2016 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i Premium
Certainly there were car/SUV combinations before Subaru disrupted the status quo, the short-lived Willys-Overland Jeepster from the last mid-century coming immediately to mind, plus of course AMC’s Eagle that arrived in the late ’70s and sold throughout most of the ’80s. Subaru’s GL AWD Wagon, which also hit the market in 1979, is even more notable because it was the springboard of a corporate identity that would soon lead to the wonderfully wacky Brat, probably the only compact car-based pickup to ever find success, and eventually the ’94 Outback that’s now legend for launching the modern-day crossover era.
Crossovers have shown up in all shapes and sizes since then, all of which, like the Outback, are based on unibody car platform architectures, albeit most doing their best to imitate 4×4-capable SUVs. The compact Forester falls into this latter camp, which is probably why it’s Subaru’s most popular North American model, whereas the Crosstrek being covered here is more of a niche model that just happens to also be a very strong seller.
Subaru doesn’t really have a weakling in its lineup, it’s biggest problem being an inability to get enough cars to satisfy demand. The brand’s U.S. numbers are 175,192 Foresters last year, 152,294 Outbacks, 100,519 Imprezas, 88,927 Crosstreks and 60,447 mid-size Legacy family sedans, with only the Impreza-based WRX/STI performance sedans and BRZ sports car selling in lower numbers.
It’s easy to understand why the Crosstrek has become so popular, as it looks great and it services a unique subset within the compact crossover SUV segment that wants more of a car-like experience than the usual tall, upright CUV. I’ve been a fan since it debuted, especially when catching sight of it in one of its more eye-catching colors like Desert Khaki or my tester’s Hyper Blue; unfortunately Tangerine Orange has been discontinued. Also discontinued, the car’s XV prefix will no longer be part of the Crosstrek model name here in North America.
As you may have noticed, it’s basically a raised Impreza 5-Door with a redesigned front fascia, some cool body cladding added around the lower edges, yet more go-anywhere trim incorporated elsewhere, plus beefier wheels and tires, the Crosstrek filling the shoes of the old Impreza Outback Sport, albeit to better effect.
Subaru offers the Crosstrek in base 2.0i trim, 2.0i Premium, 2.0i Limited, Hybrid and as the range-topping Hybrid Touring. I’ll leave those last two for a future review and instead focus on the 2.0i Premium driven while touching on the other conventionally powered trim levels.
The 2.0i Premium doesn’t offer a lot of standard kit above the base 2.0i, but at just $800 above the base model’s $21,595 plus freight and dealer fees its $22,395 suggested retail price represents good value. Its list of upgrades only include body-color side mirror housings, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with orange stitching, a center console sliding armrest lid with orange stitching, two additional stereo speakers for a total of six, and a removable cargo-area tray plus cover, although the availability of options goes up significantly with the choice of paddle shifters for the optional automatic CVT; a leather-wrapped automatic transmission shifter handle with orange stitching; a powered moonroof; an All-Weather package with heatable side mirrors, a windshield wiper de-icer, and heatable front seats; a 0.8-inch larger 7.0-inch Starlink infotainment display with voice activation, text messaging capability, satellite radio with Travel Link, and more; optional Starlink Safety Plus that offers automatic collision notification, SOS emergency assistance, enhanced roadside assistance, maintenance notifications, a monthly vehicle health report, and diagnostic alerts; optional Eyesight Driver Assist technologies including adaptive cruise control, lead vehicle start alert, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, lane change assist, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management, and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert (when so equipped the Crosstrek qualifies for an IIHS Top Safety Pick + rating, whereas all trims achieve a five-star NHTSA crash test rating).
If you’re wondering about all of its other safety gear, not to worry as it includes the usual assortment of airbags plus one for the driver’s knees as standard equipment, as well as tire pressure monitoring, traction and stability control, ABS-enhanced four-wheel disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, and a rearview camera, while the base model also gets keyless entry, multifunction steering wheel controls, tilt and telescoping steering, a touchscreen AM/FM/CD/HD display audio system with four speakers plus USB and aux ports, Bluetooth audio streaming and hands-free phone connectivity, a 4.3-inch multi-information display housed within the primary gauges, air conditioning, cruise control, powered side mirrors, fog lamps, roof rails, 17-inch alloys, AWD, and more.
In case you want to take your Crosstrek further up the food chain, Limited trim adds auto-on/off headlights with welcome lighting, LED turn signals onto the side mirrors, chrome exterior door handles, dual-zone auto HVAC, leather upholstery, and more, plus the availability of passive access with pushbutton start and navigation.
No matter the trim, the Crosstrek is finished nicer than the majority of compact cars and SUVs, which is a big change for Subaru that didn’t always measure up when it came to soft touch refinements. The Crosstrek’s dash top is completely soft and pliable, however, wrapping right down to the midway point of the center stack, while the door uppers are also finished with a soft synthetic treatment featuring comfortable padding underneath, this finer attention to detail truly making for premium-like experience both up front and in the back where Subaru duplicates the luxurious pampering. Additionally, nice satin-silver trim adorns the instrument panel and door panels, while the door inserts are made from a plush woven fabric that matches the seat inserts. The padded leatherette armrests on the doors and at center also feature cool orange stitching mentioned earlier, pulling cues from those sport seats as well as the leather-wrapped steering wheel and leather-clad shifter noted before, while there are even designer clothes-style orange tags sewn onto the seats that are embroidered with the Crosstrek nameplate.
Other interior highlights include attractive chronograph-style primary gauges with gray-blue faces and metallic rims, the aforementioned multi-info display at center as clear and crisp in resolution as anything in the class and controlled via high-quality steering wheel switchgear, although it’s not quite as fully packed with functionality as some. A real-time analog fuel economy meter sits at the bottom of the speedometer dial, and while serving as a useful reminder to drive more efficiently it’s not really an accurate indication of how much gas you’re consuming. No worries, because atop the center dash is a dual-display showing average fuel economy, exterior temperature, the time (via digital clock that was set up analog-style) to the right and detailed HVAC info to the left, while if you toggle a switch that sits between the two center vents just below the hazard light button you’ll access yet more features such as a different real-time graph-style fuel economy indicator that’s much easier to read and much more accurate, or you can switch to another screen that displays the four-wheel drive system in real-time, etc.
This leaves the infotainment system just below for audio control, plus apps including Subaru’s previously noted Starlink that provides news, food, weather, music, podcasts, audiobooks, and other multimedia content via its own apps, Aha or Pandora, while there’s also a settings section for personalizing the infotainment system as well as the car’s various functions, and of course an interface for phone setup and use. My phone connected easily and worked flawlessly throughout my test week, while the audio system played music and podcasts from my smartphone via Bluetooth audio streaming. The stereo actually has a built-in automated graphic equalizer that lets you quickly switch from bass- and treble-centric settings to a flat sound that’s better for talk radio, or instead you can create customized presets for different styles of music. It’s a pretty slick system that sounds superb when optimized for the genre of music you’re listening to.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the previously noted HVAC system is an ultra-simple and easy to use thanks to automatic function, although it took a little longer than average to heat up the cabin. The two-way heatable front seats didn’t take any time at all to warm, however, and stayed nice and toasty at their hottest temperature setting.
The Crosstrek is roomy for a compact, as the roofline is high and there’s ample space from side to side, while the rear seating area offers comfortable outboard seats with decent legroom. A large wide hatch is ideal for loading large items into the cargo area, and when necessary the 60/40-split seatbacks fold mostly flat, other than a two-inch ridge where the rear floor meets up with the base of the seats. There aren’t any levers on the cargo sidewalls to lower them, but I didn’t have any trouble reaching the organ stop-like pull-tabs on top of the seatbacks and I’m just five-foot-eight; alternatively you can lower them from the side doors. Altogether the Crosstrek provides 51.9 cubic feet of total cargo space when both rear seatbacks are lowered, or 22.3 cubic feet with all the seats in use.
Back up front, the Crosstrek provides excellent sightlines front, side and rearwards, while large side mirrors allow for good rearward visibility. As mentioned, Subaru includes a reverse camera that certainly helps when backing up, but it’s a rudimentary one that doesn’t include active guidelines.
As for the drive, the Crosstrek’s fully independent front strut and double wishbone rear suspension setup balances ride and handling duties ideally, with very little intrusion from road imperfections such as broken pavement, bridge expansion joints, and the like, while it takes to corners well when the need for speed arises. I wouldn’t go so far to say that it’s designed for performance first and foremost, but I flung it through some local backroads and thoroughly enjoyed myself, never feeling concerned about its ability to stay upright amid sharp turns, while the compliant suspension just noted made sure all tires kept in full contact with the road surface. Likewise, on the highway the Crosstrek maintained its lane easily at high speeds while keeping wind and road noise to a minimum.
I never took it off pavement, although I’m willing to guess with 8.6 inches of minimum ground clearance and Subaru’s acclaimed Symmetrical AWD underfoot it would prove much more capable than the average cute ute, this no doubt translating into excellent grip in mid-winter snow too, all of which would make the Crosstrek an ideal companion for regular trips up the ski hill.
The standard 2.0-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder would guaranty steep grades didn’t slow down your progress, as its 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque provides good acceleration off the line and more than adequate passing performance, while the optional continuously variable transmission responds very well whether left to its own devices, where it’s ultimately smooth, or when being rowed through the gears via the shift lever or its steering wheel-mounted paddles. Those familiar with my writings will appreciate that I’m not normally a big CVT fan, but Subaru does this type of gearless box better than most others. Downshifts are very quick and feel a lot like a regular automatic whereas upshifts, while certainly less direct than a sport-tuned version of a conventional autobox or an automated double-clutch unit, result in positive pseudo gear changes that are actually quite satisfying.
Quite satisfying are two words that work well to summarize a week spent with the Crosstrek, and while I would’ve also enjoyed a stint behind the wheel of a five-speed manual equipped version, my CVT tester delivered sporty yet comfortable and accommodating transportation in a stylish, well made, nicely equipped five-door, and looked great doing so. That my tester also manages an EPA claimed 26 mpg city, 34 highway and 29 combined while meeting Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (PZEV) standards is more than just a bonus, not to mention that it comes from a carmaker rated highest amongst mainstream volume brands in Consumer Report’s latest 2016 report card on reliability.
The Crosstrek is just one more example of why Subaru owners are so incredibly loyal. I couldn’t recommend it any higher.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press Photo credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press Copyright: American Auto Press