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2016 Subaru Crosstrek: Overall, a good little cute-ute

By Jil McIntosh

Jul. 20, 2016

They say you only get one chance to make a good first impression, and that’s what Subaru did with its Crosstrek. I liked this compact sport-ute the first time I drove it, on its introduction for 2013, and a week with the newest model year simply confirmed the status quo. My tester wasn’t perfect, but it was close enough to sign me up as a fan.

A few changes arrive for 2016, including new 17-inch wheels and premium cloth upholstery with orange accent stitching on the base-trim Touring model. The Limited now gets leather-trimmed upholstery with orange stitching, along with satellite radio and a map update program, while the Crosstrek Hybrid adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The colour palette gets kicked up a notch with the new-for-2016 Hyper Blue that coated my tester.

The Crosstrek starts at $24,995 in Touring Trim. My tester, the Sport, was tagged at $26,995 with its manual transmission. It would have been $28,295 to swap that out for a CVT, which would have been my choice (read on!). The lineup continues with the Limited, which starts at $29,395 and goes to a high of $31,895 with its available Technology package, while the Hybrid, which comes only with a CVT, is priced at $30,495.

Pros & Cons

  • + Ride comfort
  • + Visibility
  • + Styling
  • - Manual transmission not a good fit
  • - Not much low-end torque
  • - Rear seat space
Read the full review
  • Walkaround

    To my eye, everything about the Crosstrek’s styling is on the money. It’s properly proportioned, the curves and the angles work well together, and there’s just enough grey cladding to give it a bit of off-road swagger without overpowering it. Even the wonky bright outlines on the wheels suit this little machine. The windows are sized and shaped just right as well, so visibility is very good all around.

    Plain headlights grace the base Touring model, but the step up to my Sport trim included the high-intensity discharge (HID) variety with an auto-levelling feature. Other additions to this next-level-up trim include a larger roofline spoiler and a power sunroof.

  • Interior

    There’s a lot of plain plastic in the Crosstrek’s cabin, but I still like the design and, above all, the practicality. Climate control operation is handled by beautifully big dials that are easy to see and simple to use, especially since automatic climate control is standard on all models. You have to move up to the Limited to get dual-zone climate, though.

    You would have to add a Technology Package to my Sport tester to get push-button start, a trim level that comes only with the CVT for $29,495. I prefer turning a key, although I realize that most drivers do not. (The jump in price also reflects the fact that the Technology Package includes EyeSight, a camera-based system that includes adaptive cruise control, emergency braking, lane departure and other features.)

    The Crosstrek’s seats are quite firm. This can be balanced with considerable support with some manufacturers, but while the Crosstrek’s aren’t uncomfortable, they don’t provide quite the level of fatigue-reducing assistance as those from, say, Volkswagen.

    The roominess up front is offset by fairly tight seating in the rear, although there’s enough room under the front seats for rear-chair passengers to slip their feet under for a bit more comfort. The back seats fold easily and flat to increase the cargo capacity from 632 litres to a total of 1,470 litres.

    8.5Very good
  • Tech

    The Crosstrek Sport runs about average on the amount of tech included. You get a 6.2-inch touchscreen that includes Bluetooth, cellphone app integration, iPod controller, satellite radio, and voice activation. A rearview camera is also included.

    The available Technology Package on the Sport adds the aforementioned EyeSight system, but you have to move up to the Limited to get such extra features as a seven-inch screen, navigation, a second USB connector, and SMS text messaging ability.

  • Driving

    All Crosstrek models (except the hybrid) are powered by a 2.0-litre horizontally-opposed four-cylinder that bangs out 148 horsepower and 145 lb.-ft. of torque. It can idle a bit rough, a characteristic that seems almost integral to Subaru’s “boxer” engines, but it’s not excessive and doesn’t detract from the overall experience.

    Those aren’t big power numbers, and the Crosstrek can get a little wheezy if you ask it for some serious acceleration, but it’s fine for most city tasks and once you get it up to cruising speed on the highway.

    But I wasn’t all that impressed with my tester’s five-speed manual. I know auto reviewers are supposed to go bonkers over stick-shifts and turn up their noses at CVTs, but truth be told, I’ve driven both on this vehicle and the continuously-variable automatic is the way to go. The manual’s shifter is rubbery and the notches aren’t well-defined, and it always feels like you’re muddling around for the next gear instead of snicking it decisively into place. First gear is way too short, and you can’t build up enough torque to take off effectively in second.

    And if you’re going to put a stick shift into this vehicle, the Crosstrek deserves a sixth slot. On the highway at 100 km/h, the engine was roaring along at 2,800 rpm. The official figures for the manual are 10.2 L/100 km in the city and 7.7 on the highway, while I averaged 9.3 L/100 km in combined driving.

    All-wheel drive is standard, of course, and it’s a 50/50 split front-to-rear when you order the manual transmission. Models with the CVT are set to 60/40 under regular driving but can transfer up to 50/50 if needed. My complaint with the transmission aside, the Crosstrek does everything else well, with light but responsive steering that tightens nicely on curves, a tight turning circle, and a smooth, composed ride.

  • Value

    The Crosstrek is one of a few miniature-utes on the market, and its range is among the highest in the segment, stretching from $24,995 to $31,895. Remember to price the competition in all-wheel drive if you’re going to match up to the Subaru’s driveline.

    When equipped with AWD, the Chevrolet Trax comes in between $19,795 and $29,295, while the Mazda CX-3 AWD is $22,695 to $30,495, and the all-wheel Honda HR-V runs from $24,390 to $30,090.

  • Conclusion

    As with any vehicle, the Crosstrek isn’t for everyone, since its very-compact footprint means you’re not going to get the whole family and all your gear to the campsite—at least, not in comfort. But if you want more than an Impreza, and the Forester’s too much, then the Crosstrek will meet you nicely in the middle. Just remember that this is one place where you don’t necessarily want a third pedal.

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