Subaru refreshed its Outback Jr for the 2018 model year with a bump in horsepower and fresh LEDs on the top trims. New cabin tech and the slightest of slight design upgrade to detailing outside and in completed the refresh.
Most notably, the top Crosstreks now have a sexy LED DRL that comes standard with the upgraded bi-xenon, auto-highbeam cornering lamps on the Crosstrek Limited. Humbler trims like our 2.0i Premium tester have to make do another year with bulb DRLs and a decidedly dowdy look on the road.
No LEDs in front for this trim but some searingly-bright LED taillamps join the Crosstrek for safety and style points.
It is always great for this reviewer to spend time in Subies. As a previous Legacy GT owner I have a very soft spot in my heart for their boxer engine growl, trusty cornering feel and surprisingly comfy ride quality.
Does the Crosstrek deliver on these core Subaru values as well as it does at MPG efficiency and smooth cruising? 35+mpg and silence over speed bumps comes standard on Crosstrek.
But is its Impreza compact hatchback basis a demerit for shoppers versus the new Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V and other mini SUV rivals?
Check out the drive review video to get things moving, and continue on to the normal section headings of Exterior, Interior, Performance and Pricing. A few dozen pics along the way of this tallboy AWD 'ute.
HD Drive Review
If you're a fan of off-road plastics and simple, crisp design... then the new Crosstrek will be right up your alley. Most of the metal is carryover but a fresh look for the grille is slightly more upmarket and expressive than before. SImilar newness for the foglamp shrouds and all that scuff-resistant chin spoiler.
Those new LEDs on the Limited model really feel like a must have for fashionistas and tech fans alike. As it stands, the yellowish reflector low, high and fogs look quite cheap and dated, even versus price rivals.
Still, this is a funky and handsome shape that flaunts its ground clearance and roomy cabin right from its exterior design.
The chopped tail would be convincing as a new SUV-coupe if it did not share so much with the lower road-going Impreza.
Around back, the new LED tails make safety more important than style -- but are still far more contemporary than the lighting situation in front.
We'd give the Crosstrek a B+ in style for the Limited but just a B- for the lower trims.
The cabin of the Crosstrek is where this car really proves its appeal versus the VW Alltrack. Even though that car is longer with bigger overhangs all around... the Crosstrek actually feels slightly roomier inside.
Big comfy new-gen Subaru seats and softer plastics join a high-res display screen in this 2.0i Premium. Hiproom is generous and shoulder/headroom seems unlimited front and back. A tall, airy cabin in here despite all the dour black colors.
The back seat is where the Subaru platform genius really comes through. The entry with the jacked ride height is easier than any mini crossover out there-- and even easier than the VW despite smaller doors. A super low floor back there and a nice recline for the seatbacks makes this a genuinely roomy place for two occupants. Three is a pinch but less so than most alternatives smaller than a RAV4.
The new tech and safety goodies in Subarus no longer require unique jumbo option packages. Bundling the better nav and infotainment display active cruise and lane-keep is generous and reminds you how seriously Subaru takes safety.
Safety is instantly evident behind the wheel. Full-time AWD just feels so much more planted than part-time systems with front-drive defaults. That 50/50 split just lets the Crosstrek glide around corners with the purest steering feel of any mini SUV.
And it is in these corners that you can just make out the low, Boxer engine's merits of low center of gravity and very little body roll. Just a hint of fun and balanced handling feel comes through in fast on-throttle corners. As ever with Subarus, just brake up to a corner, pop it up to the apex and floor it out. Easy as pie, every time and in almost every grip situation.
Is it all roses for the Crosstrek's performance?
No, no it is not. You have to be a pretty patient driver to feel satisfied with the power and acceleration. Despite an extra 3 horsepower, 152 is still a meek total for this size machine. Natural aspiration and a major MPG focus means the Crosstrek is quite pokey.
The CVT tries its best to multiply power and its paddle shifters are mandatory for fun cornering outings, for sure. Passing power is anemic and flooring the throttle away from the lights is depressing. Vans will be 2 seconds ahead by the time 60 rolls around in the Crosstrek. That is a fact.
What is also a fact is the smoothness and silence from the motor and drivetrain. This is one of the most refined and comfortable compact crossovers out there with no engine harshness near the redline. Thorough wind proofing is evident and the 2018 Crosstrek now has a lot of the damped, insulated feel of the big Outbacks.
The Crosstrek stickers from about $21k with a stickshift and no options. Our tester jumps to a $25k base and about $27k as tested. The LED DRLs on the Limited need at least about $28k to take home.
Is this Crosstrek perfect for everyone? No, it might not be. Its terrific steering accuracy and confidence-inspiring handling are quite special versus most tall compacts/tall wagons. Few out there can be flung around onramps as quickly, and few ride as smoothly as this Subie.
And perhaps for most commuters and weekend warriors... that is enough.
But for those looking for a daily dose of that old WRX magic.. you'd be better off with the Alltrack instead.