There’s one exception, and that’s when you step down on the brakes firmly, or even moderately; there’s noticeably more nosedive than you’ll find in nearly all normal cars—and even some other crossovers—and the body tends to ‘whip’ back to center when you reach a full stop, unless the driver has finessed the last few feet. Stops are very confident nevertheless (Subaru installed larger front discs versus the Impreza), and pedal feel is reassuring.
Depending on whether you choose the CVT or the manual transmission, you still get a relatively different version of all-wheel drive. Automatic versions come with an electronically managed continuously variable transfer-clutch system, while manual Crosstreks come with a viscous-coupling all-wheel-drive system with locking center diff. As we’ve experienced in the past, both systems simply get the power to the surface—whatever that might be—but the system with manual-transmission models does tend to enforce the more direct, responsive driving feel.
Just as in the Impreza, gas mileage is better with the CVT (rated at 25/33 mpg) than if you choose the manual gearbox (23/30). We spent the most time in a CVT model—the highest-mileage all-wheel-drive crossover, Subaru points out—and saw an average in the upper 20s with no attempt to follow the advice of the fuel economy gauge, which advises you on your current driving style with a simple plus or minus sweep.
The Crosstrek’s towing ability is impressive—in the sense that many vehicles in this class (like the Countryman and Juke) don’t have a tow rating at all, while the Subaru is rated at 1,500 pounds.
Great for gear
Subaru claims that the cargo space wasn’t designed for numerical claims but rather to be able to fit the kinds of larger pieces of gear that users might have—and after crawling around and folding the seats, we agree. The cargo space is surprisingly box-like, with a flat, straight-across cargo floor, and no confining strut towers, and for the main cargo area there’s a removable rubberized tray that would clean up (and hose off) very easily.
It’s easy to get comfortable in the Crosstrek, whether that’s the front or back seat. The driver’s seat ratchets up and down for height, and this very tall driver found no problem getting into a comfortable position. Oddly, I felt like I fit better as a passenger in the back seat than in the front passenger seat, which is not height/tilt-adjustable and feels more scooped-forward than the driver’s seat. The rear bench is contoured nicely for adults, and it’s split 60/40, so with a lift of a small knob next to the outboard headrests you can flip the seatback forward; unless the front seats are at their farthest-back travel, you can do that with one arm.