There’s a sweet spot in the crowded crossover class reserved for the Subaru Crosstrek. It’s a charming, butch little thing, with standard all-wheel drive, lots of room inside, and a “who cares if it gets dirty?” attitude. Rather than rethink the Crosstrek’s existence, Subaru has instead embraced its niche status for its 2018 model year refresh. It’s got the same attitude, but has improvements in key areas that make it more pleasant to drive and nicer to use day to day.
Better to drive (mostly). The Crosstrek rides on a completely new architecture, which pays dividends in the ride-and-handling department. Even on the smaller 17-inch wheels, the Crosstrek is composed in the corners, with responsive steering that’s quick to respond and light in overall action. On the highway, the Crosstrek rides with planted confidence, and even on rough pavement – or dirt roads, where the Subie loves to play – the high-riding Impreza is solid and stable. And fun to slide around a gravely corner. The powertrain itself, however… well, I’ll get to that in a minute.
Gutless. Good as the Crosstrek is from a ride-and-handling perspective, its engine is a weak point. Subaru’s 2.0-liter naturally aspirated boxer four is found underhood, with 152 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. Below about 3,000 rpm, this thing struggles, and on several uphill climbs, I found myself downshifting a gear or two just to eke out some oomph. For a vehicle that will spend the majority of its life running around cities and traversing highways and country roads, more low-end power would be great. (You know, a Crosstrek WRX sure sounds fun…)
Is this the new one? While I don’t think the 2018 Crosstrek looks bad, it doesn’t really look new, either. If you told me this was a 2013 model, I’d believe you. If you want a crossover with fresh, modern styling, you’ll need to look elsewhere.