2018 Subaru Crosstrek Review: Go Off The Beaten Path

– Los Angeles, California

There’s a sweet spot in the crowded crossover class reserved for the Subaru Crosstrek. It’s a charming, butch little thing, with standard all-wheel drive, lots of room inside, and a “who cares if it gets dirty?” attitude. Rather than rethink the Crosstrek’s existence, Subaru has instead embraced its niche status for its 2018 model year refresh. It’s got the same attitude, but has improvements in key areas that make it more pleasant to drive and nicer to use day to day.

 

Pros

Better to live with. Because the 2018 Crosstrek is essentially a lifted version of the redesigned Impreza, it benefits from all the same improvements in overall refinement. That means it’s quieter inside, with better materials used throughout the cabin. It’s no superstar of comfort or luxury – maybe class-average at best. But if you’ve spent a lot of time in the old Crosstrek, you’ll definitely notice – and appreciate – the big interior upgrade.

Better to drive (mostly). The Crosstrek rides on a completely new architecture, which pays dividends in the ride-and-handling department. Even on the smaller 17-inch wheels, the Crosstrek is composed in the corners, with responsive steering that’s quick to respond and light in overall action. On the highway, the Crosstrek rides with planted confidence, and even on rough pavement – or dirt roads, where the Subie loves to play – the high-riding Impreza is solid and stable. And fun to slide around a gravely corner. The powertrain itself, however… well, I’ll get to that in a minute.

Go on, get the stick. Most buyers will opt for the continuously variable transmission, but those who want to shift for themselves aren’t out of luck. In fact, Subaru offers the six-speed manual transmission on both the base model and the volume Premium trim seen here. In other words, you don’t have to sacrifice niceties like heated seats, auto headlights, and a touchscreen infotainment system if you want to row your own gears. Of course, if you want to get Subaru’s EyeSight suite of safety tech, you’re locked into the CVT experience.

Priced right. Not only does this 2.0i Premium model come nicely equipped, it does so at a very reasonable price point. As tested, this Crosstrek costs $23,510, which feels like a total bargain. A smaller, dumpier-looking, similarly equipped Chevy Trax costs a few grand more.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek: Review
2018 Subaru Crosstrek: Review
2018 Subaru Crosstrek: Review
2018 Subaru Crosstrek: Review
2018 Subaru Crosstrek: Review

Cons

Gutless. Good as the Crosstrek is from a ride-and-handling perspective, its engine is a weak point. Subaru’s 2.0-liter naturally aspirated boxer four is found underhood, with 152 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. Below about 3,000 rpm, this thing struggles, and on several uphill climbs, I found myself downshifting a gear or two just to eke out some oomph. For a vehicle that will spend the majority of its life running around cities and traversing highways and country roads, more low-end power would be great. (You know, a Crosstrek WRX sure sounds fun…)

Is this the new one? While I don’t think the 2018 Crosstrek looks bad, it doesn’t really look new, either. If you told me this was a 2013 model, I’d believe you. If you want a crossover with fresh, modern styling, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Competitors

Chevy Trax
Honda HR-V
Kia Soul
Mazda CX-3
Nissan Rogue Sport
Toyota C-HR

 

Photos: Michael Shaffer / Subaru

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