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What the Crosstrek lacks in power and tech it makes up for with butch capability and excellent on-road comfort

Good stuff

Rugged attitude, durable interior, standard all-wheel drive

Bad stuff

Sluggish engines, crummy infotainment tech, lots of driving aids cost extra

Overview

What is it?

The Crosstrek is Subaru’s little tough guy, combining the form and functionality of a compact hatchback with more go-anywhere prowess than most small SUVs. It might not be pretty and it definitely isn’t quick, but the Crosstrek is a plucky daily driver you can pack with dogs and top with kayaks. As an extension of your hashtag active lifestyle, the Crosstrek can’t be beat.

Sounds outdoorsy. That means it’ll off-road?

Sure will. Every Crosstrek comes standard with all-wheel drive, but more importantly, this tall hatch has 8.7 inches of ground clearance, which is the big factor to consider when going off the beaten path. You can drive over rocks on rutted dirt roads without worrying about destroying the car’s undersides. Flick on the X-Mode setting and hill-descent control will help you on steep grades, while also redistributing power to the wheels that need it most.

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For you serious Subie people who love doing serious Subie things, there’s a Crosstrek Wilderness version. This one’s got 9.3 inches of ground clearance, all-terrain tires, beefier chassis components, and a front skid plate. It also looks the absolute business. This thing is a turbocharger away from being a rallycross riot.

How are the engines?

Serviceable, but nothing to write home about. The base 2.0-liter flat-four only churns out 152hp, making the Crosstrek pretty pokey, and the ‘upgraded’ 2.5-liter engine with 182hp isn’t much better. Subaru no longer sells the Crosstrek with a manual gearbox, so you’re stuck with a continuously variable transmission. Thankfully, the CVT doesn’t drone on to high heaven when you’re laying into the throttle to try and get this thing up to freeway speeds. But if it’s power you’re after, the Crosstrek isn’t going to win you over.

If there’s a benefit to that anemic performance, though, it’s that the Crosstrek doesn’t chug fuel. With either engine, you should see about 29 mpg combined, which isn’t bad for a small, all-wheel-drive SUV.

Is the Crosstrek any good to drive?

You know, it’s actually pretty pleasant. Subaru did a great job reducing wind and tire noise with this generation Crosstrek, and that makes it so much more likable if you’re spending hours behind the wheel. Generous suspension travel makes for a comfy ride, and the steering’s quite responsive, too.

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The 2.0-liter engine only comes on the Crosstrek’s Base and Premium trims, while the 2.5 is reserved for the Sport and Limited. You definitely want the bigger motor because it makes the Crosstrek a little more confident when it’s time to lay your foot down and pass a sluggish Prius.

Don’t suppose there’s any electrification, then?

Not even a little. Subaru used to sell a Crosstrek with a plug-in hybrid powertrain, but that’s just history now. The company doesn’t have plans to make any kind of electrified Crosstrek for the foreseeable future.

Is there decent onboard tech?

Yes and no. Most versions of the Crosstrek have an impressive-looking 11.6-inch central touchscreen, but when you fire it up, you’re met with outdated software and chunky graphics. The multimedia system is often slow to respond to your finger stabs and some menus are weirdly structured. At least Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can connect wirelessly. Just use one of those and you’ll be fine.

All Crosstrek's have Subaru's EyeSight driver-assistance system, so adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist are standard across the board. That said, features like blind-spot detection, lane-change assist, and rear cross-traffic alert are optional, which seems weird given Subaru's whole "safety first" vibe.

What’s all this granola-fed goodness cost?

A base Crosstrek costs $29,290 including a $1,295 destination charge, which really isn’t too bad. The cheapest way to get the 2.5-liter engine is the $30,290 Crosstrek Sport, and if you want fancy frills like leather seats and the full roster of driving aids, the Crosstrek Limited will set you back $32,190.

What's the verdict?

What the Crosstrek lacks in power and tech it makes up for with butch capability and excellent on-road comfort

No company knows its buyers like Subaru, and the Crosstrek is an excellent proof of concept. The Crosstrek prioritizes things like durable cabin materials and solid off-road capability over things like flashy interior trimmings and sophisticated powertrains. The Crosstrek might not look terribly competitive on paper, yet Subaru can barely build them fast enough to meet customer demand.

The Crosstrek is hardly perfect, but the pros certainly outweigh the cons. It’s not quick, there’s no electrification option, and the cabin tech leaves a lot to be desired. But no small SUV is as well equipped for rugged activities as the Crosstrek, all without sacrificing daily ride comfort or fuel economy. As a rugged all-rounder, the Crosstrek is easy to like.

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