Subaru Crosstrek — Making a popular compact crossover better

By Jim Meachen

(July 30, 2023) The compact crossover SUV segment — both luxury and mainstream — has been on fire in recent years accounting for millions of sales. This is good news for Subaru, which has two popular vehicles in that segment — the Forrester and the Crosstrek. And the Crosstrek arrives for 2024 completely redesigned.

For the first six months of 2023 the Crosstrek was second in company sales trailing only the long-running Outback with 76,130 units going out the door. Combined, the Crosstrek and Forester accumulated 137,440 sales, accounting for 45 percent of Subaru's total numbers.

When Subaru introduced the Crosstrek in 2013 we wondered about the wisdom of the Japanese brand selling two vehicles of almost identical size. Subaru's Forester had — up to that point — been handling the company's compact SUV chores quite well. It seemed to us the Crosstrek would cannibalize those sales. 

Before the Crosstrek — tagged the XV Crosstrek at the onset — arrived, the Forester was the company's second-best selling vehicle with 76,000 sales. In 2014, after a full year of Crosstrek sales, the Forester sold 160,000 units and the Crosstrek an additional 71,000 units. What this told us was we were wrong and Subaru knew exactly what it was doing — more than doubling sales with two same-sized vehicles that — it turns out — appealed to different sets of buyers.

So how do things stand today as the Crosstrek (the XV designation was lost years ago) enters its third generation as a 2024 model? It was Subaru's best-selling vehicle in 2022 with 155,142 sales, outselling Outback (147,262) and Forester (114,096). In fact, a report from iSeeCars, a market research company, showed the Crosstrek the fastest-selling car in summer 2022 averaging only 12.9 days on dealer lots.

While looking much like the outgoing 2023 model, the Crosstrek has undergone a thorough redesign for 2024. It still has that rugged off-road look that buyers find attractive, and it still comes with excellent ground clearance with a segment-leading 8.7 inches. The Jeep Cherokee, by comparison, also has 8.7 inches of ground clearance. But such competitors as the Volkswagen Taos has 6.4 inches and Mazda CX-30 has 8 inches.

The Crosstrek has all the requisite equipment for leaving the beaten path. As well as the prodigious ground clearance,  also available is Subaru's X-Mode with hill-descent control and settings for SNOW/DIRT and DEEP SNOW/MUD to optimize AWD performance for difficult weather and road conditions.

Subaru has introduced a special Wilderness Edition for 2023, which adds numerous off-road appointments including a 9.3-inches of ground clearance. The Wilderness Edition is aimed squarely at its Jeep counterparts.

Many of the 2024 upgrades are unseen.  For example, the Subaru Global Platform has been enhanced with 10-percent higher torsional rigidity. A full inner frame construction with stronger welding techniques and additional structural adhesive contribute to better body rigidity and less weight. Subaru says these updates deliver an improved dynamic performance and smoother ride.

Inside, a more supportive front seat design increases overall comfort and minimizes fatigue, according to Subaru. A focused effort on reducing sounds within particular frequency ranges results in a quieter and more comfortable cabin. Rear dark-tint privacy glass is now standard.

Subaru says its already-excellent EyeSight safety system has been enhanced to "operate more quickly and under a greater range of conditions." These improvements are thanks to a wider field of view and updated control software.

We did encounter an unexpected problem with EyeSight in our test vehicle — it cut off while we were driving in torrential rain. A short time later we pulled off into a parking lot — along with about a half dozen other motorists — to wait out the extremely heavy downpour. We cut the car off while parked and when we turned it back on, EyeSight also came back on. It was a bit disconcerting to lose the safety system when we needed it the most.

We discovered that the 2024 edition drives and feels very much like the outgoing generation — and that's a good thing. We found an engaging driving experience thanks in part to Active Torque Vectoring that helps reduce understeer and keeps the vehicle on the driver’s intended cornering path. The Crosstrek exhibited a confident feel on our usual winding back-road "test track." It's an easy vehicle to drive — to just "jump in and go." And for people living in cold-weather climates it's a very worthy companion with its large ground clearance and all-wheel drive system.

What has not changed is the engine lineup and that's a bit disappointing to us. The two engines are carryover from 2023. The base engine is a 2.0-liter flat-four making 152 horsepower and the optional engine is a 2.5-liter flat four making 182 horsepower. Both 4-cylinders are mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). All models get the company's all-wheel drive system.

This time around we drove the smaller engine in Premium configuration and found it acceptable for normal driving. It's those times when merging into fast-moving traffic or when attempting to pass a slowpoke on a two-lane road that you start wishing for more horsepower. For comparison purposes performance has been measured at about 10 seconds from 0-to-60.

In 2021, we drove the bigger engine and discovered the extra 30 horses a big improvement. Again, for comparisons, the 2.5-liter can accomplish 0-to-60 in about 7.5 seconds.

The problem here is that to get the bigger powerplant you will have to move up to one of the top two trim levels — Sport or Limited. That would necessitate a $2,850 outlay over the Premium trim we tested, which otherwise we found to have everything we would need in a compact crossover.

Surprisingly, there is very little difference in gas mileage between the two engines. The 152 hp engine is rate at 27 city, 34 highway and 29 combined. The larger 182 hp engine is rated 28/33/30. Both use regular gas.

One of the things that concerns us when shopping in the compact segment is room enough for four adults to ride comfortably with enough luggage space for short trips. The Crosstrek meets our needs is those regards offering an open, airy cabin with good leg and head room in the second row for adults and a decent cargo area measuring 20.8 cubic feet.

We found that while Subaru has improved the 2024 Crosstrek in several areas, the changes are more incremental rather than dramatic, which is understandable given how successful the outgoing second-generation version has become. Our biggest disappointment is that Subaru did not address the rather anemic base engine. More performance is needed.

Ted Biederman contributed to this review

2024 Subaru Crosstrek


Base price: $26,290; as driven, $29,685
Engine: 2.0-liter flat four
Horsepower: 152 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 145 foot-pounds @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: continuously variable
Drive: all-wheel
Wheelbase: 104.9 inches
Length: 176.5 inches
Curb weight: 3,224 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, 34 highway, 29 combined
0-60: 10 seconds (observed)
Also consider: Jeep Cherokee, Honda HR-V, Volkswagen Taos

The Good
• Impressive list of safety features
• Spacious interior
• Standard all-wheel drive

The Bad
• Below average cargo space

The Ugly
• Manual transmission option dropped