Subaru Crosstrek — Solid advancement

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

When the Crosstrek was introduced as a 2013 model we wondered if there was room in the Subaru lineup for another crossover practically the same size as the award-winning Forester, which had been on the market since 1998. We asked, how could Subaru support two nearly identically sized compact crossovers?

As it turned out, very nicely, thank you. Hard to question a car company that has seen 71 straight months of sales increases and has set new U.S. sales records for nine straight years. The Crosstrek didn't rob the Forester of sales and in fact Forester sales have steadily increased since the inception of the Crosstrek.

While the size of the two vehicles is close — the Forester is about four inches longer — they appeal to different demographics. The Crosstrek attracts a youthful buyer interested in semi-serious off-road adventures evoking a more rugged persona than the long-running Forester, which has an established and more family-oriented audience.

The Crosstrek got its first total makeover for the 2018 model year with evolutionary styling changes. No point in rocking the boat. You might need to look at a 2017 parked next to the 2018 to determine the differences. The body is a little edgier, dressed with the familiar black wheel arches and side cladding, there's a taller grille, more sculpted bodysides, and revised lighting. Our Premium trim model sported LED lights at both ends and standard 17-inch wheels. The wheelbase is 1.2 inches longer for significantly improved rear seat legroom, but the length stretches just six-tenths of an inch over the original.

The Crosstrek is the second model after the Impreza compact sedan to adopt Subaru’s new Subaru Global Platform that will also underpin the next-generation Legacy and Outback. The car is noticeably more solid and better engineered to absorb offset crashes. We can attest to the built-in safety, surviving a 35-mph rear-end collision with no injuries in a 2018 Impreza earlier this year.

The Crosstrek does have some moderate off-road capability. If you leave the dirt road you can take advantage of the vehicle's 8.7 inches of ground clearance. A new standard "X-Mode" system, which uses hill descent control to creep down steep inclines by managing the brakes and transmission, adds to off-road confidence. And, of course, the Crosstrek like all Subaru vehicles — with the exception of the BRZ sports car — has standard all-wheel drive.

The driving experience has been upgraded with Active Torque Vectoring, first introduced on performance models, is now standard on the Crosstrek. The system helps reduce understeer and keeps the vehicle on the driver’s intended cornering path. Perhaps that explains the Crosstrek's confident feel on our usual winding back-road "test track."

The Crosstrek gets a revised version of the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder Boxer engine gaining direct fuel injection and other enhancements boosting performance to 152 horsepower, four more than the previous iteration. It's paired with either a six-speed manual or a new CVT (continuously variable transmission) that comes with a 7
-speed manual mode function available through steering wheel paddle shifters.

And while the engine is adequate, it's one of the few weak ar
eas in the Crosstrek. We wouldn't describe its acceleration as slow, perhaps the better term is leisurely. The outgoing Crosstrek with 148 horsepower was rated at just 10.5 seconds from 0-to-60. The 2018 version has been clocked in an improved, but well below segment average, 9.5 seconds.

Passengers will notice a more sophisticated interior, a new touchscreen with proper, easy to use volume and tuning knobs and with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

Subaru has refined the ride and reduced cabin noise creating a more comfortable atmosphere than the outgoing vehicle. Luggage space behind the seats is a useable 20.8 cubic feet and when cargo hauling is the order of the day, the Crosstrek opens up to 55.3 cubic feet.

Subaru has made a solid effort to provide all its cars with the latest in safety technology. A full suite of advanced safety features is available on the top two trim models, an extremely worthwhile $1,395 option. Called EyeSight it includes automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, blindspot detection, and adaptive cruise control.

The Crosstrek comes in three trim levels — 2.0i, 2.0i Premium and 2.0i Limited — starting at $22,710 for the manual transmission and $23,710 for the CVT version. The Premium with CVT starts at $24,510 and the Limited begins at $27,210.

Standard features also include phone integration, auto up/down windows, a rearview camera, a steering wheel with audio controls, incline start assist, roof rails and a tire pressure monitoring system.

Our Premium test car with CVT had the EyeSight package and moonroof and carried a bottom line price of $26,905.

Base price: $22,710; as driven, $26,905
Engine: 2.0-liter flat four
Horsepower: 152 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 145 foot-pounds @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: continuously variable
Drive: all wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 104.9 inches
Length: 175.8 inches
Curb weight: 3,142 pounds
Turning circle: 35.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 20.8 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 55.3 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 1,500 pounds
Fuel capacity: 16.6 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 27 city, 33 highway, 29 combined
Also consider: Honda HR-V, Nissan Rogue Sport, Mazda CX-3

The Good
• Long list of safety features
• Off-road capable
• Spacious interior
• Manual transmission available

The Bad
• Below average acceleration on highway

The Ugly
• Fuel economy falls off with manual