Much like “The Little Engine that Could”, the Crosstrek is an excellent buy in the segment.
Toronto, ON – At first glance, the changes to the 2016 Subaru Crosstrek might seem insignificant, and for the most part they are, but there’s more to this car than meets the eye. Subaru invited us to a two-day lifestyle experience into the shoes of the typical Crosstrek owner to see for ourselves how living with this car would be. We were given the opportunity to venture off the beaten path, spend some time through the rush hour grind, and get up close and personal with this interesting but often forgotten entry to the subcompact crossover segment.
When it was originally introduced in 2013 as the XV Crosstrek, this entry from Subaru’s only real rivals were the Nissan Juke and the Mitsubishi RVR. The Crosstrek may not have changed significantly, but the market around it certainly has. With serious competition introduced this past year alone from the Honda HR-V, the Mazda CX-3, and the Jeep Renegade, the subcompact crossover class has grown exponentially. Based on the Impreza, the Crosstrek has now dropped the ‘XV’ nomenclature and received a mild freshening. Much like “The Little Engine that Could”, the car is an excellent buy in the segment, featuring Subaru’s class-leading safety features, rugged styling, and of course, that throaty boxer engine the brand is known for.
The powertrain on the Crosstrek is unchanged for this facelift, as the car soldiers on with its 2.0L horizontally opposed boxer four-cylinder. This is the non-turbocharged variant of the 2.0L that’s shared with the Impreza, and is good for 148 horsepower at 6,200rpm, and 145 lb-ft of torque at 4200rpm. The Crosstrek is not a quick car by any means, but these numbers are right in line with its four-cylinder competitors. The Nissan Juke feels a little bit peppier with its turbocharged 1.6L, but the numbers aren’t staggeringly high. Our test vehicle was equipped with the Lineartronic CVT, a transmission that’s geared towards efficiency and smoothness rather than fun.
Enthusiasts can rejoice – Subaru still offers a traditional manual transmission on all three trim levels! However, thanks to the low take rate on stick-shifts in Canada (just about 15% for Crosstrek), the manual is only available on models without EyeSight technology. The CVT is remarkably good and Subaru’s application continues to be one of my favourites in the industry. It’s smooth, but on wide-open throttle, the transmission whines in complaint of your intended acceleration. The noise is almost like a “why are you putting me through this?” reaction during tasks as simple as merging onto the highway.
As mentioned earlier, we had the chance to put the Crosstrek through a closed off-road trail. The 220mm of ground clearance came in handy, and the little crossover was able to get through a surprising amount of mud, even wading through a small creek at one point. Though all other competitors offer all-wheel-drive, Subaru’s symmetrical system is standard issue on all trim levels of Crosstrek, and is easily one of the best AWD setups on the market today. Power is sent exactly where needed, when needed, which makes for a serious little beast when the pavement stops. For us Canadians, this also means more peace of mind during the winter months, when our roads are covered in snow, slush, and black ice.
I learned from my visit to the IIHS last spring that Subaru isn’t messing around with safety, with Top Safety Pick bragging rights across their entire lineup. The Crosstrek is no different, and now offers EyeSight technology. A segment leader here, the Crosstrek offers adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and forward collision alert, for those times when the driver might be distracted or simply has lapses or delays in judgment. We tried out the adaptive cruise control, and it was able to bring the Crosstrek to a complete stop in traffic as well as fully accelerate at a stop without infuriating drivers behind us. Competitors may offer similar systems, but EyeSight is currently one of the most comprehensive safety suites in the mainstream segment.
Some of the most significant changes for the 2016 model year are on the interior, where Subaru has received plenty of criticism over the years for their use of cheap plastics. The steering wheel and shift knob are new, along with fresh seat patterns and generous use of orange stitching for a subtle yet attractive contrast throughout the cabin. The Crosstrek has class-leading legroom, even when you compare it to vehicles in a larger bracket, like the Mazda CX-5. At 6’1, I was extremely comfortable logging hours of seat time in this car, and I will say that the new interior bits are a very welcome change.
On the technology side, EyeSight is obviously the huge conversation piece. However, Subaru’s Starlink system is also state-of-the-art, and blows Nissan and Honda’s dated setups out of the water. Starlink offers smart apps run through your phone for streaming music, news and sports updates. It still needs a little bit of polishing, such as its integration with older devices such as my iPod Classic, but Subaru expects the Crosstrek buyer to be more modern than I, using Bluetooth to stream music. Satellite radio is also on board, as well as a neat colour LCD located atop the dashboard that displays fuel economy, AWD diagnostics, and a few other useful functions.
I’m wholeheartedly on board with Subaru’s styling direction. Their latest vehicles aren’t the sexiest, but they have a rugged, outdoorsy look to them that suit their demographics perfectly. After all, statistics show that 98% of Subarus sold over the past ten years are still on the road today – not many manufacturers can brag about this. The rugged plastic body cladding gives the Crosstrek a mean look that none of its competitors offer, and the standard roof rails allow it to be used for more than just commuting. For 2016, a new Hyper Blue colour (pictured) has been added to the palate, and it’s one that I would opt for if I were in the market.
The 2016 Subaru Crosstrek isn’t the newest kid on the block, but Subaru has closely analyzed how this segment has changed over the past three years, and they have added some improvements that allow this diamond in the rough to remain competitive. With pricing starting at $24,995 for the base Touring and going up to $31,895 for the Limited with EyeSight, the Crosstrek is likely one of the most reliable choices in its class if longevity is a deciding factor. Regardless of lifestyle, whether you’re a single urban professional or part of a rural, outdoorsy family, the Subaru Crosstrek is sure to be up for the adventure.
First Drive: 2016 Subaru Crosstrek Gallery