Expert Reviews

2024 Subaru Crosstrek First Drive Review and Video

There’s no question that more iconic Subaru models exist, but none matters as much to both this brand and its budding fan base than the subcompact Crosstrek.

This little crossover is the most affordable in Subaru’s lineup, which has certainly helped to propel its popularity; but so too has its overall excellence. While short of perfect it managed to come close, particularly with the second generation that launched back in 2017, with a well packaged interior, handsome styling, and an easy – if not especially exciting – driving demeanour.

Keeping up with the competition means a redesigned 2024 Subaru Crosstrek has arrived, and it’s aimed at further perfecting the approach of its predecessor rather than reinventing itself entirely.

Refined All Around

Don’t be too quick to conclude that this is some sort of if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it situation. While the 2024 Crosstrek might look like a gently massaged version of the one before it, plenty of small tweaks add up to noticeable improvements this time around. Take the extensive use of structural adhesive, with 27 metres of the stuff compared to eight before. The increased rigidity that comes with it allowed Subaru’s engineers to soften the suspension damping just a bit in a bid to improve ride quality, and it was a resounding success.

While there’s perhaps a bit more body roll than before, it’s only barely so. The improved ride is well worth the sacrifice, with a newfound smoothness that’s near the top of the segment. Unfortunately, the steering system has taken a step backwards in terms of feel and feedback, with the new setup overboosted in a way that isn’t unlike the one in the much larger Subaru Ascent. It’s among the only miscues here, however, and just like the body roll it’s not enough to be unnerving.

Noise, vibration, and harshness have been vastly improved this time, with a lot less of it emanating from under the hood. Rather than simply adding more sound-deadening and calling it a day, small tweaks to the camshaft designs have reduced the sort of natural shaking that gas motors are prone to. However, the ignition stop-start system that shuts the engine off when idling to reduce emissions is rather jarring when it fires back up.

Along the same lines as the engine improvements, functional vents have been added to the back sides of the front fender cladding, as well as the rear bumper, to cut down on turbulence. While wind noise is a few decibels higher than it probably should be with the stereo off, the Crosstrek’s cabin is largely well hushed from outside interference.

Same Size, Different Crosstrek

The dimensions both inside and out are almost identical to before – a rare but welcome decision with this right-sized crossover. The wheelbase has been stretched five mm (0.2 in), leading to a little more rear-seat legroom this time, but the footprint the 2024 Crosstrek occupies is the same as its predecessor. However, more subtle changes can be found in areas like the rear corners of the vehicle, as well as the back glass, all of which have been reshaped to improve outward visibility.

The cabin has also been extensively overhauled, with a new look across the four-trim lineup that’s soon to expand to five with the addition of the rugged Crosstrek Wilderness later this year. Each one of them has its own upholstery, with two-tone cloth or leather. And then there’s the focal point of the interior: the massive 11.6-inch touchscreen that dominates the dash in all but the base trim. That display looks right at home inside this little crossover, its low positioning making it far less distracting than it might seem at first glance.

It’s the same screen and infotainment interface offered in other Subaru models including the larger Outback as well as the WRX sport sedan, and it incorporates most features and functions. It’s also been vastly improved, so it requires less poking and prodding to access different menus and settings, while voice control can be used for more features, including disabling the pesky ignition stop-start system. There’s also wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connections, plus a handy wireless phone charger just below the screen in the top two trims.

Capable and Confident

With standard all-wheel drive, the Crosstrek is never short of traction – even when faced with the kind of conditions the average crossover this size simply can’t handle. That’s long been the case for this brand’s lineup, with everything from this subcompact to the three-row Ascent featuring a minimum of 220 mm (8.7 in) of ground clearance. (Only the all-electric Solterra has less when it comes to Subaru’s crossovers, and even then it’s only barely so.)

While the Crosstrek Wilderness will surely be able to tackle even more intense obstacles, the deeply rutted route traversed near Kelowna, B.C., showcased the surefootedness of this Crosstrek and its all-wheel drive system, which easily clawed its way across ankle-deep furrows and loose rocks. It’s the kind of capability that can come in handy when accessing remote trails camping areas, with that good ground clearance keeping large obstacles at bay.

Out on the open road, the Crosstrek cruises with composure and smoothness. Then there’s the 2.5L engine that provides the exact kind of kick this subcompact needs to make passing and merging on the highway as stress-free as it should be.

The same wasn’t always true of the Crosstrek – and it still might not be with the smaller 2.0L that powers the Convenience and Touring trims; but with 182 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque, there’s a kind of confidence that was lacking. (In fairness, this has been the case for the last couple of years, with the 2.5L introduced in 2021.) Better still, the 2.5L barely burns more gas than its 2.0L counterpart, with official ratings of 8.9 L/100 km in the city, 7.2 on the highway, and 8.1 combined compared to 8.8, 7.1, and 8.0, respectively.

Even the automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT), a type that’s long been dogged for being buzzy and strained in most applications, is smooth and responsive, behaving more like a conventionally geared unit. And when a little more torque is needed – for passing, for instance, or getting up and over an obstacle off the beaten path – paddle shifters on the steering wheel allow it to behave more like an eight-speed thanks to programmed “steps” in the transmission that simulate proper gears.

Value, Thy Name is Crosstrek

While the 2024 Crosstrek has seen its starting price rise rather sharply – and largely due to the discontinuation of the manual transmission that used to be offered – it still represents significant value in the segment. Not only is the $28,995 the cheapest Crosstrek commands before freight and tax a reasonable sum amongst all-wheel-drive competitors, but it comes with a long list of features – some of which are hugely surprising at that price point.

There’s steering-responsive LED headlights, an advanced driver-assist suite that includes adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, dual-zone automatic climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, heated front seats, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Moving up to the $32,195 Touring trim adds stuff like a six-speaker stereo (four speakers are standard), that 11.6-inch touchscreen (dual seven-inch displays are standard), and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, among others.

Meanwhile, the Onyx trim is priced at $33,995 and gets the 2.5L engine instead of the 2.0L, larger 18-inch alloy wheels, a wireless phone charger, a cargo privacy cover (that really should be standard), and some stylish yellow accents inside and out. Finally, the range-topping Limited trim is a $36,995 proposition and gets leather upholstery, a 10-speaker stereo, built-in navigation, and orange interior accents, and more.

Expect the upcoming Wilderness trim to slot in between the Onyx and Limited in terms of pricing. Regardless, non-negotiable destination and delivery charges add $2,195 to all trims.

Final Thoughts

A slew of small tweaks add up to a significantly improved 2024 Subaru Crosstrek. There are bigger crossovers in this segment of subcompacts, including the Volkswagen Taos, or more efficient ones like the Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid. But few are as well-rounded as this Subaru – a trait that’s been further fine-tuned for this third generation. It’s spacious, smooth, and stylish, while its mild manners and impressive capability make it a jack of all trades that’s managed to master a few, too.