2018 Subaru Crosstrek : Review
A seasoned automotive journalist once told us that Americans didn’t want to buy hatchbacks, so the manufacturers lifted them up a few inches and renamed them crossovers, and now they’re hot sellers. That’s exactly how Subaru created the Crosstrek (previously named the Subaru XV Crosstrek) back in 2012, by restyling an Impreza hatchback after raising the suspension. It was the perfect car at the perfect time for Subaru and added to their successful stable of vehicles that are loved by outdoor enthusiasts. Its popularity has grown along with the brand, achieving its highest sales month in June, just as the new model began production.
Now the second-generation 2018 Subaru Crosstrek is here, and it’s built on their impressive new Global Platform. We first experienced that platform with the launch of the 2017 Subaru Impreza, but regrettably have never driven the outgoing Crosstrek. We’ve admired them on the road for many years, seemingly always accompanied on the roof by skis, kayaks, or mountain bikes. So we weren’t surprised when Subaru invited us to go
camping glamping in the Black Hills of South Dakota for the press launch of the new Crosstrek. Subaru owners love the outdoors, so it only made sense to test the new Crosstrek in real world conditions. Sadly, they neglected to provide us each with a dog upon check-in.
Subaru thought of every detail, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time reconnecting with nature at Camp Crosstrek. The setting was as amazing as it looks, and it was certainly the most unique launch event we’ve ever attended. Our only complaint would be to the sun, which woke us up in the mornings by turning our tent into a sweat lodge. Without the judging rays of the sun, we may have just lounged in the campsite all day and missed the opportunity to drive the new Crosstrek. That would have been a terrible mistake, as driving the rugged compact-crossover on the fabulous dirt roads of the Black Hills was more fun than we bargained for. Get a taste of our three days in South Dakota with the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek by watching the short video below, and then continue reading for our full review. Be on the lookout for Cattle though, they can cross the trail at any moment!
Since our focus was on video, all photos in this article were provided by Subaru.
You’d be forgiven for not spotting the differences at first glance when looking at the exterior of the new Crosstrek. Often when vehicles are selling well, manufacturers don’t want to mess with success, so exterior changes are subtle. The vehicle is indeed all-new though, and upon closer inspection the more sculptural body is probably the most striking difference. There are indeed also tweaks to the brand’s signature hexagonal grille, hawk-eye headlights, and front fascia. We’re particularly fond of the black side and wheel-arch cladding, lower rocker panels and roof rails which provide a sharp contrast to the lighter body colors. The 2018 Crosstrek is slightly larger, growing 0.6 inches in length, and 0.9 inches in width. The wheelbase has grown by 1.2 inches over the previous generation to 104.9. The changes help give the new Crosstrek a more rugged appearance without losing the sporty character that has appealed to existing Subaru owners.
We’re not going to lie though, our favorite exterior feature is the return of orange as a paint color option. You may have noticed we’re a bit partial to that color here at Gunaxin. Tangerine Orange Pearl was the name of the color when the 2013 model debuted, and for many people, that color helped to distinguish the Crosstrek brand. Sadly it was replaced by Hyper Blue when the 2016 model went on sale. Subaru tells us that orange actually outsold black on the Crosstrek, and by popular demand, the 2018 model is triumphantly once again offered in orange. The shade is slightly different, and thus it has a new name, Sunshine Orange. Due to our love of the color, that is the vehicle we drove for most of the day, and the photos we have selected to share with you in our feature. However to prove that the Crosstrek is indeed offered in other flavors, here is a group shot:
While the exterior changes were modest, updates to the interior of the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek are far more striking. Nearly everything has changed, but the most notable difference is the re-designed center console which gives more focus to the multimedia touchscreen display (6.5 inch in Base & Premium, 8 inch in Limited model) that is flanked by vertically oriented vents. Sadly that touchscreen is home to the only concern we found during our day driving the Crosstrek, its navigation. We tried both Tom Tom and Apple CarPlay, and found the roads nearly impossible to see due to width and contrast with the background. It’s possible this was due to our test-drive terrain or a setting which we didn’t have time to find, but it’s something we suggest checking when you go to the dealership to drive one.
The Base and Premium trims are very well equipped, but as you would expect the Limited trim is the way to go if you want all of the things. Limited includes automatic climate control system, leather wrapped steering wheel and shifter, keyless access, push-button start, and a 6-way power driver’s seat. Our favorite interior configuration is the high-contrast gray leather with orange double stitching accents that is available as an option in the Limited trim. A new Harman/Kardon premium audio option is also available on the Crosstrek for the first time.
While we haven’t driven the outgoing model, we’re told the new Crosstrek is both roomier and quieter, which obviously makes it a more pleasant place to be. Interior space has grown more than the exterior dimensions would have you believe, due to new materials and more efficient use of that space. Finally, for those looking to load all forms of cargo into the rear hatch, you’ll be delighted to learn that the opening has been redesigned in order to increase its width by a whopping 4 inches.
The 2018 Subaru Crosstrek is an odd mix of being capable, fun to drive, and under-powered. The Crosstrek features a revised version of the FB 2.0 liter 4-cylinder Boxer engine with direct fuel injection. It produces 152 horsepower and 134 lb-ft of torque, which would probably be enough for most drivers, but it struggled at times in the mountains of South Dakota. Climbing slopes at altitude is a test for any engine, but it’s a test that we assume Subaru owners subject their vehicles to regularly with their affinity for skiing, hiking, and biking. For that reason we’d love to see a Crosstrek with a Turbo, but that’s not an option for 2018. However, when mated with the best continuously variable transmission (CVT) we’ve driven to date, fuel economy from the naturally aspirated Boxer is an impressive 29 mpg combined.
All models are equipped with Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, Active Torque Vectoring, and Raised Stablex Suspension. We put these systems to the test with spirited driving on a variety of un-paved surfaces and the Crosstrek handled everything we threw at it with ease.
Much of the improvements to the new Crosstrek come from the new Subaru Global Platform, which integrates a new framework with optimized cross sections and highly stiffened joints between structures to significantly enhance straight-line stability, agility, and ride comfort while suppressing noise, vibration, and harshness. Specifically, the new platform increases rigidity of the unitized body structure by over 70 percent.
While the Crosstrek isn’t really a serious off-roading rig, it is capable of more than you would expect and more than most customers will ever need. It has some impressive measurables; 8.7 inches of ground clearance, 18° approach angle, 29° departure angle, and 19.7° break-over angle. All trim levels with the Lineartronic CVT now come standard with driver-selectable X-Mode to provide better wheel control on slippery surfaces and steep inclines. To test this new feature, we drove the Crosstrek up and down a steep slope in a rock quarry. To be more accurate, we steered while the X-Mode hill-descent control handled the throttle and brake for us. It’s a good feature for those who lack confidence in tricky situations, but we’d never use it if we owned a Crosstrek, as we prefer the fun and challenge of being in complete control.
As with most vehicles that we drive these days, many of the advancements with the Crosstrek have been made in the area of safety. The outgoing model with EyeSight was named an IIHS Top Safety Pick for six years running, and the new platform raises the bar by improving crash energy absorption by 40 percent. The EyeSight system is mounted above the rear-view mirror and includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Automatic Pre-Collision Braking, Lane Departure & Sway Warning. Blind Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Steering Responsive Headlights, Reverse Automatic Braking, 4-way Tire Pressure Monitoring System, and Subaru Starlink with Safety Plus are also available.
The 2018 Subaru Crosstrek will cost you anywhere from about $22,000 to $30,000 for the fully loaded Limited version. It has been completely redesigned with all-new styling, performance, safety, capability, and comfort. And it’s Orange. We had a great time glamping with Subaru in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and even got to visit Mt. Rushmore. However it was our time behind the wheel of the Crosstrek while it kicked up dust that we loved the most.
If you read this review, there is a pretty good chance you either already belong to the Subaru tribe or know somebody who does. There’s a reason your hiking, biking, and skiing friends speak so highly of their Subarus. Subaru knows their customer well and despite an industry slowdown in 2017, they continue to grow because they deliver the vehicles, features, and culture that their customers want. Subaru drivers are among the most fiercely loyal in the industry and truly love their vehicles. With the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek, we think Subaru is giving them even more to love.