March 03, 2024
Wheels

Crosstrek may look like a raised hatchback, but it delivers where it matters

Subaru enthusiasts love it, nay-sayers claim ‘rebadge,’ truth may be a bit gray

The 2024 Subaru Crosstrek's capabilities rise high above any raised hatchback on the road.

Subaru enthusiasts, and those well on their way to becoming one, clearly find the Subaru Crosstrek flawless. While this huge-selling crossover seems to have consumers glazed over in love, the nay-sayers will point out that the Crosstrek is really just an Impreza hatch with excellent ground clearance and some off-road cladding.

For my tastes, the Crosstrek may look a bit like a hatch on steroids, but there’s no denying the capability with its standard all-wheel drive and overall performance on whatever surface you find yourself driving. This Subaru is tuned for comfort and most of the time it manages to deliver a great cabin experience.

The Crosstrek base with manual transmission (yep, they still offer one) starts at $24,870, the more popular starting point with the automatic transmission is $26,220. My tester was the Crosstrek Sport which features an upgraded engine and various off-road drive modes.

On the outside, the Crosstrek looks like a true crossover wagon/hatchback but the raised ride height gives it a look like no other hatch out there. The front looks predictably Subaru, rather bland and pedestrian with a tiny grille, wrap-around headlights, and black cladding for the lower cowl/intake.

Besides the Dark Gray 18-inch alloy wheels on my tester, nothing stands out more on the exterior than the raised height and the functional roof rails. These rails are the real deal and can handle a slew of optional racking options for storage or sports equipment.

Performance/Drive

The base Crosstrek starts with a 2.0-liter Boxer engine that lies flat rather than vertical and offers Subaru owners a very distinct feel and center of gravity. My experience is this is not enough power to adequately get the 3,300-pound Crosstrek up and going anywhere. My tester Sport model featured the 2.5-liter engine upgrade, which is a must if you opt for this crossover.

With the 2.5-L engine, with 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque, and the CVT with 8-speed manual shift mode, there’s more than enough oomph to merge into traffic, power up into highway speeds, and get around town as quickly (and safely) as you like. Strangely, the fuel economy is comparable with the smaller engine, 27/34/29, so go ahead and ramp up to the 2.5-liter box.

The only major gripe about the ride of the Crosstrek comes from the noticeable roll in turns and other maneuvers. This chink in the armor for ride is understandable given the lift it offers and its wheelbase, but popularity suggests this is a reasonable trade-off for buyers who will opt for capability over comfort.

Cabin

The Crosstrek is not designed as an SUV, it’s a sedan footprint, so front and rear seating space is excellent. My tester had the Option 22 package ($1,920) which added some nice cabin elements, including a power moonroof, 10-way power seat adjustments with 2-way power lumbar support, blind-spot detection, and a rear traffic alert system.

Like the outside, the interior is not going to win any style competitions, though I would not characterize it as bad or ugly. It is simply functional, with all the surfaces being high-quality and soft-touch materials.

The centerpiece of the dash is an 8-inch touchscreen, a 6.5-inch version comes on the base models. This system is incredibly intuitive and easy to use. Maybe it’s my age, but I like the larger icons on the screen and the knobs and buttons for controls. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included.

Storage space in the Crosstrek is excellent. At 20.8 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 55.3 with the seats folded, it’s bigger than almost every subcompact and mid-size compact SUV out there. I found the area to be a more wide and deep space for storage, rather than the higher spaces in an SUV.

Pricing

My Crosstrek Sport tester started out at $28,995 with a $1,295 destination charge. Add Option Package #22 ($1,920) and the final price was $32,210. Given the great capabilities and the sometimes-perplexing popularity of the raised hatchback stance, you get an authentic-looking crossover that can pretty much handle any terrain or weather the normal person may encounter. Small SUV and hatch lovers unite, this is one Subaru you can all love.

John Stein is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. He has more than 25 years of experience driving, testing, and writing about the automotive industry, its latest innovations, and vehicles.