The Crosstrek has been a revenue hit for Subaru, coming in a strong third place after the larger Outback and Forester during October of the year. Although it’s just an Impreza lifted enough to boost it to the nebulously defined crossover category, the hatchback has carved out a section for itself by dint of a low starting price and Subie’s ineffable greenie-cool element. Insert some enchanting and unexpected colours and a pair of bold-looking wheels and you have a machine that accounts for 16 percent of their brand’s U.S. earnings mix. Nobody is going to make fun of you for buying one.
For 2018, Subaru has moved the Crosstrek (along with also the Impreza) to its new Global Platform, and the results are immediately apparent. Although the 2018 model has gained just 93 pounds over the previous stick-shift Crosstrek we tested, the car feels considerably more substantial. The doors close with a reassuring heft, in place of the cheapoid, tin-can feeling of the preceding edition.
Engine output has increased a bit, too, up 4 horsepower over the older car’s 148. But we managed only 17 seconds flat from the quarter-mile, which is a half-second slower than the older car. And the new Crosstrek also was 1.1 minutes slower from zero to 60 mph, needing 9.2 seconds to accomplish this mark.
One item the brand new Crosstrek does not talk about with the Impreza is that car’s absolutely abysmal five-speed manual transmission (the old Crosstrek also utilized a five-speed manual). The Crosstrek’s six-speed is a peach, with none of the rubbery jankiness which produces the Impreza’s device unpleasant. The shifter’s activity is smooth and positive, while the clutch is communicative and linear in participation.
And yet the Lineartronic continuously variable automatic, with its stepped “ratios,” appears to do a much better job keeping the overworked 2.0-liter fighter four to the boil and also yields almost identical results at the test track. Additionally, it gets better gas mileage: 29 mpg combined versus 25 for the stick-shift model, as stated by the EPA. Our 75-mph highway fuel-economy test also revealed an advantage for its CVT: 32 mpg into the manual’s 31. But overall, in our testing, the guide returned 25 mpg to the CVT’s 23.
Which leaves us with a conundrum. Naturally, we invite you to conserve the manuals, but the better overall car can trace its roots to Subaru’s tiny Justy, back through DAF’s zany Variomatic, and on to your French granddad’s old Mobylette. Yeah, we are scratching our heads a little, too.
The manual gearbox also is restricted to the Crosstrek’s two lower trim levels–2.0I and 2.0I Premium–since top-spec Limited versions are CVT only. At $23,510 as analyzed, our Premium manual model features an interior which puts the preceding Crosstrek’s to pity and finally feels section appropriate (true, not much of a job). The comfortable cloth seats are nicely stitched together with orange thread, which also can be located on the leather shifter and the steering wheel to add a place of lively fun. The Starlink infotainment system features a 6.5-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto performance, and although it is not a standout in the world of in-car multimedia, it at least manages to not nullify bouts of woeful frustration.
With this newest Crosstrek, Subaru has clearly opted to tune the chassis for comfort, and paired with all the excess solidity of the arrangement, the choice pays dividends. The new machine offers exceptional ride quality without sacrificing everyday handling. Push the little crossover to the maximal, however, and things come unstuck in the form of excessive understeer. We handled 0.81 g on the skidpad, which places it ahead of this Jeep Renegade Trailhawk’s 0.72 g along with the Nissan Rogue Sport’s 0.79 gram; it is on par with the Kia Soul Turbo but is 0.03 g behind our lower-riding Impreza hatchback long-termer.
Given that shoppers in the segment are more inclined to be entranced by the idea of knocking over an REI than dodging cones on an autocross course, the cornering performance certainly is competent for the segment. And even though the steering is low on feel, it’s at least accurate, and the chassis does its darnedest to maintain the driver’s desired line.
Those concerned with greatest lifted-compact-wagon pleasure might find themselves enticed by Volkswagen’s Golf Alltrack, but the manual-equipped German’s base cost is almost $4000 north of the Subie’s. Put another way, for the price of an Alltrack, you can buy a Crosstrek plus a really nice used dirtbike. Bonus? One of other colors, the Subaru can be arranged in a KTM-esque orange or a Yamaha-adjacent blue, if you prize vehicular colour manipulation.
The new Crosstrek continues the former car’s tradition of value, usefulness, and flannel-flyin’, millennial-baiting pizzazz, and its next iteration is much better in pretty much every conceivable way (except for at the drag strip). And while we do believe the CVT powertrain works a bit better than the manual in this application, by choosing to shift your own gears you will save yourself a thousand dollars and end up rewarded by a really well-executed and enjoyable gearbox. It’s hard to eliminate either way.