There’s stiffer competition now for the 2016 Subaru Crosstrek but standard AWD sets it apart in a crowded compact crossover market
You might argue that Subaru has been making small crossovers since at least the 1980s, when it was bolting all-wheel drive into little cars like the Justy and Chaser, but it was the Impreza-based Outback Sport of the late 1990s that essentially saw the brand establish a vehicle segment that has only become widely popular in the last couple of years.
Subaru’s small crossover legacy (if you’ll pardon the pun) carried on in 2013 with the XV Crosstrek, based once again on the Impreza and boasting a raised ride height and structural enhancements to improve off-road prowess and towing capability.
For 2016, Subaru has dropped the XV from the car’s name, and the resulting Crosstrek also gets a styling update similar to the one applied to the Impreza sedan and hatchback.
Crosstrek vs Impreza
To my eyes, the Crosstrek is the best version of the Impreza: the taller suspension and bulkier wheels and tires lend some visual personality to a car that otherwise looks a bit dowdy. The Crosstrek also gets more interesting colour choices, like the hyper blue paint my tester wore; I also dig the desert khaki and jasmine green metallic shades. (Sadly, for 2016 Subaru discontinued an orange hue that I thought looked great on this car.)
Beyond the differences mentioned above, there’s not much to separate Crosstrek from Impreza: both cars share a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, in Subaru’s preferred horizontally-opposed configuration, and a standard all-wheel drive system that is among the most sophisticated available in an economy car. A five-speed manual transmission comes standard in certain Crosstrek trims, but my Sport-Tech tester (more on that later) comes with a continuously variable (CVT) automatic.
Under the Hood
With 148 hp and 145 lb-ft, the Crosstrek is no powerhouse: acceleration is far from breathtaking, but the trade-off is decent fuel consumption. In a week of puttering around town, my tester matched Subaru’s 9.1 L/100 km estimate for city driving; the highway rating is 7.0 L/100 km.
Those figures are better than the previous-generation Impreza could manage, with its big 2.5-litre engine, but apart from the notable reduction in performance, this newer design also allows a significant amount of mechanical noise into the cabin despite an automatic transmission that does its best to keep engine speeds low in most driving situations. Still, the Crosstrek earned my wife’s “invisible car” rating, a seat-of-the-pants indication of comfort and refinement.
On the Road
Indeed, aside from the surfeit of engine and road noise, this is a pretty comfortable little car, with supportive front seats, decent interior space, and a ride just compliant enough to take the edge off the worst of Ottawa’s roads. A pleasant side effect of the Crosstrek’s elevated suspension is that it makes the car easier to get in and out of than the relatively low-slung Impreza. The rear seat is roomy enough for adults of average height, but the cargo area’s high floor (made necessary by the AWD hardware under it) limits trunk space. The rear seats fold nearly flat with that cargo floor for carrying large items.
Interior Space: Roomier
Thanks to its compact car roots, the Impreza is roomier than newer competitors such as the Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3, both of which are limited by their subcompact underpinnings. Adding to the Crosstrek’s interior appeal are dashboard materials that look and feel like quality, a straightforward touchscreen interface, and delightfully simple air conditioning controls that consist of six buttons nestled inside a trio of rotary knobs.
2016 Crosstrek Price
Crosstrek pricing starts at $24,995 for the entry-level Touring model, a $2,400 bump over the corresponding Impreza Touring hatchback. For your 25 grand, the Crosstrek comes with automatic climate control, Bluetooth phone connectivity, backup camera, six-speaker stereo, cruise control, heated front seats, and a windshield wiper de-icer.
A pleasant side effect of the Crosstrek’s elevated suspension is that it makes the car easier to get in and out of than the relatively low-slung Impreza.
For $2,000 more, Sport trim adds a leather-trimmed steering wheel and shifter, HID headlights, and a sunroof. My tester was a Sport model with an optional technology package (hence the Sport-Tech designation) which for $29,495 comes with the automatic transmission, intelligent keyless entry and push-button start and, most notably, the EyeSight suite of safety features that includes pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control, and a lane sway and lane departure warning system.
Having used EyeSight in a number of Subaru models, it’s worth the cost: the adaptive cruise control system will bring the car to a complete stop if the car in front does so, and will automatically drive away when the coast is clear. And if you get distracted while stopped at a traffic light, the car sounds an alert when the car ahead drives away. The latter works even without the cruise control engaged.
At its 2012 introduction, the Crosstrek was, in my opinion, the best of a then-small class of compact crossovers. It has more competition now from well-executed vehicles like the Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3 and while the Crosstrek’s starting MSRP is over $4,000 higher than either of those two, the premium price brings standard AWD, better ground clearance, more interior space, and a longer list of standard features.
The Crosstrek is no longer the best of the small crossover breed: the CX-3 is more fun to drive, the HR-V’s neat rear seat design makes it more versatile, and there’s something to be said for their more accessible starting prices and availability of a more fuel-efficient front-drive powertrain.
Subaru’s smallest crossover doesn’t stand out the way it used to, but it has aged well and remains worthy of a test drive along with its newer competition.
2016 Subaru Crosstrek Specs:
Engine: 2.0L four-cylinder
Power: 148 horsepower
Torque: 145 pound-feet
Transmission: Continuously variable automatic
Brakes: Four-wheel disc brakes
Steering: Electric power-assist rack-and-pinion
Suspension: Independent strut (front); Double wishbone (rear)
Fuel economy, ratings (l/100km, city/highway): 9.1/7.0
Fuel economy, observed (l/100km): 9.1
Price: $24,995, starting MSRP; $29,495 as tested