2019 Subaru Crosstrek Plug-in Hybrid Review by Ben Lewis

Subaru loves to go their own way.

That’s one of the things we love about them. We recently tested the WRX – a powerful sports sedan with rally-car DNA. The new Forester, a crossover with that same feel of something a little different from the mainstream.

Need a 3-row SUV? You can get the Ascent, and enjoy that Subaru goodness in a larger package.

It takes real engineering talent to stay true to your school (cue Beach Boys), and still meet, compete, and beat other vehicles in your segment. So, now we have the all-new Crosstrek Hybrid – the company’s first ever plug-in hybrid. And with EV’s and Hybrids becoming a major part of the future of cars, it’s a hugely important vehicle.

So, can a plug-in vehicle stay true to the Subaru faithful?

Color Me Blue

The Crosstrek is now in its second generation, with the first offered from 2013-2017. In 2018 an all-new model, built on the Subaru Global Platform appeared. The 2nd gen added some need ruggedness, and along with a 1.2-inch longer wheelbase, and being nearly an inch wider, the prominent fender flares, black cladding on the side and wheel arches. While other small crossovers trade on cute, the Crosstrek, with a generous 8.7-inch ground clearance looks ready to tackle the worst weather and road conditions.

Hey, it’s a Subie.

Now, if you like the gorgeous Lagoon Blue Pearl of our tester, you’ll find it’s only available on the Hybrid. We think that’s an excellent choice in hues, as the model also gets blue headlight projector rings, contrasting silver metallic finish on the grille, front bumper, fog light accents and body cladding, wrapped around unique machine-finished black 18” wheels. Special finishing touches include low-profile roof rails and rear spoiler in black, and Plug-In Hybrid badges. There’s even a “Plug-In” text on the charge port door, which is good, since the fuel door is on the opposite rear fender in the same place.

Upscale Interior

The blue theme continues in the interior, with the gray and navy-blue leather seats catching your eye. Settle into those comfy cowhide thrones, and you’ll also find blue door panels and armrests, as well as contrasting blue stitching and accent panels. The net effect really elevates the overall feel of the Crosstrek, a little more lux, a little more futuristic. It’s a nice place to be.

Rear seat room is good in the hybrid, but there is a price to be paid in cargo. Due to the battery pack, the floor height is notably raised, and you lose 12 cubic feet of space. Other hybrids seem to build their systems with less space penalty.

Outside of that, the interior will feel familiar to anyone who’s been in a Subaru lately – logical laid out controls, nice quality materials, and a robust feeling of things built to last. While there is already a plethora of info centers – between the gauges, in the info-tainment and above the infotainment in an LCD-screen, there are also some Hybrid specific screens including driving and charging info.

The Hybrid is positioned as the top of the Crosstrek line, so it is well equipped with 8” multimedia system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, auto climate control, keyless access with push-button start, dual rear USB ports and more. A lot of Subies spend their time in snowy areas, so the All-Weather Package is also standard, with such cold-weather comforts as heated front seats, windshield wiper de-icer and heated outside mirrors. Mmmm toasty.

Making our tester even nicer, we had the $2,500 option package that adds such niceties as a power moonroof, 8” Multimedia navigation system powered by tomtom, and a delightful sounding Harman Kardon, 432-watt, 8-speaker audio system. Even a heated steering wheel!

There’s no skimping on the in-vehicle tech with Subaru Starlink. Along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you get Aha, Pandora, and Bluetooth. There are also available connected services including hybrid-unique remote battery charging, and remote climate control – since the climate control can function without the gas engine running, you can warm up or cool down your Crosstrek, even when garaged. Nice!

The Happy Hybrid

The Crosstrek follows suit with the RAV4 Hybrid we recently tested: it’s the choice in the lineup if you want performance. A far cry from when hybrids gave you great mileage, but you paid the price with pokey performance.

In the Subie’s case, you’ve got a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine – a “boxer” horizontally-opposed – of course! And then, two electric motors, one that works with the gas-powered engine, and the other that works as a starter, and helps charge the battery pack.

Charging is pretty quick – 5-hours on 120-Volt outlet, or two hours from a 240-Volt.

With a full charge, the Crosstrek will give you 17 miles of pure EV range of up to 65 mph. The net is 90-MPGe. More importantly, once you’ve burned through those 17 miles, you still enjoy a combined 35 mpg EPA, giving you a total range of 480 miles. Compare this to the non-hybrid 30 mpg combined, and you can see the savings add up.

There’s more than just better efficiency – the hybrid is an easy 1 second quicker to 60 mph, and it feels even more so with that big fat EV torque push coming right off the line. Also, the drive is much more pleasant, in pure EV mode, the ‘trek is quiet and feels refined.

Subaru also didn’t compromise their commitment to full-time all-wheel drive, which means you’ve got the impressive clearance, grip and technology to take you off-road, and Subaru’s are famously capable for their rugged off-road abilities.

The long travel suspension also gives a supple and smooth ride. And the all-wheel drive gives excellent handling – it’s not a WRX, but it is plenty of fun to drive on the street.

So, with all this capability where did we go? To the mall, of course!

But we didn’t feel left out, because the hybrid is also loaded with safety features that make every drive better. Subaru’s excellent EyeSight Driver Assist Technology works beautifully, and includes pre-collision braking, Lane Departure, Sway assist and Lane Keep Assist, and Adaptive cruise control. Blind Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist, Cross Traffic Alert and Reverse Automotive Braking.

A couple bonuses to point out to your Subaru-owning friends – For the first time in a Subie, a Driver Assist Indicator has been installed at the top of the combination meter to increase visibility of EyeSight status or other warnings. And the Hybrid also features a Pedestrian Alert System that provides an audible warning to pedestrians within the proximity of the vehicle when it is traveling below 20 mph. Sounds kind of like George Jetson’s car. Very cool!

How much Green to go Green?

The non-hybrid Crosstrek lineup starts at just $21,895. The hybrid is closer to the non-hybrid 2.0i Limited, which would run $30,520 loaded up. The Crosstrek Hybrid starts at $34,995, and our tester featured the $2,500 Optional Package, that included Moonroof, Navigation, Harmon Kardon Audio and Heated steering wheel. All in, our tester carried a sticker of $38,470. While that seems like a fairly sharp increase, Subaru owners tend to keep their cars a long time, so you probably would make back the cost in fuel savings over time. And if fuel prices skyrocket, your savings – ­and smile – while be even larger.

Competitors would have to include the RAV4 Hybrid, which is similarly priced, and gives similar mpg. It’s not a plug-in hybrid, though, so you won’t get that ability for extended EV running. A Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid EX premium would run $36,945. You’ll get more range, but with no All-wheel-drive or off-road tech, the Crosstrek is much more capable.

We really enjoyed our Crosstrek Hybrid. It’s loaded with tech, is quick and refined, has a cool hybrid system, and in the right situations, you could go a loooooong time without needing to gas up. Best of all, it keeps all the Subaru-ness that makes the brand so endearing.

The Crosstrek Hybrid is a true-blue, Subaru!

Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.

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