2018 Subaru Crosstrek First Review
Starting Price: $22,710 | Price yours
Engine: 152-horsepower 4-cylinder
Fuel Economy: 29 mpg combined (auto)
Warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles
Similar: VW Alltrack, Jeep Renegade, Chevrolet Trax, Nissan Rogue Sport, Fiat 500X
A Winning Recipe for Adventure, with Tasty New Ingredients
When it debuted in 2013 as the XV Crosstrek, it was questionable whether an all-new Subaru that was essentially a lifted and ruggedized Impreza hatchback would strike a chord with buyers. The answer didn't take long. Just three years later, it was Subaru's third-best selling model behind the Outback and Forester. Leave it to Subaru to not only make a hatchback desirable to SUV-crazed consumers, but to do it so successfully that rivals soon sprouted. Of course, part of the appeal of the Crosstrek (it dropped the XV in its name a couple of years ago), is that is can be considered a crossover in the truest sense -- an automotive melding of hatchback utility, SUV-like ground clearance and all-wheel drive, and sedan-like road manners.
Now comes the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek, an all-new version that ushers in the model's second generation. Much of the formula remains the same, and given the initial model's success it's difficult to argue with that logic. The rugged 5-door hatchback design is fresher yet familiar, with a slight growth in size that translates to more interior room. Look closer, though, and you'll see this has truly been revamped. Following the Impreza, the Crosstrek is the second model to use the Subaru Global Platform that has been engineered for better driving manners, more comfort, and an even higher degree of safety.
A bevy of new technology has also been loaded into the new Crosstrek, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility as standard. And of course it wouldn't be a Subaru if it didn't boast all-wheel drive as standard, which has long given Subarus an edge over competitors and have made them beloved in cold-weather states and among the adventure-minded.
Subaru invited us to South Dakota to be among the first the drive the 2018 Crosstrek. Under an expansive sky, countless miles of dirt roads, and the granite-faced gaze of four famous presidents, we spent a day and hundreds of miles fleshing out this new crossover. Here's what we found on this first drive.
In the City
This is where we spent the least amount of our time because, well, we didn't really drive through any bustling metropolises during our time in South Dakota. About the only thing that qualified as traffic occurred on the main drag of Deadwood, with a population of less than 1,300 and what seemed like an equal number of tourists.
Still, it didn't take a trip to Manhattan to know the Crosstrek would be a fine city dweller. It's a small car, after all, so it's easy to slot into parking spaces. Good visibility, another Subaru hallmark, adds to its ease in urban dwellings. One of the best traits about this new Crosstrek is one that it doesn't have anymore: aggressive throttle tip in. This tendency to lurch from a stop appears to have been scrubbed from these new Subarus.
On the Highway
The Crosstrek is a comfortable vehicle for its size. It's not as agile or as fun to drive as a Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, but this higher-riding all-wheel-drive utility vehicle feels plusher. Same story for the steering. Whereas the Alltrack's steering wheel is firmer, more nuanced and tells you what's going on beneath the wheels, the Crosstrek's is quite soft and takes little effort to steer.
Here we must also talk about the Subie's acceleration. While the engine has been revamped, power output remains modest at best. The 4-cylinder boxer engine makes 152 horsepower, only a 4-horsepower bump over the outgoing model. Comparing it again to the Alltrack with its turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes 170 horsepower, it shouldn't be a surprise that the Crosstrek doesn't feel quick. Side note 1: Here's where the enthusiast in us must ask: Wouldn't it be great to have a turbocharged Crosstrek? Side note 2: Sorry, but the only alternative powertrain mentioned by execs at the media launch is an alternative-power one, such as a hybrid.
We'll end this section on a sweeter note. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) that most Crosstreks will be sold with feels ever more natural, and if you get a model with paddle shifters (Premium or Limited trims), you can even exercise it as you see fit. Also notable is the work that went into quieting the Crosstrek. Less of the boxer engine's inherent gruffness can be heard at startup and under full acceleration.
Now we come into the Crosstrek's natural territory: roads that are not paved or are otherwise traction-compromised. We spent hours barreling down dusty and desolate dirt roads in the all-new Crosstrek, sometimes going at speeds we probably shouldn't have. On these paths the Subie's advanced all-wheel-drive system truly helped us feel confident, while its commendable 8.7 inches of ground clearance kept the underbody scrape-free.
Combined with advanced traction management, the Crosstrek always kept its composure. This was the case even when we flung the Subaru into a corner hard, allowing it to slide across the dirt. The Crosstrek actually let itself drift a moment before its systems kicked in. This allowed some hoonish-type fun before the electronic safety nets kicked in to keep us from sliding too far.
For a steeper challenge -- literally -- we visited a quarry brimming with quarry-like terrain, namely rocks, loose gravel and mountain made up of both. Here we tested X-Mode with hill descent control, Subaru's off-road system that comes to the Crosstrek for the first time with this new model. Standard on models with an automatic transmission, the system manages throttle and braking on steep slopes, which lets you focus on steering the vehicle to stay on its intended path. After we engaged X-Mode with the simple press of a button near the transmission selector, the Crosstrek crawled down the slope with assuredness and ease.
Hey, There's a Third Pedal!
Manual transmissions by their nature are usually more engaging to drive, if for nothing else because of the driver involvement needed to use them. This holds true of the new Crosstrek, but we didn't find it all that satisfying. To our foot, the clutch pedal felt on the spongy side, and the gear selector could be notchy. After a couple of hours we became more acclimated to the Crosstrek's manual, but it still didn't feel as crisp overall as we'd wished. If you're thinking of one, see how it feels to your senses first.
The 2018 Crosstrek comes with one of three touch-screen infotainment systems, from the base Starlink 6.5-inch Multimedia system to an 8-inch system, with or without navigation. Whichever one you go with, it has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility standard -- great news for smartphone compatibility out the gate.
The base audio system only has four speakers, while Premium and Limited models get six and a CD player. Optional on Limited models is a 432-watt Harman/Kardon system, which marks the first time a premium audio system has been offered on the Crosstrek. Optional on all trims is a Rockford Fosgate audio system for $499.
We felt the Crosstrek's front seats were perfectly adequate for the task at hand. They neither overwhelmed with soothing comfort, nor did they leave us aching after a day's drive. All models have 6-way adjustable driver's seat and 4-way adjustable passenger seat. Cloth is standard in base and mid trims, while top-line Limited models are lined in leather. For the first time on a Crosstrek, power adjustment for the driver's seat can be had on Limited models. If we could wish for one thing, it'd be adjustable lumbar support.
The rear passenger area of the Crosstrek is surprisingly roomy, with 36.5 inches of legroom and a seating position that grants a good view out the windows. Despite the Crosstrek's sloped roof, there's still decent headroom in back. As is the case with most compact cars, the rear seat can technically fit three across, but that'd be a squeeze. All models have rear seats that fold in a 60/40-split.
Most crossovers and SUVs say they have "flat-folding" seats, but rarely does flat mean flat. Fold the Crosstrek's rear seats, however, and you'll see what flat should look like. With seats folded, you can cram up to 55.3 cubic feet of gear into the cargo space, while even with the rear seats up you get 20.8 cubic feet. This is why hatchbacks are so practical. Additionally, roof rails are standard, so strap on that bike or kayak. If you need to haul more gear still, the Crosstrek is rated to tow, unlike some subcompact crossover rivals. Granted, at 1,500 pounds you won't be pulling a house, but at least you can pull something.
Subarus are surprisingly fuel-efficient, something which is especially laudable given that most are all-wheel drive. The latest Crosstrek continues to put up impressive numbers, with CVT automatic models earning a 29 mpg combined and manual transmission models rated at 25. We should note that in our time with the manual model, the car showed figures markedly higher, in the mid-30 range. As they say, your mileage may vary.
If you consider the Crosstrek a subcompact SUV, it has a bevy of rivals ranging from the Mazda CX-3 and Nissan Juke to the Chevy Track and Fiat 500X. We think its most direct competitor is the slightly larger Volkswagen Golf Alltrack. As with the Crosstrek, the Alltrack is essentially a lifted, ruggedized, all-wheel-drive version of an existing 5-door hatchback, in the VW's case the Golf Sportwagen. As we've noted, the VW is more powerful, feels more dynamic and fun to drive, and it also offers a manual transmission or a 6-speed twin-clutch automatic. But it has less ground clearance, a higher starting price, and if history is indicative, will have lower residual value.
Inside and Out: 2018 Subaru Crosstrek Photo Gallery
Trims, Specs and Sticker Prices
As with the outgoing model, the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek comes in three trims: 2.0i (base), 2.0i Premium, and 2.0i Limited.
Starting Price: $22,710 (all prices listed here include $915 destination charge)
2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine
Symmetrical all-wheel drive
6-speed manual transmission (add $1,000 for CVT automatic)
1,500-pound towing capacity
6.5-inch touchscreen multimedia system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, AM/FM stereo, USB port with iPod control, Bluetooth audio streaming and auxiliary jack
17-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires
Crosstrek 2.0i Premium
Starting Price: $23,510
Body-color folding side mirrors
Windshield wiper de-icer and heated side mirrors
Leather-wrapped steering wheel
Heated front seats
Starlink Safety and Security with automatic collision notification, SOS emergency assistance, enhanced roadside assistance and stolen vehicle recovery
Available EyeSight Driver Assist Technology with adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist package (CVT only, $1,395)
Available moonroof and blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert package (CVT only, $1,400)
Available Eyesight + Moonroof + Blind-spot monitoring package (CVT only, $2,395)
6-speed manual transmission (add $1,000 for CVT automatic)
Crosstrek 2.0i Limited
Starting Price: $27,210
CVT automatic transmission standard
Leather-trimmed upholstery with orange stitching
Power driver's seat
Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert
Automatic single-zone climate control
8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with AM/FM/HD Radio, CD player, dual USB inputs and voice-activated controls
Keyless access with push-button start and PIN-code vehicle access
18-inch alloy wheels
LED steering responsive headlights
Color multifunction dash display
Folding rear-seat armrest with cup holders
Available EyeSight Driver Assist Technology with high-beam assist, reverse automatic braking, moonroof ($2,095)
Available EyeSight Driver Assist package with navigation and Harmon/Kardon premium audio ($3,445)
2018 Subaru Crosstrek Specs
Engine: 2.0-liter flat (horizontally opposed or "boxer") 4-cylinder
Transmission: CVT automatic or 6-speed manual
Drivetrain: All-wheel drive (AWD)
Horsepower: 152 hp 6,000 rpm
Torque: 145 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Manual Transmission Fuel Economy: 25 mpg combined (23 city, 29 highway)
CVT Automatic Transmission Fuel Economy 29 mpg combined (27 city, 33 highway)
Towing Capacity: 1,500 lb
Base Curb Weight: 3,113 lb
Wheelbase: 104.9 inches
Length: 175.8 inches
Width: 71 inches
Height: 63.6 inches (including roof rails)
Ground Clearance: 8.7 inches
Cargo Space Behind Rear Seat Upright/Folded: 20.8/55.3, cu ft
Final Assembly: Japan
More New and Redesigned Models for 2018