2018 Subaru Crosstrek Review

There’s something to be said about making do with what you’ve got. 

Whether it’s turning lemons into lemonade or using a wrench to hammer some nails, getting that end result is the ultimate goal. And when you’re at a disadvantage or have limitations to deal with, you have to be clever to deliver.

And while the new 2018 Subaru Crosstrek isn’t handicapped in any way, it still packs a 2.0-liter four-cylinder boxer engine with 152 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. It’s a perfectly adequate engine for everyday commuting, but when you’re sitting at the bottom of a 72 percent grade uphill climb, a few doubts will creep into your mind.

ALSO SEE: Where Is Subaru From and Where Are Subarus Made?

Mat the gas pedal, and the small crossover attacks the hill, but somewhere past the halfway point, its momentum is feeling less effective. Doubts are had. Breaths are held. “Will it roll back? Can it finish the climb?” But with the gas pedal still firmly planted on the floor, the car inches forward bit by bit. It’s Bizarro-Gandalf in the Fellowship of the Rings. “You SHALL Pass!” it says as it urges forward and triumphantly reaches the summit. This interesting situation really highlights the plucky strength and charm of the new Subaru Crosstrek.

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Of course, a huge part of this particular equation is the X-Mode drive setting that was introduced this year on Crosstreks with automatic transmissions. X-Mode helps the car maintain traction and grip in slippery conditions. It’s just one part of the Crosstrek that has been seriously improved in order to maintain the car’s adventurous personality while also raising its refinement levels and day-to-day livability.

New Architecture, New Look

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Now entering its second generation, the big story with the Crosstrek is that it’s built on new architecture. This didn’t lead to massive changes dimensionally, as the car is only slightly longer and wider than before. These slight increases deliver more space in the cabin, specifically the rear seats, which are more livable than before. Behind those seats, there’s enough space to stack three golf bags (for all the golfers out there) or exactly 20.8 cubic feet (for all the non-golfers out there). Slap those rear seats down and the cargo capacity expands to 55.2 cubic feet, which is downright cavernous compared to subcompact crossovers out there.

ALSO SEE: 2017 Subaru Forester Limited Review

Style wise, the car has body cladding that makes it look rugged and adventurous in the same way you’d look at someone with a barbed-wire tattoo and assume, “Yeah he’d be helpful when I need to move my furniture around.”

With its 8.7 inches of ground clearance, the Crosstrek will easily tackle muddy, gravelly and snowy roads with ease. Higher trim level models come with flashy 18-inch wheels that look like ninja stars.

Completely New Interior

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While the exterior design isn’t anything radical, the interior has been thoroughly redone for this generation. The previous Crosstrek always seemed a bit Spartan and low-rent, but this model comes with a fantastic design and plenty of high-end-feeling materials. Stylish two-tone leather seats are also available.

The dashboard design is all new and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support come standard. The new Subaru StarLink infotainment system is now easier to use and much more responsive. In addition to that, there are other bright and easy-to-read screens that provide more useful information.

Subaru also updated the EyeSight suite of safety equipment that’s offered on the Crosstrek. It has adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane-keep assist and reverse automatic braking. There’s also a new high-beam assist function to prevent you from blinding oncoming motorists. The automaker believes that the car will earn the coveted Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the IIHS like the new Impreza did earlier this year.

The Track and the Trails

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But the big news with this year’s crossover is the new platform. It’s stiffer and the suspension has been completely redone, which really helps the car’s on-road manners, which was a point of criticism with the last-generation model. It’s the second product built on Subaru’s new global, scalable architecture that will expand to the rest of the brand’s lineup.

To prove its point, Subaru brought us to a track just to show how much more responsive and agile the car is. And true to form, the small crossover was surprisingly well behaved. In particular, the steering response was nice and quick, as the car features the same ratio rack as the company’s BRZ sports coupe. Body roll was decently controlled, considering we’re talking about a crossover on the track.

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The powertrains have been reworked too, but it might not seem that way based on their power ratings. Now making 152 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque, Subaru says it changed 80 percent of the components in the 2.0-liter boxer engine. While it doesn’t feel particularly powerful or fast, the engine is more responsive and those ponies come on about 500 rpm sooner. The Crosstrek can still feel a little sluggish and the engine sounds terrible when taxed. The new manual transmission gets an extra gear, bringing the total to six, but it never feels engaging or fun. The CVT model has been retuned and gets the previously mentioned X-Mode drive setting, which provides hill descent control and optimizes a number of settings for better off-road capability.

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In an off-road test that Subaru set up for us, the car didn’t seem at all fazed by rough terrain or intimidating downhill segments. It even handled a see-saw and river crossing obstacle with ease. That’s really the beauty of this car, as it can go from driving on the roads to riding on the trails without a compromised ride quality.

Buyers in this segment are usually looking for good fuel economy and should be happy with the 27 mpg city and 33 mpg highway ratings that the CVT model gets.

The Verdict: 2018 Subaru Crosstrek Review

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The 2018 Subaru Crosstrek arrives as a versatile, do-anything kind of crossover. With its excellent size and capability, it has become a good choice for many buyers.  Now more advanced and refined, this car is priced right in that sweet spot of $23,000 in the U.S., meaning this small crossover should be on every buyer’s shortlist.

 

19 Comments

joecompute says:

I’m guessing that what we see in the pictures above is nowhere near the “23K” sweet spot they mention.

toysbyus says:

We just picked up our 2018 Crosstrek Ltd…loaded with sunroof, Eyesight and all of the techno gear options (Blind Spot warning, Cross Traffic Alert, Automatic Rear Braking, etc.) and it priced out at 29K………and, BTW, we LOVE it. Get a Premium model and you’ll be closer to the “sweet” spot. A totally different and more impressive experience than that afforded by the earlier generation model. Could the engine be more powerful? Sure…..but as is, it’s fine for 90% of the target group of drivers. They’ll sell a lot of them, limited ONLY by the short supply due to being shipped in from Japan.

Jonny_Vancouver says:

All of the above and the fact that it’s made in Japan is enough to make me seriously consider purchasing one! Besides, one can always add a bit more power later without voiding the warranty.

toysbyus says:

Just got back from a mixed drive of 200 miles, car still only has approx. 300+ miles on it and we were shifting down and up to vary the rpms and break the engine in carefully, drove approx. 70-75 MPH down to 60MPH and still managed approx. 31.8 MPG………sure, it could use a bit more power BUT this is still a really good ride……

Chris Harper says:

Gerrrr…. Test drove the new Sport with a manual transmission to see if, when available, the new Crosstrek would be the answer to my power woes with my 2015 CVT Crosstrek. NOPE! The drive by wire system makes the driver feel disconnected from what is going on under the hood. Perhaps this is Subaru’s way of pushing people into the CVT. While the quality and AWD are great, Subaru always seems to come up short on power. I just don’t get it, it’s WRX or nothing. I’ve grown tired of always having to be on the defensive with the brake pedal because the throttle, in a pinch, just isn’t there when you need it. Subaru, I’m willing to sacrifice some gas mileage for safer responsiveness.

Richard Joash Tan says:

AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!

carpandean says:

I, too, have a 2015 Crosstrek and I’ve said from the beginning that on a manual, if I press the gas, I want it to get more fuel. Don’t try to think for me. If I wanted that, I’d get a CVT. I want manual to feel connected with the road and in control of the power train.

Sorry to hear that the 2018 isn’t better.

Rudedog Chew TheFinale says:

Listen. Take the white milk carton off the bottom of the air intake. Let it open. Replace Air Filter with K&N. That’s it! The power and speed increases greatly.

(Atleast the 2.5i engines. I assume the 2.0 are similar)

#justsaying

Paul Sofolarides says:

Really? Maybe I will try that.

Jonny_Vancouver says:

I agree, on a 2.0, you should notice a difference if you swap out the stock air filter with K&N performance intake. Opt for a Cold air intake if you can, and consider swapping out your exhaust (Flowmaster, Magnaflow) too for better flow. Those two upgrades are the basics and simplest for gaining more power without tampering with the engine. Both upgrades will change your sound too, in a good way, if done right.

RJR says:

I’d like to see some test results of performance with factory air filter vs: K &N. My guess is no discernible gain in performance, but the sound makes you think you’re going faster. “Power and speed increases greatly”… I doubt it. If it were that easy, the manufacturer would do it.

Rudedog Chew says:

Really? I’ve done it on both my 2.5i Subarus and it works. Have you tried it? No? Well then, shut it. When I cruise at 100 mph easily instead of straining at 85, I am thrilled with my hack. So get with the program. Take out the HEPA air filter along with the stock air filter, along with removal of the “milk carton”; add KN FILTER. HUGGGGGGE difference.

RJR says:

“shut it” ?? Aww, so sorry I hurt your 100mph fragile ego. I’ve tried my share of K&N and other “bolt-on performance mods”. I’d still like to see some verified test results of your “HUGGGGGGE difference.”

Rudedog Chew says:

No tests. I’ll keep it to myself. I have fun. Doubters gonna doubt.

I love you.

Better?

RJR says:

It’s all good… I put those fancy SS gas/brake pedal covers on my Golf Mk VII TDI, and some SS/Chrome exhaust tips and she feels much faster now !! Enjoy your ride!

Paul Sofolarides says:

I have a 2014 and it’s ok but so under powered as soon as you put the AC on and try to go up any hills it dogs it. The best mpg I could get as 24.5 per gallon

Sancho Alconce says:

While the other peoples of the world preference for cars are those that sip their juices, there are those in the US that are still obsessed with petrol gulping muscle cars for everyday use unmindful of their disproportionate share of the worlds fossil fuels.

Richard Joash Tan says:

AND EVERYONE ARE ALL BULLSHIT! LOOK AT ME, I AM SMART BECAUSE I DO NOT CARE ABOUT POWER OR FUEL ECONOMY! I HAVE A BIGGEST PREFERENCE FOR CARS THAT CAN DO EVERYTHING I WANT!

Matt Burt says:

I’d like to see a 2.5 XT version!