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Eric's Autos: Reviewing the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek

Eric Peters on

When everyone makes a crossover SUV, how do you make your crossover SUV stand out?

First, you split the difference between compact-sized crossovers like the Mazda CX-3 and mid-sized crossovers like the Honda CR-V. You give it a roomy back seat -- and a roomy cargo area -- but a small overall footprint. Next, make all-wheel-drive standard. It's generally optional in other-brand crossovers. Then give it class-leading ground clearance -- almost 9 inches -- and make the standard AWD system more capable and performance-oriented than rivals' available, but less-capable, systems. Give it a low center of gravity -- by fitting it with a flat four engine that's hunkered down in the chassis -- so it's not tipsy in the curves, despite being able to ford creeks and handle serious snow. Offer all that with a manual transmission -- something that's becoming as rare in crossovers as smoking lounges at airports.

Result? A crossover that's not "just another one."

What It Is

The Crosstrek is Subaru's entry-level crossover SUV. It is larger and roomier than most of its compact-sized competition, including models like the Mazda CX-3. It also offers much more capability than compacts like the Honda HR-V, which has much less ground clearance (6.1 inches) and an optional AWD system that's not as capable as the Crosstrek's. Crosstrek's prices start at $21,795 for a base 2.0 trim with AWD and six-speed manual transmission. A top-of-the-line Limited trim with AWD and continuously variable (CVT) automatic stickers for $26,295.

What's New

The 2018 Crosstrek is new from the wheels up.

What's Good

It's the only crossover in this class that offers a manual transmission and AWD together. It's significantly more ground clearance than any crossover in this class. It's priced about the same as smaller inside (or less-capable off-road) crossovers like the CX-3 and HR-V.

What's Not So Good

Not as space-efficient as the Honda HR-V. Not as quick as the Mazda3.

Under The Hood

The '18 Crosstrek's 2.0 liter four is the same size as the '17 Crosstrek's, but it's been fitted with direct injection (vs. port fuel injection last year) and is slightly stronger now: 152 hp at 6,000 RPM and 145 ft.-lbs. of torque at 4,000 RPM. Last year's version of the 2.0 liter engine made 148 hp at 6,200 RPM and 145 ft.-lbs. of torque at 4,200 RPM. Also new is the standard six-speed manual transmission; it replaces the previous five-speed box. A continuously variable (CVT) automatic is optional. Gas mileage is also up to 27 city, 33 highway with the CVT. With the manual, mileage dips slightly to 23 city, 29 highway. Both versions are not as quick as rivals like the Honda HR-V and the Mazda CX-3. But the Crosstrek comes standard with AWD; it's optional in the Mazda and the Honda.


On The Road

While it's not as quick as the peppiest-in-the-segment CX-3, the combination of a growly boxer engine, a manual transmission and that notch-above torque vectoring AWD system make it more fun to drive than you might expect. The Crosstrek's four isn't a powerhouse -- but there is enough power to work well with the CVT.

The manual, though, makes the Crosstrek more fun. The main thing, though, is that the Crosstrek is undoubtedly the most rugged individual in its peer group. You can take it places that less off-pavement-capable small crossovers like the CX-3 and the HRV haven't got the clearance to deal with.

At The Curb

The '18 Crosstrek is marginally shorter overall than last-year's model -- 175.8 inches vs. 175.9 inches -- but it rides on a slightly longer wheelbase: 104.9 inches vs. 103.7 inches. This pushing out of the front and rear axle centerlines made it possible to carve out a bit more room inside. The back seats now have 36.5 inches of legroom, (vs. 35.4 inches before) a gain of more than an inch, which is a noticeable difference. Cargo space behind the second row is a bit less than before -- 20.8 cubic feet vs. 22.3 cubic feet before -- but total cargo space (second row folded down) increases to 55.3 cubic feet vs. 51.9 cubic feet previously.

The Rest

An interesting thing about the Crosstrek is that it's got a larger-than-most gas tank: 16.6 gallons. The Mazda CX-3's tank holds just 12.7 gallons. That makes the Mazda seem a lit thirstier than it actually is, because even though it rates 27 city, 32 highway - effectively the same mileage as the Crosstrek -- you have to stop to fill up more often because the thing carries almost 4 gallons less fuel.

The Bottom Line

If you miss the old Outback, you will like the new Crosstrek. And if you like the CX-3 and HR-V but need more balance -- or capability -- you will want the new Crosstrek.


To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at His new book, Don't Get Taken for a Ride! will be available soon.

Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate, Inc.


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