Small crossovers are enormously popular right now so there is no doubt the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek is coming to the market the wind at its back even as the Japanese brand continues chalk up new sales records month after month.
With its new sheet metal, redesigned cabin, solid chassis and steering and ability to maintain its poise on all sorts of road surfaces during a road test around the rugged Black Hills of western South Dakota, made a solid impression.
The new Crosstrek also has all the built-in versatility that has been one of the keys to the popularity of crossover vehicles among buyers of various ages and helped CUV sales explode in the past couple of years.
At its heart, the 2018 Crosstrek is built on Subaru’s new global architecture, which is shared with the Impreza sedan. Despite the shared architecture, which has given Crosstrek a lower center of gravity than the old model it is replacing in Subaru’s line-up, the utility-vehicle styling of the sheet metal, gives the new version its own distinctive character.
The exterior styling is modest, but gives the Crosstrek a lower profile, all new face, character lines at the side and a new wider space at the rear for lift gate. The changes to the lift gate offer easier access to the rear compartment for carrying cargo or storing luggage or sporting and camping gear.
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Overall, the exterior package is quite handsome and a quiet sense of authority and competence as it sites on the 17-inch wheels.
On the side, even though the Cross Trek is a small vehicle, the cabin is relatively spacious. The new instrument panel is clean, with a simple layout that provides easy access to the controls and the eight-inch, center stack screen that can the used for controlling the entertainment or the navigation system that is available on the vehicle and there is great visibility from both the driver and passenger seats.
In addition, the Crosstrek’s multimedia features include standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and “Near Field Communication” to simplify Bluetooth pairing of smart phones.
But the changes to exterior sheet metal and the cabin are only part of story. The Crosstrek’s driving dynamics are impressive even on gravel roads, which can be as tricky to negotiate as ice and snow-covered thoroughfares.
The Crosstrek makes the point with its performance that it built for driving beyond the end of the pavement and it can navigate a rocky off-road course with little difficulty and surprising ease, making it a worthy competitor of small Jeeps such as Renegade and Compass. The Crosstrek’s 8.7 inches of ground clearance is generous for the segment and adds to the vehicles off road capability.
The 2018 Crosstrek’s suspension, fortified thanks to the changes to the vehicle’s architecture, easily smooths out the ride over all kinds of pavement and during our test we got to try out the vehicle on all kinds of roads, ranging from Interstate 90 to two lane roads in various states of repair as well as a dirt and gravel roads and even rutted two-tracks through the forest. It is also equipped with a torque vectoring, system, which helps reduce understeer and keeps the vehicle on the intended line through corners.
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The new architecture with its increased stiffness, which improves the ride and handling, also makes the Crosstrek safer in a crash since it can absorb more energy.
Subaru is also making the “EyeSight” system, which includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Automatic Pre-Collision Braking and Lane Departure and Sway Warning, available on the Crosstrek. Blind Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert are also available to augment the standard airbags and seat belts.
Steering Responsive Headlights, which can illuminate curves as the vehicle steers into them, and High Beam Assist, which activates and deactivates the high beam headlamps based on driving conditions, are also available.
For all of its strengths, the Crosstrek’s power train seemed underpowered during the rest drive. We drove the “Limited” version equipped with the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder Boxer engine with direct fuel injection that produces 152 horsepower and 145 foot pounds of torque and with the CVT featuring a 7-speed manual mode function with steering wheel paddle shifters that allow the driver to control the transmission via seven pre-set ratios.
All-wheel-drive is standard across the Crosstrek line, which features three different trim levels, starting with the base model, which will sell initially for $21,795 plus the $915 transportation charge. The top Limited trim version of the Crosstrek will sell for $26,295 plus the destination charge.
The fuel economy is 27 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on highway for combined rating of 29 mpg. The CVT gets better fuel economy than the manual transmission available on Crosstrek but the CVT seemed to struggle at times to find the correct setting and also made a disquieting noise as it shifted that penetrated the quiet cabin.
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Subaru has been on a roll in recent years and the capability and sophistication of the Crosstrek, which is very well done and aimed squarely at the most vibrant part of the market is certain to help more potential buyers to the brand.