The 2018 Subaru Crosstrek doesn't look dramatically different from its predecessor, but the Japanese automaker assures us there's much more to this year's redesign than meets the eye. Though it must be said that what meets the eye is more pleasing to it: Revised styling borrowed from the Impreza compact hatchback upon which the Crosstrek is based is a good fit and helps lend this little utility vehicle a sleeker, more upscale appearance.
Changes underneath the new look begin with Subaru's all-new global platform, which the automaker says makes the new Crosstrek's body 70 per cent stiffer than the outgoing version, which, in theory, contributes to more precise handling. Bolted to the new structure are new steering and suspension systems and a torque vectoring setup that aims to reduce understeer and, again, add precision to the way the car tackles corners.
Crosstrek's interior also wears a new look, and a redone infotainment system that now supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration.
As before, available safety kit includes Subaru's EyeSight active safety suite, LED headlights that bend with the steering to improve visibility and a new rearview camera with dynamic guidelines to help the driver maneuver in tight situations. In the active safety department, the Crosstrek's EyeSight package now has lane keep assist, reverse automatic emergency braking and automatic high beams.
Behind the Crosstrek's redesigned nose lives a 2.0L four-cylinder, horizontally-opposed engine. It's similar in spec to the old car's powerplant, but is actually all-new and adds direct fuel injection and brings a gain of four hp, to 152 total. Standard is a six-speed manual transmission that can be optioned to a continuously variable automatic (CVT) with a seven-speed manual shift mode.
Subaru was one of the first automakers to break into the market for small crossovers, and while it now has many competitors from the likes of Chevrolet, Honda, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota, the Crosstrek puts forward the most rugged face. Subaru's renowned AWD expertise contributes to a rough-and-ready image: while this vehicle is based on a car just like its competitors, it exudes a certain confidence that suggests it's ready for more challenging off-road conditions than you'd assume a relatively light-duty vehicle could manage. Subaru now equips the Crosstrek with its X-mode driver-selectable AWD system, as well as hill descent control, which automatically manages the speed at which the Crosstrek creeps down steep off-road grades.
To increase the Crosstrek's appeal, Subaru has added a new entry-level Convenience trim, which brings a starting price about $1,000 lower than the 2017 model. It includes a 6.5-inch infotainment touchscreen, cruise control, air conditioning, power windows, locks and mirrors, tilt-and-telescopic steering column, 17-inch alloy wheels and multi-function display with fuel economy information.
Next up is the Touring model, which adds heated front seats, upgraded cloth seating, automatic climate control, fog lights, rear centre armrest with cupholders, larger colour multi-function display, automatic headlights, six-speaker sound system, cargo cover and leather-trimmed steering wheel and transmission shifter boot.
Sport trim piles on the adaptive LED headlights, sunroof, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, power driver's seat, premium sport cloth upholstery, dual USB ports and an eight-inch infotainment system.
Finally, there's the Limited model, which adds 18-inch wheels, leather seating, heated steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, eight-speaker stereo and GPS navigation.