The story on the new Crosstrek is that Subaru has built an outstanding subcompact crossover.
TORONTO, ON – Since its introduction in 2013, the Subaru Crosstrek has quickly jumped to the top of the ranks within the subcompact crossover segment. The simple formula took the already successful Subaru Impreza five-door, and muscled it up a bit with increased ground clearance and additional versatility. While not without its faults, buyers loved the Crosstrek’s urban-friendly dimensions combined with SUV-like capability, making it the perfect weekend escape vehicle for young couples and families.
The team at Subaru have stuck to a very similar recipe for the all-new 2018 Subaru Crosstrek Sport tested here, but in the process, have left no stone unturned, truly building a Crosstrek that has been entirely reengineered. We had an early chance to get behind the wheel and spend some significant time putting the redesigned model through its paces.
On the outside, the Crosstrek actually doesn’t look significantly different from the outgoing model considering the number of changes that it’s been through. The new model does. However, pick up on the fresh styling cues of the recently updated Impreza (reviewed here), of which some of the Crosstrek’s underpinnings remain based.
While the Impreza’s new look is debatable, the same brush applied to the Crosstrek has certainly paid dividends with better proportions and improved visual flow over the outgoing model. The rugged cladding is now better integrated as well, as is the new front fascia and standard fog lights. Upper trim models, like our Sport trim tester, or the top of the line Limited, also get LED headlights and daytime running lights which are valuable on those late night trips out of the city.
The interior of the new Crosstrek holds true to Subaru fashion of function over form, although efforts have been made to make the space look and feel slightly more upscale than its predecessor. The Sport model comes with comfortable and supportive heated front seats finished in two-tone premium cloth with orange stitching. The stitching is carried on throughout the interior including on the dashboard and the leather-wrapped steering wheel. From a materials standpoint, that’s where the positives end as the hard black plastics and faux carbon fiber accents used just about everywhere else are not up to the same standards that can be found in competitors such as the Buick Encore or the Mazda CX-3.
Materials aside, the interior remains highly functional with rear seating adequate for adults, a split rear bench that folds perfectly flat, and a relatively large rear cargo area, especially for the subcompact segment. Storage up front has also been improved with deep door pockets with integrated bottle holders and a well-designed centre console with a handy ‘junk bin’ below the climate controls. Speaking of the controls, the simple layout of the Crosstrek’s dash means everything is where you would expect it, and easy to understand and operate. Automatic climate control is a nice inclusion on all models but the entry level Convenience trim, and dual zone comes with the Limited trim.
Big improvements have been made on the technology front inside the Crosstrek, with a standard 6.5” touchscreen system and a larger 8”screen on Sport and Limited trim levels. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all models, and stepping up to the 8” screen gets you satellite radio and six-speaker sound. The system runs well, is intuitive to use and doesn’t experience any noteworthy lag. For Subaru, this is a big step.
Inside and out the Crosstrek is a very appealing little package, which is why it’s so disappointing that the powertrain really lets the rest of the car down. It’s certainly not that Subaru hasn’t put effort into the mechanicals either, as the 2.0L boxer-style four-cylinder engine has been completely overhauled for the 2018 model. It’s now lighter and more efficient thanks to the addition of direct injection. The motor makes 152 horsepower at 6,000RPM and 140 lb-ft. of torque at 4,000RPM. This doesn’t sound like a lot of power, nor does it feel like a lot of power out on the road either. The new motor can be mated to a traditional six-speed manual, which is likely the enthusiast favorite, but the volume of sales will be equipped like our test car with the optional newly reengineered Lineartronic® CVT driving Subaru’s legendary symmetrical AWD system.
The Subaru CVT has been a long-standing favorite, at least in the world of CVTs, so it was surprising that it did not perform to expectations during our test. It was slow and clunky while shifting from reverse to drive, and under slow acceleration had a tendency to drop the RPMs, which gave a sensation similar to lifting your foot off the gas, without actually doing so. The new 2.0L is quieter and more refined than the previous version, but it’s lack of power to muscle an AWD crossover around, combined with the transmission’s quirks makes the Crosstrek less pleasant to drive than it could be with a more lively powertrain.
The Crosstrek’s new platform, the Global Platform, as Subaru calls it, has greatly improved chassis rigidity for improved steering response, a better ride and a more confident sense of control compared to the outgoing model. More steering feedback would be nice, but the Crosstrek scores high marks within the segment for precise handling, tight turning radius and comfortable ride quality, all strengths that lend themselves well to the urban utility that the Crosstrek has become known for. CVT-equipped Crosstreks all come with “X-Mode”. Pushing the botton on the console tweaks the car’s systems for off-road duty or severe conditions, and while we didn’t get to put it through its paces here in July, it made light work of some grassy inclines. Knowing Subaru, X-mode will keep the Crosstrek moving through winter’s worst when the season comes around.
While the powertrain might not necessarily inspire fun behind the wheel, it does help to put a smile on one’s face at the fuel pumps. The Crosstrek with the CVT is rated at 8.8L/100km city and 7.2L/100km highway. After a week of rush hour commuting into the city the average on the test car sat right at 7.8L/100km, exactly in line with the rated expectations. This is a seriously impressive number for an all-wheel-drive utility vehicle like this, and to some it might just be worth the sacrifice in power.
Pricing is also right in line with the competition as well, and the Crosstrek can be had for the low cost of entry of $23,695 for a base Convenience trim car. A Touring trim can be had for a couple thousand more and it adds a few more conveniences like heated seats and the leather wrapped steering wheel. The test car happens to be a Sport trim model, which gets the larger infotainment screen, a power sunroof, LED lights and more, which brings the price up to $27,795. An EyeSight package can be added for just shy of $3000, which includes the full gamut of electronic driving assists. Finally, stepping up to the Limited model at $31,695 will get you the leather seating, heated steering wheel, larger 18” wheels, eight-speaker Harmon Kardon sound, navigation, and more. EyeSight can be added here as well for a mere $1500.
The story on the new 2018 Crosstrek is that Subaru has built an outstanding subcompact crossover, with one critical fault; an uninspiring powertrain. If you’re not overly concerned about that, and most buyers really aren’t, the Crosstrek checks just about every other box on a compact crossover shopper’s list. It’s versatile, comfortable, agile in the city, and rugged enough for the adventure out of the city – all while boasting the capability of Subaru AWD, something that no other competitor can claim. If only Subaru could shoehorn a powertrain similar to the one found in the WRX into the Crosstrek they would have a seriously hot little crossover on their hands.