No other small crossover will egg you on to play in the dirt quite like a Crosstrek.
While it dropped the XV from its name last year, the Crosstrek is every bit the little mountain goat of a Subaru you’d want it to be. While most crossovers in this segment ask that a buyer choose fun-to-drive characteristics or utility, the Crosstrek plays at a happy medium, even throwing in dash of a rugged good looks as icing on the cake.
Subaru has done well over the years to build a brand image synonymous with outdoorsiness, adventure, and safety. Between its legendary all-wheel drive setups in championship winning rally cars, to being awarded the highest safety ratings by crash testing organizations, the company has made sure its branding isn’t all fluff and puffery.
Go anywhere. The 2017 Crosstrek may be Subaru’s smallest crossover offering, but you’d be wrong to think it is any less capable than its larger siblings. With a segment leading 220 millimetres (8.66 inches) of ground clearance, the little Crosstrek easily bests the maximum clearance of bigger rivals like the Toyota RAV4 at 178 mm (seven inches), Honda CR-V at 208 mm (8.2 inches), and even pickup trucks like the Chevrolet Colorado/ GMC Canyon at 211 mm (8.3 inches). Although being called Symmetrical AWD, the system employed by the little Subie is not mechanically identical to the ones in the rally machines. Despite it being a touch more front-wheel drive biased, you’d be hard pressed to tell a difference in performance as the Crosstrek could get itself into and out of trouble.
A safe place. In 2017, most cars sold in our market are held to a rather high safety standard. So I wouldn’t be calling the Crosstrek out unless it was particularly bad, or really, really good. And yes, it’s the latter. Equipped with Subaru’s EyeSight active safety system (available as an option on the Sport and Limited trims only), combined with a comprehensive supplement of safety tech, and engineering, the 2017 Crosstrek earns a Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety’s crash test program.
Cabin space. At six-feet, one inch tall, I am more than comfortable in the driver’s seat. What’s more impressive is that with the seat set to my height, the rear passenger behind me still retains enough space to sit without crushing their knees – tested on an unwitting friend who’s the same height as I am. Legroom in the Crosstrek is not class-leading, but will still be ample for most. As a pleasant surprise, there’s more head and hip room in the back seat than there is at the front.
Good looks. It’s not changed much since launch two years ago, but the Crosstrek remains one very good looking compact crossover. It’s not so ho-hum plain like Honda’s HR-V, or overly styled like Toyota’s C-HR. Matte black plastic cladding around the wheel arches and in the lower front and rear bumpers visually communicate the Crosstrek’s off-road intentions. On the inside, orange stitching contrasts nicely against the black leather surfaces (standard on the Limited Tech Pack we tested), while the remaining surfaces mix matte, shiny, black, and silver finishes to create visual interest.
Lacklustre driving experience. It’s a jacked up hatchback, this Crosstrek is. And while it does drive well, all bonus points are lost when you hear the continuously variable transmission drone on. I’ll preface this by saying I’ve never been opposed to CVTs, but execution is everything. You can get the Crosstrek with a manual transmission, which I highly recommend; just remember the Technology Package can’t be had without the CVT and your fuel economy gets worse with a stick shift.
Infotainment. Sure, the Limited trim models include a seven-inch touch screen with navigation, but it’s dated. I even found myself rather underwhelmed by the lacklustre sound system, something I wouldn’t normally point out, but compared to some of its competition, the Crosstrek really comes up short. Oh, and there’s no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay; auto companies can get away with the most basic of infotainment systems if they make sure that these two smartphone connectivity systems are included (take a look at base trim Chevy vehicles).
Photos: Kanishka Sonnadara / Motor1 Canada