While the diminutive Crosstrek crossover proudly welcomes an all-new second-generation reveal in 2018, parent company Subaru celebrates its Golden Anniversary of launching here in the States.
Subaru, incorporated in February of 1968, sold a modest 332 units that year. Since then, Subaru of America sales boomed exponentially in part through targeted niche marketing.
No pickups or truck-based sport utility vehicles adorn the benevolent automaker's lineup; just sedans, crossovers and two-door BRZ. Crosstrek debuted in the 2013 model year, quickly striking a chord with buyers, ranking as Subaru's third best-selling vehicle in the 2016 calendar year.
Symmetrical all-wheel drive comes standard in almost all 2018 Subarus; handy for Chicagoland's unpredictable four-season climate. The lone exception is the aforementioned, low-volume BRZ with performance-oriented rear-wheel drive.
The two-row Crosstrek incorporates Subaru's Global Platform, introduced first in 2017 Impreza sedans and five-door hatchbacks. Each Subaru model going forward will include this Global Platform during subsequent next-generation redesigns.
Crosstrek shares architectural underpinnings with the compact Impreza (debuting in 1993), but stands slightly taller, measuring about six-inches shorter.
All three Crosstrek trims (Base, Premium and Limited) feature a revised 2.0-liter four-cylinder 'Boxer' engine, now with direct fuel injection, increasing horsepower to 152, up four compared to the first go round.
All Subarus feature horizontally-opposed 'Boxer' engines with pistons lying flat at 180 degrees, riding shallower in the engine compartment. The result is a low center of gravity improving handling and agility. This, coupled with an updated-for-2018 double wishbone suspension, improves stability.
A six-speed manual transmission comes standard, upgraded from last year's five speed. Optional and featured in our tester, a continuously variable transmission (CVT), employing an infinite number of forward gear ratios rather than a set number of planetary forward gears (five or six) delivering a smooth, but at times underwhelming glide forward.
Subaru's CVT version includes an inspiring twist, a seven-speed manual mode function operational via paddle shifter, allowing drivers to select seven points along the ratio, delivering a peppier experience.
Through October, Crosstrek U.S. sales reached 87,685 up an impressive 13 percent from the same 10month 2017 time frame.
Crosstrek a-la 2018 underwent an extensive off-road exercise at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, host site of Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) Fall Road Rally. While this gem of a closedcircuit serpentine course is best known for high speed straightaways and hair-pin turns, tucked away largely unseen is a very capable off-road play land.
The new global platform boasts a 70 percent better rigidity, resulting in lower vibrations while traversing the rugged, bumpy and rather muddy off-road terrain during the day's pleasantly soggy (for off-roading at least) adventures.
Most notable during this exercise were compact crossovers choosing not to attend the off-road invitation. No Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Kia Soul, Hyundai Tuscan or Chevrolet Equinox dared to step off dry pavement for a spin in the mud and muck.
Jeep conveniently offered up its capable and pricier four-door Wrangler Unlimited (Jeep sponsored offroading at the rally), but the half-dozen other participants all sported bulkier and pricier body-on-frame structure.
Hill descent control, standard in Crosstrek Limited models with CVT, assisted during hilly encounters by guiding Crosstrek down steep inclines at a constant speed without the right foot ever applying the brake pedal.
One aspect unchanged from 2017; impressive ground clearance necessary when tooling uncharted trails. Crosstrek's favorable 8.7-inches of clearance compares with 6.1 inches provided by Toyota's RAV4 and 7.8 inches for Honda's CR-V, two highly popular compact five-door crossovers lacking Crosstrek's off-road chops.
The verdict: Crosstrek can tackle just about any off-road situation the Chicagoland area dishes out with an attainable and attractive price point.
Crosstrek enters 2018 with a starting price of $21,795 for base manual models, a modest $100 increase from 2017's starting price.
Our Limited tester included a $26,295 starting price. The sole $3,445 option package included a firstrow power moon roof, in-dash navigation and upgraded Harmon Kardon Audio system. With a $915 destination charge, the bottom line reached $30,655.
A mechanical, pull-type parking brake lever comes standard between front bucket seats. Drivers sit slightly higher when compared to compact sedans thanks to the crossover design. Limited's six-way power driver's seat includes a vertical adjustment fine tuning preferences. Push-button start comes standard.
Deep set at the top center dash is a 10-panel multi-function high-grade information display. Choosing a selection (average fuel economy, weather, vehicle systems operations, etc.) requires the push of an 'info' button on the three-point steering wheel's 9 o'clock position. One of the selections includes a
digital compass direction; handy, but Crosstrek drivers may be better served via a constantly glow green N,S,E or W indicator tucked inside the rear view mirror.
Forward and below resides an eight-inch touch screen. Apple Car Play and Android Auto come standard, allowing quick, seamless connections to Smartphones and all applications to link up with the in-dash screen. Volume and station-select dials conveniently flank the screen, allowing for tactile touch interplay. Medium-size dials with interior push portions control ventilation selections.
The instrument panel includes two circular analog gauges (with right-side speedometer) flanking a 4.2inch color LCD display with digital speed readouts and posted speed limits.
Second-row seatbacks fold flat onto cushions with a 60/40 split, opening up 55.3 cubic feet of cargo room, a 3.4 cubic foot increase. The cargo door, with standard wiper, opens to impressive head clearance for a compact-sized product. Crosstrek's off-road mindset is evident along the cargo floor, with a waterproof mat (in Premium and Limited trims) easy to remove and hose down if muddied. Lifting up the mat and floorboard below reveals a temporary spare tire, something not all competitors still provide.
With second-row seatbacks prone, expect a usable 20.8 cubic feet behind the patrician. Despite slightly larger dimensions, this compact bests accommodates two adults in the second-row or three preteens.
The fuel tank holds 16.6 gallons of regular, unleaded gas. Fuel economy for CVT models register 27 miles per gallon city, 33 mpg highway, an impressive four mpg better in each category than the six-speed manual. While not class-leading, both sets of numbers reflect positively when factoring in Crosstrek's allwheel drive, a technology steeling some thunder from fuel economy.
A diminutive two-tier honey-comb front grille includes Subaru's oval, six-star logo framed by narrow headlight housing with LED daytime running lights inside. Lower-slung horizontal tail light housing wraps to side fenders. Utilitarian roof rail come standard as does a rear spoiler. 2018 Subaru Crosstrek
Price as tested: $30,655
Engine: 2.0-liter four cylinder
Wheelbase: 104.9 inches
Overall length: 175.8 inches
Overall width: 71.0 inches
Overall height: 63.6 inches
Curb weight: 3,113 pounds
Fuel economy: 27 mpg city/ 33 mpg highway.