It wasn’t long ago that Subaru’s best selling model was the Impreza. Over the last few years the subcompact crossover segment has emerged as one of the fastest growing in North America, one that now outsells the compact car segment. Subaru’s growth over the last decade is undeniable, and is thanks to vehicles like this 2020 Subaru Crosstrek Limited, a car that has leapfrogged the compact Impreza (reviewed here) in overall sales across the continent. When you look closely at both models, the differences are not that significant, however they are enough to have consumers spend their cold hard cash on the Crosstrek over its traditional sibling.
The subcompact crossover segment is just about a decade old, with aging models like the Chevrolet Trax and Honda HR-V. Most of them are forgettable at best, however offer relative practicality, a taller profile and driving position, and most importantly, nimble driving dynamics. While the Crosstrek debuted in 2012, the second generation model in 2018 moved to the Subaru Global Platform, which would meet or exceed anticipated collision safety standards as far out as 2025.
With this increased structural rigidity came improvements to the suspension and steering, and this had a huge positive impact on the Crosstrek’s road feel and ride quality. In addition, the center of gravity was lowered for a more car-like feel that consumers demanded in their crossovers. An upgraded engine known as the FB20D was put in for improved performance, and those that chose a manual transmission were rewarded with a sixth gear as opposed to a five-speed in the previous generation. The new infotainment system also offered Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. These touches all changed the game and made the Crosstrek one of the leaders in the segment.
Some have stated that the Crosstrek is just an Impreza with a taller body and higher ground clearance, and they technically aren’t wrong. This works to its advantage however, as the current Crosstrek looks unmistakably like a Subaru. Its design is traditional and rugged, and fairly vanilla when compared to sharp new entries like the Mazda CX-30 (reviewed here) or the Hyundai Kona. Let’s not forget however that vanilla still sells, and the rugged, outdoorsy personality of the Crosstrek is admirable and one that helps sales considerably.
Subaru also took no risks with the interior. Thankfully, material quality has improved since the Crosstrek first came to market. Everything is ergonomically placed and well within reach. There are soft touch materials on frequent-touch surfaces such as door panels, dash and console. These are also adorned with dual orange stitching that add some contrast to the dark interior. The leather seats on our Limited are also trimmed with the same stitching. We would say that behind the CX-30 and new Kia Seltos, the Crosstrek has one of the nicest interiors in the segment.
There is more than ample leg and headroom for my 6’3 frame up front, and two will sit comfortably in the rear. The Crosstrek has some of the better packaging in its segment, as use of space is efficient. The front seats on our Crosstrek Limited are heated with six-way power adjustability available for the driver side, while the passenger makes do with manual controls. The seats are relatively comfortable, but lack a bit in lumbar support. The rear seats fold 60/40, and increase the 588-liter cargo area to 1,565-liters when folded down.
This being a Subaru, all-wheel-drive is standard and our Limited test vehicle has X-Mode as well. This mode allows drivers to get the most out of their all-wheel-drive system when facing limited traction in slippery surfaces such as mud, snow or ice. Instances with rugged terrain when climbing or uneven surfaces are also examples of where this technology can be used. Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive system remains one of the best in the industry and we have little doubt the Crosstrek would handle Canadian winters with ease, especially when equipped with proper winter tires.
Powering all Crosstrek models is a 2.0-liter horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine that brings 152 horsepower at 6,000 RPM and 145 lb-ft of torque. The 0-100km/h sprint comes in around nine seconds. This is not a fast car by any means but it is smooth on the highway and has enough oomph to merge from an on-ramp and keep up with the flow of traffic. The grumble of the flat-four helps considerably with feel, but regardless, the Crosstrek as it is today is a fairly slow vehicle. Thankfully, Subaru Canada has announced a more powerful 2.5-liter engine for the 2021 model.
Power goes to all four wheels through a six-speed manual transmission on lower trim models and in the case of our Limited Crosstrek here, Subaru’s well-tuned continuously variable transmission is standard. There is a sport mode that improves throttle response, and holds the vehicle in the power band longer. Subaru has done a fine job with the CVT as the rubber band effect associated with this transmission is kept to a minimum. This is one of the better CVTs around right now, and will suit most buyers’ driving styles nicely.
Aggressive handling and taking twisties are not what the Crosstrek is all about. Steering feel is light and lacks on-center feel. If you’re looking for a more spirited ride, the Mazda CX-30 or Hyundai Kona are where you need to look. Comfort and isolation is what the Crosstrek does quite well as road noise was kept to a minimum and potholes did little to disturb our daily commute. Ride quality is extremely supple and well-sorted, right at the top of its class and surpassing that of the Mazda CX-30, Honda HR-V and Ford EcoSport handily.
Over a week’s worth of testing with the Crosstrek, we averaged a combined 8.7L/100km. This is close to Subaru’s ratings of 8.5L/100km city and 7.0L/100km highway, right in line with the rest of the class. It’s worth mentioning that the Crosstrek tips the scales at about 3,300 pounds thanks to the weight of the all-wheel-drive system and CVT. Those wanting to really save fuel should look at front-drive rivals such as the Nissan Kicks (reviewed here) or Toyota C-HR.
Consumers looking for safety features will be happy to know that the Crosstrek Limited has it in spades. With Subaru’s EyeSight technology, you have all the safety features the brand has in its arsenal. This includes pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management, adaptive cruise control, lane sway warning, lane keep assist and lead vehicle start alert. This is in addition to automatic reverse braking, blind spot monitoring and cross traffic alert. Buyers can rest easy knowing their families are well protected.
The 2020 Subaru Crosstrek Limited is not only competitive, but is one of the best all-around choices in the segment. It may lack the upscale looks of the Mazda CX-30 and the fun to drive nature of the Hyundai Kona, but it does exactly what Subaru aficionados expect of their vehicle. Buying a Subaru brings buyers ease of use, top-notch safety features, a great all-wheel-drive system and high resale value. This may not be exciting for the enthusiast, but for the average buyer, it’s more than enough. Put this one right at the top of our recommendation list!