2018 Subaru Crosstrek Limited Road Test

Figuring out how the Crosstrek fits within Canada’s compact SUV segment isn’t entirely clear, but appreciating how important it is within Subaru’s sharply focused model lineup is all too obvious.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek Limited
A ground-up redesigned adds sophistication to the 2018 Crosstrek’s styling. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
The Crosstrek found nearly 10,000 buyers across the country last year, or 9,723 to be exact, which means that it’s starting to nudge up against the alternative Japanese brand’s popular Outback that sold 11,255 units during the same 12 months, as well as the next bestselling Impreza with 11,673 examples down the road in 2016, plus the all-important Forester that found a grand total of 13,798 buyers last year. The rest of the line includes the WRX/STI compact performance sedan with a total of 4,217 sales, the Legacy mid-size sedan with 3,001 deliveries, and the BRZ sports coupe with a total of 740 buyers.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek Limited
The new Crosstrek gets a slightly chunkier look all-round. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
It could be argued that the Crosstrek is most critical to Subaru’s bottom line because it’s more or less an Impreza hatchback with a lift kit, a beefier set of alloy rims, and some rugged looking exterior body cladding that gets produced in the same Lafayette, Indiana manufacturing plant, resulting in reduced development and production costs. Together with the compact four-door Impreza sedan and its five-door hatch sibling, the Impreza/Crosstrek trio managed 21,396 units last year, making this family of small cars far and away Subaru Canada’s bestselling combination.

The Impreza was totally redesigned for the 2017 model year and has grown in popularity since debuting the year before, its total sales over the first six months of 2017 already at 7,401 units, which could result in nearly 15,000 sales if growth remained consistent throughout the rest of the year. Will the redesigned 2018 Crosstrek’s fate prove similar?

2018 Subaru Crosstrek Limited
A new grille and front fascia adds plenty of visual presence. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Everything that made the 2017 Impreza an altogether better car than its predecessor is now part of the 2018 Crosstrek package, so it would make sense if the new Crosstrek achieved a similar sales growth trajectory. Of course, being a compact SUV it’s priced higher than its lower-slung sibling, despite the Impreza coming standard with Subaru’s highly regarded full-time Symmetrical all-wheel drive. In fact, you can get into an Impreza sedan for only $19,995, or $20,895 for the hatchback, whereas the Crosstrek will set you back $23,695, which is still great value for a compact crossover SUV, but a bit further from the entry-level consumer’s reach.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek Limited
Available LED headlights give the Crosstrek an upscale premium look and better nighttime safety. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
To be clear, Subaru sees the Crosstrek as more of a subcompact SUV than a tall wagon in the compact car class, or at least that’s the market segment the brand is trying to attract. After all, its $25,995 to $39,495 Forester is already making steadily stronger inroads within the ruthlessly competitive compact SUV segment, dueling it out with the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape and multitude of alternatives totaling 15 altogether, whereas the entry-level subcompact SUV segment has fewer challengers (currently 12 and growing) as well as an entirely new crop of first-time and fixed-income buyers that are critical for growing the brand over the short and long haul.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek Limited
New 18-inch wheels are exclusive to the Crosstrek Limited. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Of course, a larger Crosstrek will be seen as a better value than most subcompact SUV competitors that are priced similarly yet don’t deliver the same bang for the buck, at least size-for-size. When compared side-by-side within the subcompact SUV class, the Crosstrek becomes the second-bestselling model next to the 12,371-unit strong Honda HR-V. Yes, the Crosstrek’s 9,723 2016 sales topped the Mazda CX-3’s 9,354 deliveries, and the Chevy Trax’s 9,072, although the recently released Toyota CH-R and Nissan Qashqai could eventually get in the way of the Subaru’s second-bestselling status.

In the 2018 Crosstrek’s corner is the same new Subaru Global Platform that helped transform the Impreza from a competent compact car into one of the Honda Civic’s more convincing competitors, its stiffer more capable underpinnings resulting in the normally juxtaposed qualities of better handling and a smoother ride, plus greater refinement and an all-round quieter interior.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek Limited
The roof rails are standard, but the powered moonroof comes with Sport and Limited trims. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
What’s more, along with its sharper looking exterior design the Impreza, and now the new Crosstrek, benefit 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.

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 that was first introduced for the WRX and WRX STI, 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.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek Limited
The new Crosstrek looks good from all angles. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
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.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek Limited
A new LED taillight design is the most noticeable change from the rear. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Additionally, Sport and Limited models upgraded with EyeSight also get auto high beams and reverse automatic braking, but these two features aren’t technically part of the EyeSight upgrade, if that makes sense, 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 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.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek Limited
Subaru has upped the Crosstrek’s refinement dramatically. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
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.

As noted, the new Crosstrek starts at $23,995 plus freight and fees, which puts it at a disadvantage compared to the CX-3 and Trax that start at $19,995 apiece, the RVR and new Qashqai that hit the market at $19,998 each, or bestselling HR-V available from $21,150, but then again it’s priced better than the new C-HR’s $24,690 MSRP or the redesigned Jeep Compass the arrives at $24,900. Of course, we need to compare apples to apples as the saying goes, all of the above competitive prices reflecting a base front-wheel drive SUV, and many with fewer standard features than the Crosstrek.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek Limited
The 2018 Crosstrek delivers a near premium experience inside. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
The fully loaded 2018 Crosstrek Limited with EyeSight seen on these pages was priced quite a bit higher yet at $33,195 before freight and fees, but this is still a superb deal when compared to some of the SUVs on the above list. The Compass Limited, for instance, will set you back a premium-like $42,095 when outfitted with similar features.

I realize the rocky road a complete comparison between all of these subcompact SUVs could lead us down, so without further differentiation I bestow the mantle of good value upon the new 2018 Crosstrek no matter the trim, although a relatively quick rundown on features should help you agree with my summation.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek Limited
A large colour multi-info display provides quick, useful info. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
To that end, 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.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek Limited
The Limited model’s centre stack is filled with impressive features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
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.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek Limited
This large colour multi-info display sits on the centre dash top. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
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.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek Limited
Large colourful digital buttons make the new 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen easier to navigate. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
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 pseudo gears that can be modulated via paddle shifters in Sport EyeSight models and above, these adding a bit more performance to a powertrain that’s probably the only thing lacking in this little SUV.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek Limited
The CVT gets seven stepped gears and X-Mode, standard in Limited trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
I’m not saying the Crosstrek feels slow, but it’s not exactly exhilarating off the line either. Fortunately it’s quite efficient 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.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek Limited
Perforated leather seats with orange stitching look fabulous and feel even better. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
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.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek Limited
The powered moonroof gets a sliding sunshade. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
That new platform is responsible for more interior room too, the new 2,665-mm (104.9-inch) wheelbase increased by 30 mm (1.2 inches) over the previous version, yet the 2018 Crosstrek’s length is only extended by 15 mm (0.6 inches) and width by 20 mm (0.8 inches). 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 (20.7 cubic feet) of gear in the very back and 1,631 litres (57.6 cubic feet) with rear passengers removed and the seats lowered, the latter number a significant 161 litres (5.7 cubic feet) more than last year’s model.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek Limited
Rear roominess and comfort is improved over the outgoing model. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Ground clearance is 221 mm (8.7 inches), by the way, which together with its 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.

On that note, Subaru’s full-time Symmetrical AWD is ideally lined up down the centre of the vehicle for the best possible weight distribution and power delivery. What’s more, it’s built into a platform architecture that was designed from the outset to work solely with AWD. On top of this is the X-Mode terrain response just mentioned, designed for tackling rougher off-road trails that most of its challengers wouldn’t dare venture onto.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek Limited
The Crosstrek has always been a good family hauler. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
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.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek Limited
The Crosstrek gets more maximum load space for 2018. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
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. I’m also a sucker for most anything orange, owning a couple of orange-trimmed watches with orange-stitched black leather straps, not to mention plenty of orange coloured clothing items. Hell, my significant other and I even painted our bedroom and bathroom orange, so the Crosstrek Limited had us both at hello.

This, together with ergonomics that fit my body to a T (not the case with many Toyota models), 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.

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