It's not every week I get to drive a base model car. Most of the press cars that are handed out are fully loaded so I really do like it when I get a lower trim model that I can look at and understand what the average consumer's car is actually going to look like. Even if perhaps they may add a few options or have the next package up.
The Subaru Crosstrek was introduced in 2012 as a 2013 model. It is a relatively new offering to the market and Subaru has hit a home run with this little car. Subaru would like you to compare it to small crossovers like the Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3 to name a few.
What this car truly is though is a Subaru Impreza with some cladding and a raised suspension. But hey, the formula is working for Subaru and with the current crossover craze sales are strong, so who am I to argue.
This is the base model Crosstrek, the "Touring" model. It is powered by a 2.0L boxer engine outputting 148 hp which is mated to a five-speed manual transmission. You can add an automatic transmission for $1,300 if you so desire. The automatic transmission is of the CVT variety, which some love and some hate, so be sure to test drive it to determine your preference.
Since this is a base model there isn't much in terms of features or buttons in the interior. That said, it seems that Subaru has stepped up its game in terms of interior quality when compared with their previous Impreza designs.
The Crosstrek utilizes softer-touch materials and quality fit and finish, which is rare for the price point. By no means is the interior of the Crosstrek the class leader but it competes well when you compare it to the competition in the $25,000 range.
A standard back-up camera and automatic climate control are a bonus. But the big difference compared to the competition is in the drivetrain. There are not that many competing vehicles that offer all-wheel drive and a manual transmission at the price range of the Crosstrek.
The rear seats fold flat in a 60/40 split fashion, offering 632L of cargo space with the seats up and a massive 1,470L of volume with the seats folded down.
The steering wheel controls are intuitive and the climate control and radio are easy to reach and use as well. A large junk bin located just in front of the shift lever is a great storage space. Door pockets allow for water bottles and extra storage and there is a smaller bin under the armrest if you slide it back. The heated seat controls are underneath the armrest; a little oddly-placed, but another nice addition to a base model.
When I reviewed the Crosstrek after it first came out in 2012 I mentioned how it was loud in terms of road and wind noise especially on the highway. A recent owner also chimed in that he felt it was a very noisy car. It is interesting that this 2016 model seems much quieter, perhaps it is down to the tires.
The biggest disappointment here unfortunately is the the manual transmission. Here is a chance to have some fun and row some gears but it is just not super exciting to drive. The fact that you end up in fifth gear at 60 km/h at around 2,000 rpm is certainly a buzzkill. What does that mean? It means you stay in fifth gear (the top gear) until 120 km/h but then you are turning nearly 3,500 rpm at that point. It is kind of ridiculous. The Crosstrek needs a sixth gear or different gear ratios I'm not sure what Subaru was thinking with this manual. That said it seems a lot of manual transmission equipped cars have exhibited this recently.
The 148 hp engine is willing and able to move the car along well. It's no rocket ship but it accelerates and gets out of its own way. The manual gearbox certainly helps in that regard by keeping the revs up and the engine on boil at all times.
Visibility is great in the Crosstrek, with large mirrors and large windows all around it is easy to see where you are going and where others are coming from around you. Parking the Crosstrek is also a breeze, I typically use the back-up cameras exclusively on cars now that I have used them so much, but the Crosstrek doesn't really need the camera as the visibility is so good.
Although I found it a little on the slow side I do not think most buyers of the Crosstrek will really care. The vehicle almost competes in a class by itself. A wagon with all-wheel drive, available with a manual or CVT that sits between a crossover and car.
It makes sense as the Crosstrek really is a Subaru Impreza that sits a little higher. If you are looking for maximum space though you may actually want to look at the Impreza as it has slightly more cargo volume due to the interior trim pieces used in the Crosstrek.
Subaru certainly has improved on their fuel economy story. I averaged 8.0 l/100 km over the course of the week and it wasn't that many years ago a base Impreza had a hard time breaking past the 10 l/100 km mark. Long-time Subaru owners will tell you it's not efficient but they love the all-wheel drive and capabilities of the vehicle -- now you get both.
Overall the Crosstrek proves to be good value for money.
Model: 2016 Subaru Crosstrek Touring
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $26,770