The all-new 2018 model brings the Crosstrek into its second generation. The Subaru Crosstrek’s focus has always been on value and rugged design and neither of those have changed, but the five-seat subcompact wagon is now much improved in its driveability and interior experience. The 2018 Subaru Crosstrek is well on its way to becoming a best-seller in the segment and it deserves that kind of attention.

Quick Specs & Info

2018 Subaru Crosstrek Class: Compact crossover
Base Model As Tested: 2.0i Limited
Powertrain 2.0L, manual Powertrain 2.0L, auto
Base MSRP $21,795 MSRP as tested $30,655

Overview

The 2018 Subaru Crosstrek is all-new, having moved onto Subaru’s new global platform underpinning the Impreza and making its way through the rest of the Subaru lineup. The Crosstrek features a better interior experience, a better ride, better handling, a better engine.. Basically a lot of things are better.

Subaru has generally hit the mark with the 2018 Crosstrek, building on the previous-generation of the model that gained popularity as a compact option. The previous Crosstrek was rough around the edges and not as upscale as other Subys, but carried the same “get anywhere” capability and “go do things” attitude the make is so well known for.

The attitude doesn’t change much for the 2018 Crosstrek and it’s still the most approachable Subaru in terms of price point while retaining the legendary Subaru capability and standard all-wheel drive.

Trim Packages

With three trim levels, the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek keeps things simple for the buyer as well, offering three clear levels of refinement and technology. All three trims retain the same drivetrain (engine, manual or continuously variable transmission) and come standard with all-wheel drive.

  • 2.0i – The base model 2018 Crosstrek comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission with an upgrade option for the CVT (automatic). A 6.5-inch touchscreen for infotainment includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard, along with Bluetooth and basic functions. Also standard are 17-inch alloy wheels, and a rearview camera.
  • 2.0i Premium – Building on the base trim, the Premium adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob, heated front seating and side mirrors, and an upgrade to the infotainment/safety system to include Subaru Starlink telematics for emergency services. Several options become available with the 2.0i Premium model that aren’t available with the base model, including advanced safety through Subaru’s EyeSight system.
  • 2.0i Limited – The top trim level for the Crosstrek adds 18-inch wheels and LED adaptive headlamps. Inside, it upgrades the infotainment to an 8-inch display, puts leather on the upholstery, and adds automatic climate control alongside keyless entry/ignition. Options include the aforementioned EyeSight safety suite as well as a premium audio upgrade.

Exterior and Interior Design

The 2018 Subaru Crosstrek has evolved from its previous generation’s good looks into a more contemporary design with the same ruggedness of appeal that the crossover introduced. The new Crosstrek looks more like the larger Outback model than it did before, but is by no means a copycat. The ride height, wheel well clearances, and wagon-not-sedan appeal are all still there.

Most onlookers will note the more defined body lines, simpler hood design, and sharper edges of the new Crosstrek. The roofline is made to slope more than it did before as well, adding to the overall look of speeediness.

Inside, the 2018 Crosstrek is vastly improved over its previous incarnations. Gone are the cheap plastics and dampened is the heavy road noise of before. Chief complaints we had with the previous-gen Crosstrek. The more upscale feel of the interior, which includes more trim points and better materials choices, is augmented by smarter ergonomics throughout.

This begins with the larger-than-the-norm instrument cluster bezel and surround, which limit glare while offering a clear view for the driver. The center stack is more shapely with less knee intrusion while still offering plenty of room for the larger infotainment screens and redundant control buttons and knobs.

We like the new infotainment, which has larger virtual buttons and a clearer output on its screen–even at the base level. Add in the storage for gadgets and small items found around the front portion of the cabin and it’s easy to see that Subaru’s designers put some thought into this new Crosstrek as an everyday ride.

Rear seating in the Crosstrek is good, with a 60/40 split-fold bench being standard equipment. Three across is possible, though cramped (this is a compact, after all) and child safety seat installation is relatively easy thanks to wider door openings and easier LATCH access.

In general, the passenger space in the 2018 Crosstrek is improved, though that comes after removing a bit of cargo space. Most won’t notice the difference, as cargo is still good and the long, flat load floor is easy to get things onto. The larger rear hatch helps aid that.

Driving the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek

All Crosstrek models are powered by the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. The first two trims offer a six-speed manual transmission with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) upgrade option. The Limited has only the CVT. All-wheel drive is, of course, standard in the Crosstrek.

The little engine puts out a useful 152 horsepower, but most of that is soul-sucked by the MPG-oriented CVT. The manual offers more sportiness, but still suffers from some thick MPG tuning.

That’s true of most non-sports-oriented Subaru models and pays off with 23 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway for the manual transmission. The CVT ups that to 27 mpg city and 33 mpg highway. Not bad for an AWD offering in this segment.

We do feel that the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek could use some more umph under the hood, though, as it almost deliberately feels sluggish most of the time. It’s good for daily driving, but can reduce feelings of confidence when hoping to pass another car on the highway or get going out of a stoplight. As noted before, though, highway noise levels are far better than they were in the previous-gen Crosstrek and make for a far more livable vehicle.

Adding to that is the high safety expectation the Crosstrek has, carrying on with Subaru’s goal of hitting top safety returns on all of its vehicles. Both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have given the 2018 Crosstrek top marks there.

Also of note is that the expected Subaru “never-get-stuck” mentality and capability is ever present in this new Crosstrek. We’d expect nothing less.

Competition

There are several key competitors in the compact crossover market that face off with the 2018 Crosstrek. This being the fastest-growing segment in North America, most companies are bringing stiff competition to bear.

  • Honda CR-V – A good choice in this market, the CR-V is nevertheless almost as sluggish and a bit more pricey than the Subaru when compared apples to apples.
  • Jeep Renegade – Very fun and just as off-pavement/inclement weather ready as the Crosstrek, the Renegade is a good option against the Crosstrek.
  • Mazda CX-3 – One of the sportiest and most well-made options on the market right now, the CX-3 offers strong competition against the Crosstrek at similar pricing.
  • Nissan Rogue Sport – A newcomer to the market, the Rogue Sport is a smaller version of the Rogue, offering a right-sized option that ticks a lot of marks for buyers in this segment.
  • Toyota C-HR – Fun to look at and very unusual for the segment, the C-HR nevertheless is not as interesting to drive as it is to look at.

Strong Points

  • Great new interior design with less noise and a better cabin feel.
  • Solid fuel economy compared to most AWD options in the segment.
  • Better exterior look that is more in keeping with the brand and buyer expectations.

Weaknesses

  • Sluggish on the get-go with a slow start and low performance values.
  • USB ports are hard to find in most packages unless the expensive infotainment upgrade is made.
  • Reliability not known though Subaru does have a good reputation in that regard.

Conclusions

The 2018 Subaru Crosstrek is very on point for the compact crossover segment. It holds Subaru values well while offering what most in the compact segments need out of their crossover. It’s versatile, well-built, and a great daily drive.

Test Period Length and Limitations
The Crosstrek was a manufacturer’s press loan for about a week. During that time, about 200 miles were put on the crossover in varied driving conditions with differing passenger loads as a daily driver.

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An automotive enthusiast for most of his adult life, Aaron has worked in and around the industry in many ways. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP), the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA), and freelances as a writer and journalist around the Web and in print. You can find his portfolio at AaronOnAutos.com.

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