
Cargo Volume, Behind F/R: 56/20 ft3
Curb Weight (C/D est): 3200–3350 lb

60 mph: 8.2–9.0 sec
1/4-Mile: 16.3–17.1 sec
Top Speed: 125 mph

Combined/City/Highway: 29–30/26–27/33–34 mpg

Headshot of Austin Irwin
Austin Irwin
Associate Editor

Yes, he's still working on the 1986 Nissan 300ZX Turbo project car he started in high school, and no, it’s not for sale yet. Austin Irwin was born and raised in Michigan, and, despite getting shelled by hockey pucks during a not-so-successful goaltending career through high school and college, still has all of his teeth. He loves cars from the 1980s and Bleu, his Great Pyrenees, and is an active member of the Buffalo Wild Wings community. When Austin isn’t working on his own cars, he’s likely on the side of the highway helping someone else fix theirs.