Subaru caught on real fast with the whole crossover deal. In fact, they were among the first to skew conventional body style lines with the Outback. The brilliant part was to call a station wagon a utility vehicle and it worked!
It worked so well in fact that the Impreza-based Outback Sport (a rare bug-eye bird in Canada) did really well in the US. As the Impreza evolved, so did its crossover variant. Reborn the XV Crosstrek, this raised Impreza hatchback-based CUV caught on like wildfire! For 2018, it has once more risen from the flames but this time, it’s better than ever.
The 2018 Subaru Crosstrek meets and exceeds all expectations, save for one in my case, that non-traditional CUV buyers (it’s come to this, I can’t believe it…) crave. From a taller driving position, to a roomy cabin and AWD, the Crosstrek has it all. And it’s almost perfect.
Both generations of the Crosstrek look like what a wrencher or two would have come up with 10 years ago had they Frankenstein-ed an Impreza hatch with Forester underpinnings. The resulting car is fun and very cool.
The Crosstrek is an Impreza on a mild dose of steroids with Jeep-matching ground clearance (220mm) and just enough body-cladding to visually demonstrate that the car is ready for business. Its potential, and real, ruggedness is evident and what is most physically attractive about the car.
The cabin is equally nice and very roomy. The dashboard is modern and on par with what other Japanese OEMs offer (this was not always the case…). The combination of the top screen with driving information matches nicely with the infotainment display. This is a rare occasion where a two-screen setup actually works, unlike Honda for example. I really like the premium cloth seating surfaces with contrast orange stitching offered from the Touring trim up.
The front seats could use extra lumbar support but otherwise, all seating spaces are accommodating. The rear bench is fit for three but it’s always best when there are two. Storage spots are useful but somewhat limited overall. The door-bins will often come in handy when the center stack’s storage fills up with gloves, for example. The boot can hold 588 litres of gear or a decent amount for a small family on a weekend trip.
One of my favorite aspects of the latest generation of the Impreza is overall visibility. This is a safety feature much like AWD and stability control. The beltline is low and “A” pillars are thin for an exceptional 180 -degree panoramic view.
One of the many pieces of news to come from the new 2018 Crosstrek is the addition of the basic Convenience package. At only $23,695 with a 6-speed manual transmission, there’s little lacking equipment-wise. The dashboard includes a 6.5” touch-screen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. From the Sport trim on, the screen grows to 8” with more features.
My tester was a Sport without the EyeSight driver assist package. It’s also the top trim with which you can get the 6-speed manual transmission. A Sport with EyeSight and CVT raises the price from $27,795 to $30,595. The CVT adds an extra $1,300 to the first few trims.
With AWD as a standard accessory across the board, the Crosstrek competes head on with the Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V. The Crosstrek turns out to be the better at all tasks. The CX-3 might be sportier and the HR-V roomier but the Subaru hits the sweet spot plus it’s got a little more street cred.
The current car sits on Subaru’s Global platform and it is responsible for making the Crosstrek as good to drive as it is. What’s up with it? In brief, it’s more rigid so flexes less which allows the suspension to be tuned with more built-in compliance. It also cuts down unwanted noises and rattles which turns up the level of refinement.
I’ve long since been a fan of what many still consider one of the most poorly guarded secrets in the car business. In spite of all the improvements made over the years, a Subaru unmistakingly remains a Subaru. The inherent noises and driving characteristics are unique to the brand. I am of course referring to two things: the suspension and the horizontally-opposed Boxer engines.
Regular-folk Subies (aka, not WRX or STI) have nearly always sported supple, long-travel dampers in their suspensions. The Crosstrek’s extra ground clearance and compliant struts soak everything up, and I do mean everything. Live in a bad part of town, or plainly in a bad town? This is the car for you. What I love is that despite this setup, body-roll is kept within tolerable limits. I love yaw because of the sense of speed it transmits plus it’s fun to exploit grip limits.
On the topic of speed, the Crosstrek doesn’t… The 2.0-litre flat-4’s only just adequate with its 145 lb.-ft. of torque (at 4,000 rpm) and 152-horsepower at 6,000 rpm. The tragedy comes from the brilliantly slick 6-speed gearbox that is a joy to use. In a way, the lack of power forces you to shift more often to keep revs up… Thankfully, the Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is a better match to the H4, as most of you will opt for it.
And then there’s Subaru’s symmetrical full-time All-Wheel Drive system. To this day, it is still one of the better systems, especially with X-Mode (included with the CVT).
I, like many enthusiasts and typical Subaru drivers, would love to see a little more oomph under the car’s bonnet. In the meantime, enjoy a leisurely 9L / 100 km fuel economy in your day-to-day driving (8L with the CVT.)