The more and more I drive Subaru offerings, the more I can see why owners are so loyal to the brand.
My personal favourite is the current model Outback because I love the station wagon look (well, at least the modern ones). It all stems from driving a 1987 Volvo 240 DL Wagon from ages 16 to 24.
With the SUV/CUV craze showing no signs of slowing down, Subaru’s smallest offering (categorically classified as a subcompact but it looks and feels bigger), the 2016 Crosstrek, sits nicely beneath the Forester, giving buyers an option if they don’t want the Impreza hatchback’s conservative styling and capabilities. No shot against the Impreza…rather, it’s simply a matter of “different strokes for different folks.”
The Subaru Crosstrek looks good and the majority of pictures on the Subaru website show it in rugged terrain opposed to the urban jungle. It’s got clean lines, the signature rims are still intact and the pronounced wheel arches give it an athletic feel.
The generous 8.66” of ground clearance (before loading people and stuff inside) is great for outdoor adventuring and you’ll have to try really hard to scratch the bumper in parking lots on concrete wheel stops. The 17” standard wheels look great and there’s a clean look about the Crosstrek.
If there was a “bring Jay Kana to work day” at Subaru, I’d nudge one of the engineers and say “those square tail lights…any chance we can add some vertical/horizontal design accents on them?” I don’t mind them but if I had a say, I’d add a bit of flair to them.
Powering all Crosstreks is a 2.0 four cylinder Subaru BOXER engine that spits out 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft. of torque. While not the strongest in its class, it still gets the job done respectfully, smoothly and that good ol’ Subaru All-Wheel-Drive system is damn great.
I was able to drive the five-speed manual for three days and then the automatic with CVT for the other four days of my test week. And while I’ve wrestled with how to present this part of the review for a few weeks, there’s no simple way to buffer it or preface it.
Deep breaths, Jay, deep breaths.
The five speed manual gearbox was a disappointment. There. I said it. Out loud. On the internet. Where it’ll stay forever.
The throws weren’t crisp (I know Subaru is capable of making a killer DIY gearbox), there are only five speeds (that sixth gear should really be there), and when I was in fifth doing 115 km/h, the engine was screaming at over 3,000 RPM and it made me flinch and say to myself “Ummm, am I doing this wrong?”
My 2005 Mazda 3 GT had a five speed box and it hovered over 3,000 RPM at 115 km/h but then again, that was technology over a decade old.
The auto box was a drastic improvement and the revs landed in the mid-2000’s on the highway and I think this just may be the only time I’ll choose two over three pedals. It was a night and day difference to me and I would definitely recommend the CVT in a heartbeat for the 2016 Crosstrek. Good thing, too, since the majority of consumers are opting for being left-foot-lazy.
Fuel economy for the automatic rings in at 9.1/7.0 city/highway for L/100 km.
Fuel economy for the manual rates higher at 10.2 and 7.7
You’ll fill up to 60 litres of 87 octane in the Crosstrek at the pump.
Driving-wise, well, it’s a Subaru so it handles the road well, is comfortable to drive and dirt roads (or most anything unpaved) will be a breeze to navigate through.
Moving on to the interior, there’s orange stitching throughout for a cool appearance, the seats are comfortable and the driver has a higher vantage point than you’d think from looking at the exterior.
In the Touring and Sport trims, a 6.2” infotainment touchscreen frames the front end and that gets upgraded to a 7” screen for those opting for the Limited trim.
With such a marginal difference in size, (the manual was a Sport trim, the auto was a Limited trim, so I experienced both) there’s not much of a noticeable change as you interact with the technology. The only drawback to the smaller screen is you lose out on the navigation option.
Google Maps App, to the rescue! The dashboard gives you a 4.3” colour screen providing all relevant driving information that’s also easy to read.
For a bit of extra cash and in automatic only, you can opt for Subaru’s sweet EYESIGHT technology suite of safety features and the car received an IIHS Top Safety Pick, which comes as no surprise.
I didn’t feel cramped at all during my week in the Crosstrek, although if you tried to put a third person in the rear seats, you may hear some disgruntled words from time to time.
The higher ground clearance and all-wheel drive system give it a “hiking boots” feel opposed to a “running shoe” feel with other hatchbacks in the segment.
Ranging from $24,995 for the base model Touring and running up to $31,895 for the Limited with Technology package, there’s (thankfully) only five trims to choose from, each with its own set of benefits. Well, six if you count the hybrid option.
Even the Touring trim comes with a backup camera, Bluetooth, and fog lights, which is attractive for those who don’t want to climb the Crosstrek trim ladder past the first rung.
Subaru has delivered a terrific small hatch with lots of utilitarianism (1470 L of cargo space with the rear seats folded), good looks and one that can be enjoyed in both rural and urban environments.
I’d put a bit more juice beneath the hood in future models. Not too much - the 170 horsepower from the Forester would do just fine. Oh, and include a sixth gear for the manual. Otherwise, the Crosstrek is a solid option for those looking for versatility in the segment without losing sleep over the price.
Subaru’s CUV/hatch offering is a great alternative for those who can’t decide between the two and want the best of both worlds.
Enjoy the full gallery below: