- Traction and agility
- Comfortable ride
- Versatile interior
- Good gas mileage
- Cost-cut interior look
- Barely adequate acceleration
- Tire and road noise
If you thought about an SUV but really just want a maneuverable small car with good gas mileage and all-wheel drive, the 2016 Subaru Crosstrek is all you need and nothing you don't.
The 2016 Subaru Crosstrek has the profile of a small, sporty hatchback, yet the stockier stance of a utility vehicle. If you look at its ability set, it outdoes some SUVs with far more rugged pretenses—all in typically modest, utilitarian Subaru style.
The Crosstrek (Subaru dropped the "XV" for 2016) is based on the Subaru Impreza five-door hatchback, but its boosted ground clearance, beefed-up suspension, and added protection, fender flares, front and rear fascias, and roof rack add up to a different look. It's surprisingly distinct, even though it essentially keeps the same sheet metal.
The model range can be considered in the same vein as a good pair of cross-trainer shoes: sufficiently sturdy to handle a variety of different uses, but not specialized to any one particular duty cycle at the expense of any others. It's been a surprise hit at Subaru, with shoppers are choosing it over a wide range of small crossover models. Subaru has had to sacrifice some supplies of standard (and less expensive) Imprezas to make room for all the utility versions its customers are snapping up.
The Crosstrek is offered with a manual or a continuously variable transmission (CVT) in standard setups, while there's also a 2016 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid model that essentially provides the same level of perkiness, but bumps the EPA combined figure to 31 mpg. The Crosstrek comes with a 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter flat-4 paired either with a 5-speed manual gearbox or Subaru's CVT. In either case, acceleration is just adequate. The new hybrid powertrain inserts a small 10-kw (13.4-hp) electric motor between the engine and CVT, though it's there largely to assist the engine and can propel the vehicle from a stop on electricity alone only if you're willing to accelerate very, very gently—and there's no one behind you.
Otherwise, the Crosstrek has a set of specs that reinforce its utility credentials. Ground clearance is raised to 8.7 inches, and the Crosstrek good approach and departure angles (18 degrees and nearly 28 degrees, respectively), more engine cooling, a larger gas tank, some suspension and structural reinforcements, and good approach and departure angles. With Subaru's standard all-wheel drive distributing power among all four wheels, the Impreza-based crossover might be one of the best small vehicles for snowy driveways and dirt, gravel, and rutted roads. Meanwhile, below 50 mph or so, the Crosstrek feels relatively nimble—although on the highway the steering is relatively numb and it's susceptible to crosswinds.
With the exception of some extra road noise and somewhat less precise handling, the Crosstrek still pretty much drives like a passenger car—offering versatile and impressive cargo capacity for ski gear, camping supplies, or just groceries and other everyday cargo. As for the Hybrid version, its battery pack is stowed under the deck, meaning that its cargo volume is largely unchanged.
The Crosstrek has a smooth, refined ride, albeit a very noisy one. Hybrid models are more hushed, as they include upgrades to its front suspension and a dozen improvements to noise and vibration insulation. Some of those changes have been given to non-hybrid models, but we haven't revisited this model since them.
The cabin of the Crosstrek is largely the same as the Impreza, with some changes to fabrics, meaning adults can get in and out of all four doors, and four of them will fit fine front and rear. All models include a rubberized cargo tray that's easily removed and hosed off, and the electronic-circuit pattern stamped into the rubber of the hybrid's tray is a nice touch. The roof rack on all models is standard and can carry up to 150 pounds. Crosstrek models come rated to tow up to 1,500 pounds, too. Materials and trims are only average for this price range, though, perhaps fitting Subaru's utilitarian image.
Subaru's EyeSight suite of active-safety features is widely available in the Crosstrek—on all but the base model—and Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert are added to it for 2016. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are now standard on Limited and Hybrid Touring models.
Subaru upgraded its infotainment systems in the Crosstrek just last year, to offer a 6.2-inch touchscreen standard and include a 7.0-inch screen with multi-touch gestures on upper trim levels. Middle-of-the-range Premium models now include heated front seats, heated side mirrors, and a windshield de-icer, while the top-level Limited model gets leather upholstery, leather shift-knob and steering-wheel trim, automatic climate control, and a fold-down rear-seat armrest with cupholders. For 2016, Premium and Limited models can be equipped with Starlink services allowing things like automatic collision notification, roadside assistance, diagnostic alerts, and remote locking/unlocking.
The gasoline Crosstrek gets 26 mpg city, 34 highway, 28 mpg combined with the CVT, and 23/31/26 mpg with the standard 5-speed manual gearbox. Step up to the Crosstrek Hybrid and you get an EPA rating of 29/33/31 mpg.