Stay true to your Subaru
Starting with the setup. Subaru does not start with a futuristic-looking concept car and then try to find a place for technology under the sleek-lined bodywork. At Subaru, function comes before form. The safest possible chassis is designed around the powertrain. And only when the technology, mechanics and all the safety features have found their place do the visual designers get to work. The Crosstrek may not look as harmonious or spectacular as its counterparts, but Subaru has a good reason for that!
And, compared to its predecessor (the Subaru XV), the Crosstrek does look more modern and its appearance is more confident. Its dimensions have remained roughly the same. As the name implies, the Crosstrek is a true "crossover" with the ground clearance of an SUV or off-road vehicle and the bodywork of a tough passenger car.
Because the exterior dimensions have hardly changed, the cabin space has also remained roughly the same. Space in the front is ample. Because the seats are adjustable over a long distance, tall drivers can sit low and down, while smaller drivers can sit high and close to the steering wheel. With large adults in the front, just enough space remains in the back for another two adults.
Subaru has revised the frame and mounting of the front seats after much research. As a result, the seats are said to offer extra comfort and the occupants would move less with the car. Although no major difference from average seats was experienced, it must be said that the driver and co-driver were definitely not tired after an intense test drive.
Subaru has so far not gone along with the trend of minimalist dashboards with a minimum of buttons and levers. The Crosstrek too has a traditional dashboard with physical buttons and analogue clocks. Since most cars now have minimalist dashboards, the Crosstrek's design feels like a step back in time. The display is not adaptable to suit the situation or one's own taste. Others praise Subaru's choice precisely because all functions are always available and no need to scroll through menus first.
Equipment is modern and complete, including a neatly arranged infotainment system (audio, communication and navigation) and support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Subaru praises "Eye Sight" which, thanks to two cameras, can see depth better than a single camera and would therefore function more accurately. However, thanks to faster image processing, the difference with competitors using a single camera is getting smaller. Subaru does, however, keep adding more features. Thanks to Eye Sight, the Crosstrek can now read traffic signs, automatically swerve for obstacles (if space is available) and brake for cross traffic.
In addition, Subaru proudly reports how details have been improved over the XV. For example, the rear window wiper is just a bit bigger than before for better visibility, the door handle has more room for the hands and airflow at the front wheels is more effective thanks to the pattern of the surrounding plastic. However: little of this is all noticeable in practice, and such steps are also made by the competition, but not named.
The Crosstrek is powered by a traditional petrol engine. This powerplant is based on that of the XV, but has been made more fuel-efficient thanks to minor modifications. The so-called "mild hybrid" consists of a 2.0-litre boxer engine and a small electric motor. During coasting and braking, kinetic energy is converted into electricity, so there is never any need to recharge with a plug. The term "mild hybrid" indicates a modest electric motor (16 hp / 66 Nm) and battery (0.6 kWh / 118 volts). This has the disadvantage of a smaller share of the electric motor and the advantage of being cheaper to buy than a "full hybrid".
The power from the engines is transmitted to all four wheels via a continuously variable transmission ("CVT"). Subaru chooses a CVT because it is more economical and compact than an automatic with fixed gear ratios. The downside is a somewhat whiny engine noise during sudden acceleration. Gradually building up the power so that the electric motor provides maximum assistance during acceleration avoids that nagging noise and reduces consumption. And when optimum use is made of the electric motor's assistance, the Crosstrek is lively and powerful.
Though the electric motor's share remains small in absolute terms and so the savings are also small. On a simple route at low speeds, test consumption came to 7.8 litres per 100 km (factory specification: 7.7 litres per 100 km). Partly because of the associated high CO2 emissions, the CO2 tax can be very high.
Subaru is therefore specifically targeting drivers who find electric cars too sterile and value the sound, power delivery and character of an internal combustion engine. And with a boxer engine, CVT and all-wheel drive, Subaru is exploiting that technology as only Subaru can!
The technology perfected by Subaru also determines the driving characteristics. Although electric cars manage to disguise their high weight well, the Crosstrek is overtly lighter and therefore livelier. A nice steering wheel, a good seating position and relatively direct steering reinforce that feeling.
The Crosstrack's added value over just another hatchback is its ability to leave the beaten track and go off-road. This is thanks to the aforementioned all-wheel drive, complemented by the large ground clearance (22 cm) and smart electronics. Under the name "X-Mode", various modes are available to make driving in mud or snow, for example, easier.
For this test, we drove in the forest with deep mud trails in wet grass, interspersed with steep slopes and small obstacles (tree trunks). In practice, the limitation is in the low entry and exit angles (19.3 and 31.2 degrees), making deep potholes a problem. Regardless of the surface, the electronics know how to distribute the drive forces optimally, even if a wheel has temporarily less grip. Therefore, it takes much less effort to maintain the desired track than with a car without these electronics. When descending, each wheel is controlled individually, so the car is easy to control.
How does Subaru manage to distinguish itself now that Subaru's signature all-wheel drive combined with a low centre of gravity and high safety have been made commonplace by electric cars? By completely ignoring that fact! With the Crosstrek, Subaru is sticking to the concepts and technology it has refined over the years.
Whether that is good or bad news is purely personal. Those comfortable with the latest technology see the Crosstrek as a complex solution to problems that can now be solved more simply, environmentally friendly and economically. However, those uncomfortable with computers on wheels thank Subaru on their bare knees for continuing to develop and perfect conventional technology. They feel good with a familiar internal combustion engine, mechanically controlled all-wheel drive and only the most necessary electronic assistance. And that is precisely what Subaru is very good at.
- Smooth and lively
- Great attention to detail
- At home on public roads and off-road
- High consumption