SANO, Japan – The first thing we notice about the second-generation Crosstrek is that its style hasn’t changed much. It’s so similar, in fact, that you’d have a hard time telling the old and new generations apart.
While the look remains the same, the Crosstrek’s architecture is all-new. This is the brand’s second vehicle (after the most recent Impreza) built on the Subaru Global Platform (SGP). This structure is particularly rigid in torsion and the engineers in charge of its development were all too happy to give us a pointed demonstration. They positioned the vehicle on ramps so as to completely raise its front left wheel and rear right wheel. Then they opened and closed the hatch repeatedly to show that it was not hindered by bending in any way.
On the oval track reserved for high-speed testing, the naturally aspirated, direct-injected, 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine had its hands full. This mill also equips the Impreza, but the Crosstrek is a heavier vehicle. Once it got going, the engine demonstrated reasonably good pick-up thanks to a particularly efficient CVT automatic gearbox.
The vehicle comes with a six-speed manual transmission—that’s one more gear than the Impreza has—but both shift action and fuel economy are pretty disappointing, especially considering the manual uses more fuel than the automatic CVT.
In the obstacle avoidance test at 90 km/h, the new Crosstrek proved much more manoeuvrable and easier to control than the old version. On a more winding track, the 2018 Crosstrek’s handling was predictable and reassuring. The steering is borrowed from the BRZ sports car and is also direct, which helps the vehicle take on turns with precision. It also gives you a good feel of the road, making the Crosstrek is as interesting to drive as a German car in that regard.
The new Crosstrek is roomier both in front and in back, and the quality of the cabin materials and interior finish are a clear indication of progress. The telematics system has been taken up a notch with colour touchscreens that range from 6.5 to 8.0 inches, depending on the version. All Crosstreks come standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Load capacity is 588 litres with all the seats in place and 1565 litres with the rear seatbacks lowered.
The 2018 Subaru Crosstrek’s price ranges from $23,695 to $33,195 depending on trim and options. Subaru vehicles are known for being versatile and having a very good resale value, but they are far from the sexiest on the market. Style tends to play second or even third fiddle. Choosing a Crosstrek remains a matter of the mind, not the heart. Although the new version doesn’t redefine the category, it marks significant progress.