2018 Subaru Crosstrek first drive: memories are made of these Page 2

July 17, 2017

That would ignore everything that goes into making the new Crosstrek more responsive in practice. Subaru quickened the steering ratio from 13:1 to 16:1 and gave the Crosstrek bigger wheels and better tires for squeaking around boulders or darting around canyon corners. It’s practically a 1980s Boston Celtic with that kind of hustle and sneaker game.

The underpinnings are more confident too. The Crosstrek rides atop a global architecture that’ll be found on other Subaru cars and crossovers, including the larger seven-seat Ascent due later this year. That doesn’t mean the Crosstrek and Ascent will be the same size, rather it means that Crosstrek has a stouter, more condensed version of the platform that makes it stiffer, and perhaps safer if push comes to a hard object.

Other systems help the Crosstrek make good first impressions. An eager throttle tip-in bounds the Crosstrek forward from stoplights, and a brake-based torque vectoring system bites inside wheels to carve a tighter line through corners.

Result: The Crosstrek is no Olympic-level sprinter, but it is a really good rec-league runner that probably shouldn’t quit its day job.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek first drive

2018 Subaru Crosstrek first drive

Enlarge Photo
2018 Subaru Crosstrek

2018 Subaru Crosstrek

Enlarge Photo
2018 Subaru Crosstrek

2018 Subaru Crosstrek

Enlarge Photo

Shine on me

It’s no mistake that we’ve made it this far without talking about the interior, which is easily the most heavily revised portion of the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek.

The crossover is slightly longer between the wheels than its predecessor while keeping nearly the same length bumper to bumper, which makes for more rear seat room at the expense of a slightly smaller cargo area when the seats are up. In reality, the hatch is about as useful as before (20.8 cubic feet for 2018 vs. 22.3 cubes for the outgoing model) with more space when the seats are folded.

The cabin is noticeably quieter than before; we measured around 80 db inside while cruising at highway speeds. That’s about the same racket you’d find in a 2018 Mazda CX-5 but without the hour-long lecture on its improvements.

Passengers aren’t likely to complain about the seats either, which are supportive, soft, and shod with better materials, including the base cloth upholstery. Limited models get a durable and smart leather that feels antithetical to the Crosstrek’s wash-and-ready mission, but at least it has look-at-me orange stitching.

In fact, Subaru walks a fine line by swinging the Crosstrek upmarket with features such as a moonroof, leather seats, and a premium Harmon/Kardon sound system mated to an 8.0-inch touchscreen with iPhone-like pinching, zooming, and animation. Top-level trims of the Crosstrek feel like the Taj Mahal of tents, oddly. It’s a reality of more crossover buyers expecting luxury features normally reserved for sedans.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek first drive

2018 Subaru Crosstrek first drive

Enlarge Photo

And we’re back to first cars.

At $23,710 to start for a base model with a 6-speed manual transmission and all-wheel drive, the Crosstrek is nearly the same price, inflation-adjusted, as the car I took to college. It was also the first car I felt comfortable leaving my ZIP code in, and I’d have fewer issues emptying my nest if my hypothetical child needed reliable, flexible transportation too.

This time, Subaru changed what made the last Crosstrek rough around the edges. The 2018 version is quieter with a softer ride and more creature comforts—or it lacks all of the endearing flaws that I’ve conveniently forgotten since I turned 30, except one.

I guess that’s what happens in old age.

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