2017 Subaru Crosstrek Sport Road Test Review

 Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.

Just another example of why Subaru owners are so loyal 

Every now and again a crossover comes along that's really quite brilliant. In this case we should expect as much from Subaru, one of if not the original crossover utility creator. 

Subaru's 1979 GL AWD Wagon was the springboard of a corporate identity that would soon lead to the wonderfully wacky Brat, probably the only compact car-based pickup to ever succeed, and eventually the '94 Outback that's now legend for launching the modern-day crossover era.

Crossovers have shown up in all shapes and sizes since then, all of which, like the Outback, are based on unibody car platform architectures, albeit most doing their best to imitate 4x4-capable SUVs. The compact Forester falls into this latter camp, which is probably why it's Subaru's most popular North American model, whereas this Crosstrek is more of a niche model that just happens to also be a very strong seller.


A well proportioned, great looking compact crossover

It's easy to understand why the Crosstrek has become so popular, as it looks great and services a unique subset within the compact crossover SUV segment that wants more of a car-like experience than the usual tall, upright CUV. I've been a fan since it debuted, especially when catching sight of it in one of its more eye-catching colours like my tester's Hyper Blue.

As you may have noticed, it's basically a raised Impreza 5-Door with a redesigned front fascia, some cool body cladding, plus beefier wheels and tires, the Crosstrek filling the shoes of the old Impreza Outback Sport, albeit to better effect.

Subaru offers the Crosstrek in base Touring, Sport, and Limited trims, plus the latter two with a Technology package add-on, while there's also a new Kazan Edition sporting a black mesh grille instead of the usual chromed strikethrough, unique five-spoke alloys, a rear spoiler, zesty Pure Red paint (which makes sense being that Kazan is Japanese for "volcano"), plus red interior trim and stitching. While it starts just $1,500 above base, at $26,495, its standard features list continues with LED turn signals integrated into the side mirrors, a rear step pad, a powered moonroof, plus heated fabric and leather-upholstered seats. I'll leave this unique addition for a future review and instead focus on the one driven, while touching on the other conventionally powered trim levels, and for simplicity's sake refer to them as Touring, Sport, Sport Tech, Limited and Limited Tech.


Sport trim gets new blindspot monitoring and lane assist  

The Sport model's HID headlights and larger rooftop spoiler add visual impact whereas its leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, plus the powered moonroof overhead make for a nicer interior, while new for 2017 is blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and lane change assist. At just $2,000 above the base model's $24,995 plus freight and dealer fees, which is the same as last year's price despite the upgraded equipment, it certainly represents good value.

The Tech package adds $2,900 for an as-tested price of $29,895 and comes with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) standard, plus quieter liquid-filled rubber engine mounts, steering responsive fog lamps, proximity access with pushbutton ignition, a windshield wiper de-icer, and Subaru's innovative EyeSight Driving Assist system that includes adaptive cruise control, lead vehicle start alert, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, pre-collision brake assist, and pre-collision throttle management. When so equipped the Crosstrek qualifies for IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus status, whereas all trims achieve a five-star NHTSA crash test rating.

One seriously safety conscious compact CUV 

If you're wondering about all of the Crosstrek's other safety gear, not to worry as it includes the usual assortment of airbags plus one for the driver's knees as standard equipment, as well as standard traction and stability control, ABS-enhanced four-wheel discs with electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, and a rearview camera, while the base model also gets a 6.2-inch touchscreen display audio system with six speakers to go with that camera, plus satellite radio, Bluetooth, a 4.3-inch multi-information display housed within the primary gauges, single-zone auto HVAC, heatable front seats, cruise control, tilt and telescopic steering, heated power-adjustable side mirrors, fog lamps, auto on/off headlights, roof rails, 17-inch alloys, and more.

In case you want to take your Crosstrek further up the food chain, Limited trim adds LED turn signals onto the side mirrors, chrome exterior door handles, a larger touchscreen with navigation, dual-zone auto HVAC, leather upholstery, and more.


More refined than the average compact model

No matter the trim, the Crosstrek is finished nicer than the majority of compact cars and SUVs. Its dash top is completely soft and pliable, wrapping right down to the midway point of the centre stack, while the door uppers are also finished with soft synthetic featuring comfortable padding underneath, this finer attention to detail truly making for premium experience both up front and in back where Subaru duplicates with the same level of pampering.

Additionally, nice satin-silver trim adorns the instrument panel and door panels on Sport models and above, while the door inserts are made from a plush woven fabric that matches the seat inserts. The padded leatherette armrests feature cool orange stitching that pulls cues from those sport seats as well as the leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, while there are even designer clothes-style orange tags embroidered with the Crosstrek nameplate sewn onto the seats.

Other interior highlights include attractive chronograph-style primary gauges with grey-blue faces and metallic rims, the aforementioned multi-info display at centre as clear and crisp in resolution as anything in the class, and controlled via high-quality steering wheel switchgear. Atop the centre dash is a unique dual-display showing average fuel economy, exterior temperature, the time to the right and detailed HVAC info to the left, while if you toggle a switch that sits between the two centre vents you'll access yet more features such as a real-time graph-style fuel economy indicator, or you can switch to another screen that displays the four-wheel drive system in real-time, etc.


State-of-the-art infotainment that leaves nothing to be desired 

This leaves the infotainment system just below for audio control, plus apps including Subaru's Starlink that provides news, food, weather, music, podcasts, audiobooks, and other multimedia content via its own apps, Aha or Pandora, while there's also a settings section for personalizing the infotainment system as well as the car's various functions, and of course an interface for phone setup and use. My phone connected easily and worked flawlessly throughout my test week, while the audio system played music and podcasts from my smartphone via Bluetooth. It actually has a built-in automated graphic equalizer that lets you quickly switch from bass- and treble-centric settings to a flat sound that's better for talk radio, or instead you can create customized presets for different styles of music. It's a pretty slick system that sounds superb when optimized for the genre of music you're listening to.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the previously noted HVAC system is ultra-simple and easy to use thanks to automatic function, while the two-way heatable front seats warmed up quickly and stayed nice and toasty at their hottest temperature setting.

Comfortable and roomy

The Crosstrek is roomy for a compact, as the roofline is high and there's ample space from side to side, while the rear seating area offers plenty of comfort with good legroom. A large wide hatch is ideal for loading big items into the cargo area, and when necessary the 60/40-split seatbacks fold flat for a total of 1,470 litres of cargo space; there are 632 litres available with all the seats in use.

Back in the driver's seat the Crosstrek provides excellent sightlines front, side and back, while large side mirrors allow for good rearward visibility. As noted, Subaru includes a reverse camera that certainly helps when backing up.


Fun and capable no matter the weather 

As for the drive, the Crosstrek's fully independent front strut and double wishbone rear suspension balances ride and handling duties ideally, with very little intrusion from road imperfections such as broken pavement, bridge expansion joints, and the like, while it takes to corners well when the need for speed arises. I was able to fling it through some local backroads and thoroughly enjoyed myself, always feeling confident in its abilities, while the compliant suspension just noted made sure all tires kept full contact with the road surface. Likewise, the Crosstrek maintained its lane easily at highway speeds while keeping wind and road noise to a minimum.

I never took it off pavement, although with 220 mm of minimum ground clearance and Subaru's acclaimed Symmetrical AWD underfoot I'm willing to guess it would prove much more capable than the average cute ute, this no doubt translating into excellent grip in mid-winter snow too, all of which would make the Crosstrek an ideal companion for regular trips up the ski hill.


Boxer four delivers plenty of power yet excellent economy 

The standard 2.0-litre horizontally opposed four-cylinder would guaranty steep grades didn't slow your progress, as its 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque provides good acceleration off the line and more than adequate passing performance, while the optional CVT responds very well whether left to its own devices, where it's ultimately smooth, or when being rowed through the "gears" via the shift lever or its steering wheel-mounted paddles. Truly, downshifts were very quick and felt a lot like a regular automatic, whereas upshifts resulted in positive stepped changes that were actually quite satisfying.

Quite satisfying are two words that work well to summarize a week spent with the Crosstrek. My Sport Tech tester delivered energetic yet comfortable and accommodating transportation in a well made, nicely equipped five-door, and looked great doing so. That it also manages a claimed 9.1 L/100km city and 7.0 highway while meeting PZEV emission standards is more than just a bonus, not to mention that it comes from a carmaker rated highest amongst mainstream volume brands in Consumer Report's latest 2016 report card on reliability.

The Crosstrek is just one more example of why Subaru owners are so incredibly loyal. I couldn't recommend it any higher.


Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press 
Photo credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press 
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.

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