2018 Subaru Crosstrek Limited Road Test Review

 Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.

Redesigned compact crossover SUV makes major gains in refinement 

Subaru's Crosstrek has been building in popularity since arriving on the compact crossover SUV scene in 2012. In fact, it worked its way up to second place amongst 13 competitors for calendar year 2015, and repeated the feat for 2016. Now with the arrival of an all-new redesigned 2018 model that shows improvement in every area, the Crosstrek should only continue its upward trajectory from here.


In the 2018 Crosstrek's corner is the same new Subaru Global Platform that helped transform the Impreza from a good compact car into one of the best in its segment, its stiffer more capable underpinnings resulting in the normally juxtaposed qualities of better handling and a smoother ride, plus greater refinement from lowered noise, vibration and harshness levels.

What's more, along with its sharper looking exterior design the Crosstrek benefits from a much-improved interior featuring more premium-like soft-touch surfaces than the majority of rivals, higher quality switchgear than its predecessor throughout, and some truly impressive digital interfaces, the centre stack-mounted infotainment touchscreen now incorporating Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, just for starters.


Much more refined interior borders on premium quality 

Along with the nicer soft and hard points, the new Crosstrek gets a more appealing interior design with nicer materials choices, some of which are downright rich looking, raising Subaru further into the near-luxury class that its exclusive brand characteristics warrant, some of which include the class-leading all-wheel drive system mentioned a moment ago, now with Active Torque Vectoring, plus its unique lineup of horizontally-opposed four- and six-cylinder "boxer" engines, legendary off-road-capable five-door hatchbacks and wagons, World Rally Championship winning pedigree, overall build quality and reliability, and enviable brand loyalty.


Enhancing the value equation, the new 2018 Crosstrek comes in a new entry-level trim dubbed Convenience, with the model's three additional trims including Touring, Sport and Limited, the latter two also available with the brand's EyeSight advanced driver-assistance systems.

If you're not familiar with EyeSight, the package includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision warning and autonomous emergency braking, lead vehicle start alert, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, and new for 2018, lane keep assist, which is another way of saying autonomous corrective steering.


One of the safest compact crossover SUVs available 

Additionally, Sport and Limited models upgraded with EyeSight also get auto high beams and reverse automatic braking, while all Sport and Limited trims also receive the new Subaru Rear/Side Vehicle Detection System (SRVD) featuring blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and lane change assist.

If you think that's impressive, consider that Sport and Limited trims also feature steering-responsive full low- and high-beam LED headlights, while all 2018 Crosstrek trims come standard with helpful dynamic guidelines for the rearview camera. I certainly can't think of a safer compact crossover SUV in either the mainstream or premium sector, and we've only touched on the benefits of Symmetrical all-wheel drive that add another element of active safety to this impressive little five-door.


It's too early to tell if these upgrades will qualify the 2018 Crosstrek for the IIHS' most coveted Top Safety Pick Plus rating, but the 2017 Impreza was honoured with this distinction when outfitted with its optional front crash prevention and upgraded headlights, so it's pretty safe to say the new Crosstrek will follow suit. After all, even before these improvements arrived for 2018, similarly equipped versions of the old model managed Top Safety Pick status for six consecutive years, so with the new stronger, 70-percent stiffer platform architecture, which is claimed to improve crash energy absorption by a considerable 40 percent, earning the IIHS "Plus" suffix should be a cakewalk.


Standard all-wheel drive gives Crosstrek the road safety advantage 

At first glance the Crosstrek's base price of $23,995 plus freight and fees seems to put it at a slight disadvantage compared to some immediate rivals, but after factoring in that every competitor starts with front-wheel drive and the Crosstrek is not only standard with all-wheel drive, but more specifically Subaru's well respected full-time Symmetrical AWD that's ideally lined up down the centre of the vehicle for the best possible weight distribution and power delivery, the advantage is clearly in its favour. What's more, the Crosstrek's platform architecture was designed from the outset to work solely with AWD. Added to this is the optional X-Mode terrain response system, which was designed for tackling rougher off-road trails that most of its challengers wouldn't dare venture onto

The fully loaded 2018 Crosstrek Limited with EyeSight seen on this page is priced quite a bit higher at $33,195 before freight and fees, but this is still a superb deal when compared to some of the mainstream volume branded subcompact SUVs it competes against that can quickly pass $40,000 when outfitted with similar features.


Features in mind, base Crosstrek Convenience trim includes AWD, sharp looking 17-inch machine-finish alloys, a rooftop spoiler, roof rails, power-adjustable heated side mirrors, remote access, tilt and telescopic steering, a trip computer, variable intermittent wipers, cruise control, filtered air conditioning, the previously mentioned high-resolution colour 6.5-inch Starlink infotainment touchscreen with a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming (with Near Field Communication that really improves pairing), aux and USB ports, four-wheel discs with ABS, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, traction and stability control, all the usual airbags including one for the driver's knees, and much more.


Standard and optional features that really set the Crosstrek apart

Move up to $25,295 Touring trim and the equipment list grows to include auto on/off headlamps, fog lights, a windshield wiper de-icer, a shark's fin roof antenna, welcome lighting, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter with orange stitching, single-zone auto climate control, a 4.2-inch colour multi-information display in the gauge cluster, a 6.3-inch colour LCD multifunction display over the centre stack on the dash top, six-speaker audio (instead of four), heatable front seats, chromed inner door handles, premium cloth upholstery with orange stitching, a folding rear centre armrest with integrated cupholders, a retractable cargo cover, and more.


Choosing $27,795 Sport trim increases content to include the steering-responsive LED headlamps and SRVD safety system mentioned earlier, plus more orange stitching on the door panels, unique sport upholstery (again with orange stitching), alloy sport pedals, a powered driver's seat, larger 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment, satellite radio, two more USB ports, illuminated vanity mirrors, a powered moonroof, etcetera.

Lastly, $31,695 Limited trim adds a standard Lineartronic CVT with X-Mode and hill descent control, stylish 18-inch machine-finished alloys, some additional chrome exterior trim, turn signals on the side mirror housings, some nice satin-silver interior detailing, charcoal grey perforated leather upholstery with orange stitching for a truly upscale look and feel, unique orange double stitching on the instrument panel that really adds to its sporty demeanor, door armrests, and seats, always welcome dual-zone auto HVAC, precise navigation, great sounding 432-watt eight-speaker Harman/Kardon premium audio, and more.


Strong reliable performance with a nod to fuel-efficiency 

Of note, Sport and Limited models with EyeSight also get proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition, the latter starting up Subaru's well-proven DOHC, 16-valve 2.0-litre horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine tuned to produce 152 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque thanks to new direct fuel injection. It's joined up to a hill-holder assisted six-speed manual gearbox in Convenience, Touring and Sport trims, with the CVT optional in each if desired, and standard with the Limited as already noted. The autobox includes seven stepped gear ratios that can be modulated via paddle shifters in Sport EyeSight models and above, these adding a bit more performance to a powertrain that most should find more than adequate.

The Crosstrek is quite efficient too, with a claimed five-cycle fuel economy rating of 10.5 L/100km in the city and 8.1 on the highway with the manual or an even more agreeable 8.8 city and 7.2 highway with the CVT, while all variables qualify for ultra-clean Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (PZEV) status.


Where the Crosstrek outshines many of those competitors mentioned earlier is in driving dynamics, both when it comes to performance handling and ride quality. While all of its rivals feature MacPherson front struts to maintain control and iron out road imperfections, the Crosstrek's fully independent suspension setup also boasts double-wishbones in back plus stabilizer bars at both ends, the result being excellent road-holding through fast-paced corners and near unflappable stability, even when dips or bumps arrive mid-turn. Of course, the old Crosstrek benefited from a fully independent suspension too, but real gains have been made from the new more rigid platform, the improvements obvious as soon as the car gets underway. Most noticeable was its newfound refinement, the Crosstrek now one of the quietest subcompact SUVs on the market.


Roomier and more comfortable than the outgoing model 

That new platform is responsible for more interior room too, the new 2,665-mm wheelbase increased by 30 mm over the previous version, yet the 2018 Crosstrek's length is only extended by 15 mm and width by 20 mm. I noticed more rear seat room than the previous version, now having approximately eight inches in front of my knees plus plenty of foot room when the driver's seat was set for my five-foot-eight medium-build frame, plus about four inches above my head, the same four inches beside my shoulders and at least five next to my hips. The folding leather-covered armrest at centre was perfectly placed for ideal comfort too.


The rear seatbacks once again fold 60/40 into a very functional flat load floor. Subaru claims there's a wider rear gate too, which means that its overall passenger/cargo capability has improved. By the numbers the new Crosstrek can haul 588 litres of gear in the very back and 1,631 litres with rear passengers removed and the seats lowered, the latter number a significant 161 litres more than last year's model.

Ground clearance is 221 mm, by the way, which together with its much-better-than-average AWD system makes the Crosstrek a lot more useful for trudging through snowy ski hill parking lots than most challengers, or for that matter tackling light- and even some medium-duty off-road trails. 


Same good looks with a bit more premium sophistication 

I've yet to say much about the new Crosstrek's styling, and rather than delve into all the details you can clearly see for yourself, I'm just going to give it two thumbs up for not deviating from the original model's design too much. I really liked the previous generation and continue to like this one a lot too, the new one adding a touch of sophistication to the funky five-door shape, especially when the LED headlights are added

The new model wowed me more inside as mentioned previously, with a level of materials quality, fit, finish, and refinement that puts some premium-branded models to shame. This, together with ergonomics that fit me to a T, the 2018 Crosstrek is a car that I could get very used to having in my personal long-term fleet. I certainly have no qualms recommending you check one out for yourself.

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