2017 Crosstrek New Car Test Drive
The Subaru Crosstrek has done some remarkable things since its introduction for 2013. For a very reasonable price it offers a huge amount of SUV capability, with good fuel mileage and legendary reliability, as well as good rugged looks. The Crosstrek has been selling like hotcakes, especially in the Pacific Northwest, Subieland, because of the things a vehicle needs to do there, namely go in snow and ice and carry things. In the Northwest, a Crosstrek looks naked without a mountain bike or kayak on the roof.
The Crosstrek can handle blizzards, monsoons, muddy tracks, gravel mountain roads, towing a small boat, or your daily commute. It's based on the Impreza five-door hatchback, but there are significant changes to the Impreza chassis, suspension, and body. Raised ground clearance, frame braces, stronger suspension, all-season tires, bigger front brake rotors, more engine cooling, larger gas tank, and new wheels, grille, bumpers, fender flares, fascias and roof rack. It's quite distinct, especially when Impreza and Crosstrek are side-by-side. The Crosstrek is much taller. It looks as big as an Outback. And it comes in some of its own colors.
The 2016 Crosstrek has a new grille, fascia, bumpers and headlights and wheels to distinguish it from pre-2016 models.
Crosstrek uses the famed Subaru boxer four-cylinder engine with horizontally opposed cylinders, a compact design that enables the engine to be mounted low and rearward, for better overall dynamics. It's 2.0 liters and makes 148 horsepower, mated to a Subaru-made continuously variable transmission (CVT) or five-speed manual (but good luck finding a manual; when we last looked, there was exactly one Crosstrek with a manual transmission in the state of Oregon, even though the 5-speed is standard equipment, the CVT optional). The good news is the CVT is one of the best in any car out there. Most of the time you can't even tell it's not a traditional automatic.
Many owners just buy the Crosstrek because it looks cooler than the Impreza, but if you don't need the extra ground clearance, it might not be better value. The Crosstrek is a bit noisier inside than the Impreza, on account of tires and cabin cost-saving, and its handling is a bit less sharp because of its height, which also makes it harder to climb in and out of, not to mention reach the roof rack. It's nearly four inches taller than the Impreza.
The Crosstrek is EPA rated at 26 miles per gallon City, 34 Highway, and 28 Combined with the CVT, and 23/31/26 with the 5-speed manual gearbox, so for most it's no great loss that the manual transmission is basically unavailable. For the maximum fuel mileage, there is a hybrid that gets 29/33/31 mpg.
The Crosstrek Hybrid is the big news in 2016. It's quieter, with five changes to the front suspension and a dozen other things, mostly insulation against noise and vibration, improvements that have been added to other models. It gets a gloss black grille to make it distinctive. It's the most pleasant Crosstrek to drive.
The Hybrid uses the same 2.0-liter engine with different tuning, along with a 10-kilowatt (13.4 horsepower) electric motor between the engine and CVT. The acceleration is about the same, which is to say modest. The battery pack is mounted under the rear seat; space isn't compromised with the seat in use, but when it's lowered, 1.7 cubic feet are lost in cargo capacity. The system can power the car on electricity alone, but it's not intended to, so don't look at it that way; it's too slow. It might get you a few blocks to a gas station if you run out of gas.
Crosstrek earns five stars overall from the NHTSA for safety, with four stars for frontal crash and rollover, five for side impact. The IIHS gives it its highest Top Safety Pick+ rating. For 2016, rollover sensors are added to the standard curtain airbags, a feature not found in the Impreza.
The 2016 Subaru Crosstrek ($21,595) comes standard with cloth upholstery. Crosstrek Premium ($22,395) adds active safety features, including Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, plus heated front seats, side mirrors and windshield.
Crosstrek Premium ($25,095) gets leather, automatic climate control, a fold-down rear armrest with cupholders, and comes standard with the CVT.
Crosstrek Hybrid ($26,395) features the hybrid-electric powertrain.