2017 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i Limited
2.0-liter flat-four, DOHC (148 horsepower @ 4,200 rpm; 145 lb-ft @ 4,200 rpm)
Continuously variable transmission, all-wheel drive
26 city / 33 highway / 29 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
9.1 city / 7.2 highway / 8.2 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100 km)
25.6 mpg [9.2 L/100km] (Observed)
Base Price: $22,570 (U.S.) / $26,770 (Canada)
As Tested: $28,965 (U.S) / $34,070 (Canada)
Prices include $875 destination charge in the United States and $1,775 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada.
The 2017 Subaru Crosstrek has the bad luck of living in the shadow of a vehicle that doesn’t yet exist. That phantom would be the looming 2018 Crosstrek, which borrows the new-for-2017 Impreza’s modular platform and, no doubt, enough technological, mechanical and appearance upgrades to make the old model look ancient overnight.
So, if you’re stuck living in northern climes and counting pennies is your idea of a thrilling good time, now’s a great time to sit back and wait patiently for a killer deal on the outgoing model. Because, replacement or not, it’s popular for good reason. And no, not just because of Subaru’s newfound status as the go-to conveyor of the nonconformist middle class.
With little changed since its 2013 model year debut, save for the elimination of the “XV” prefix, a minor 2016 facelift, and the disappearance of a short-lived hybrid variant, the Crosstrek enters the last year of its first generation with confidence. This jacked-up Impreza 5-door has a life ahead of it and a fan base behind it. Anyone who questions the reasons for the model’s popularity had best pack their bags, head north, and experience a month where it snowed at least every other day.
Yes, that aptly describes winter’s arrival, at least here at Casa Steph. Winter didn’t just come in like a lion — it came in dragging the bloody, desiccated corpse of a lamb in its jaws. The local weather guesser has yet to recover from my vitriolic tweets, the poor guy.
So it was in appropriate environs that this Crosstrek, comfortably furnished in Limited trim, was put through its paces. While power, at 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque, doesn’t make it a standout in its class, the Crosstrek’s charm lies elsewhere. This a “right-sized” vehicle for countless people. It forgoes the boxy, generic body of a crossover, even though that’s the segment it calls home, preferring to give owners welcome ground clearance and a higher seating position in a package that’s visually still a car.
A growing chorus of brand die-hards have criticized Subaru for edging ever closer to the dreaded (but profitable) mainstream with each passing year, but the Crosstrek remains the brand’s oddest creation, especially when outfitted in one of several garish paint colors.
Think of it as the AMC Eagle for modern suburbanites.
The Crosstrek balances an impressive 8.7 inches of clearance — three inches more than the Impreza — while maintaining most of its sibling’s driving manners. A healthy helping of matte cladding along the lower body and wheel wells tells everyone that this used to be a regular car, at least, until it was called up for a special mission. There are sales at stake. Frankly, Subaru would have been stupid to not give its compact the Outback treatment.
This tester came equipped with Subaru’s Lineartronic continuously variable transmission, which remains one of the brighter lights in the CVT world. Besides some muted droning during acceleration, the gearbox puts down the 2.0-liter Boxer four-cylinder’s modest power with zero drama. A solitary complaint is the unit’s nagging delay after shifting into drive or reverse. Let’s hope engineers dialed down the lag in the next-gen model.
The Crosstrek often cried out for more torque while slogging through deep snow, but a quick bump of the shift lever into Sport mode brought higher revs online via the paddle shifters. This vehicle definitely has a playful side — it’s like the mild-mannered coworker who leaps into action, surprising everyone, when the going gets tough. Propelled by Subaru’s symmetrical full-time all-wheel-drive system — an AWD system even your grandmother talks about — the Crosstrek powers through corners with authority, exhibiting little to no front-end plow, and found piles of traction wherever it looked. Hanging the tail out on a slick surface is an ever-present option.
In dismal conditions like this, most drivers don’t have a big, dumb grin plastered all over their face. Yet there I was, praying a friend would call up to apologetically beg me to drive them somewhere.
Launches performed on dry pavement — a commodity in short supply that week — felt unusually brisk. There’s four-wheel motivation to thank for that sensation. However, all that traction does nothing to stop the buffeting this raised vehicle experienced while driving at high speeds in strong crosswinds. I swear, someone rigged a sail up top.
Without question, the Crosstrek comes alive while playing in the rough, but it masks its all-weather prowess with an attractive, well-laid-out interior. Few things feel out of place, minus the traction control button forever blocked from view by the steering wheel. (It’s a button you’ll want to leave in the off position for those dumb grins.) The Limited trim brings leather to the table, and though the flat-looking front seats proved supportive and immensely comfortable, they could use better bolstering for hard cornering. Overall, it’s a cabin with few gripes. Kudos to Subaru for the blast furnace heater and its boot-melting BTUs.
The premium feel of this top-zoot tester tricked down into driving dynamics, too. Steering, on-point and nicely weighted, is complemented by a firm brake pedal and more than adequate stopping power. The word “refined” comes to mind. Maybe this explains why Subarus have replaced Volvos in the driveways of those most likely seen at neighborhood association meetings.
As this tester added the optional technology package on top of the Limited’s already packed roster of gadgetry, convenience and safety items weren’t lacking. Keyless entry and push-button start, a nice-to-have feature that’s quickly become a must-have, joined a 7-inch multimedia display (up from 6.2-inch in lesser trims) and 4.3-inch multi-function display. The later feature contains enough ways of measuring fuel economy to make you feel like a scientist. As I’ve said before, people crave the opportunity to feel like a scientist.
They also want to feel immune from bad things, which is where the tech package’s driver’s aids come in. Subaru’s EyeSight pre-collision braking (with brake assist), adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and lead vehicle start alert join the blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert already found on the Limited. Being able to adjust the radius of that safety cocoon was a welcome option.
For normal tech functions, the Crosstrek’s navigation system proved up to the test of finding a location without annoying the hell out of its driver. The home-grown Starlink smartphone connectivity also earned a passing grade from a bored test passenger.
Rear seat passengers (or as I call them, “steerage folk”) get off pretty easy. Legroom for a normal-sized person is adequate, and the top-tier trim allows those unruly backseat denizens control of heating and air conditioning settings. Sit up front if you want to torch the seat of your pants, though. Backseat drivers can’t have it all. Spoiled as they are already, they’ll soon be spoiled just a bit more. The already upgraded Impreza sedan and five-door gains an inch of wheelbase and an extra 1.5 inches of width, with rear seat passengers enjoying an extra 1.1 inches of legroom.
The abbreviated cargo hold, which many might already find a little tight, stands to decrease in capacity for the coming model year (from 22.3 cubic feet to the new Impreza‘s 20.8). But hey, if the Outback Light doesn’t swallow your gear, you know full well the solution.
One wonders if the new Crosstrek Limited will make do with the same wheel pattern as base Touring models. While I didn’t mind this tester’s machined-look 17 inchers, the design doesn’t scream premium. “Limited” implies looking the part.
As for fuel economy, it wasn’t really a fair test. Non-stop heavy snow (and infrequent plowing), coupled with winter rubber, cold temperatures and — just maybe — a heavy right foot conspired to knock the Crosstrek off the wagon. Average fuel economy for the week, which included a couple of lengthy highway jaunts, rang in at 25.6 mpg, less than the model’s EPA city rating of 26 mpg. EPA-rated highway mileage is pegged at 33 mpg.
A pleasant summer test, performed among the flowers and grass and warm sunshine and pedaling hipsters, would surely bring that number more in line with official ratings. I’ll never know.
Getting into all of this semi-premium convenience and capability means a buyer must part with $28,965 (U.S.), after delivery and options. That’s $6,395 above a base Crosstrek’s $22,570 starting price, which includes the same engine, all-wheel-drive system and suspension, but adds a gadgetry void and a five-speed manual transmission. It’s also nearly $2,500 more than the price of a base Outback 2.5i.
If you can live without the cocoon, there’s larger (or cheaper) alternatives to be had. If you can’t, well, just don’t expect to be the only person on the block with the technology. Or a Crosstrek.