Subaru is on the march as one of the hottest-selling brands in the automotive industry. Part of its success was the Crosstrek, an entry-level, compact crossover that brought a lot of adventurous outdoor types into showrooms. It wasn’t without its faults, but the 2018 edition – based on the all-new Subaru Impreza – addresses almost all of them.
It’s kind of ridiculous for any “automotive journalist” to fly to a distant location, test drive a model for six hours and talk knowledgeably about how the car has improved. I’ve never owned a Crosstrek; I’ve never considered buying one; and I’m not really the target audience.
So, I researched the XV Crosstrek Forum and I joined the XV Crosstrek Owners group on Facebook, and Car Talk shared the questions I asked of the owners on its Facebook page. In general, the owners’ comments broke down into four categories:
The outgoing Crosstrek has a 2.0-liter, normally aspirated four-cylinder that’s good for 148 horsepower, which it has featured since it was introduced in the United States in 2012 as a 2013 model. The general consensus among Crosstrek owners was the engine simply didn’t provide enough power. While it offered decent fuel economy at 50 mph, once you cranked it up to legal highway speeds, fuel economy took a major hit.
The numbers on the 2018 Crosstrek don’t provide a lot of encouragement, with the same 154 horsepower, 145 pound-feet Boxer four engine as the Impreza. It’s an improvement, but it’s not dramatic. Regardless of which Crosstrek trim you choose, this is the engine you’ll get. You do have a choice of transmissions in the 2.0i and the 2.0i Premium trims, which offer a six-speed manual or a CVT automatic transmission.
This might seem like a minor inconvenience, but as every manufacturer leans on technology, poor performance can lead to significant problems in owner satisfaction surveys. Crosstrek owners had problems with connecting to their devices and the sound quality of the hands-free phone operation in the car.
On both fronts, the Crosstrek has improved considerably. I paired three Apple devices (my iPhone 5SE, my driving partner’s iPhone 4S and an Apple iPad Mini) instantly, and the pairing procedure was intuitive and easy to navigate on the touchscreen.
To test the quality of the Bluetooth microphone, I had my driving partner drive on numbered secondary roads at more than 50 mph while I made a call from the passenger seat. The voice activation is fair. However, the sound quality on the other end was reportedly clear and easy to understand at speed, even with me doing most of the talking from the passenger seat.
Interior sound level
The real answer to making the interior quiet is to build a stiff, solid structure. In every measure, the Crosstrek is stiffer, and it results in less noise and vibration inside the cabin. The number of pass-throughs for wires and cables from the passenger cabin to the engine bay were reduced, and the remaining openings were sealed more effectively.
If there was a single, vital improvement made to this model, this was it. Even in the 2.0i Premium trim, the quietness of the interior was a dramatic leap forward.
The 2.0i Limited featured leather seats with contrasting red stitching. The aesthetic improvement is nice, but the real test is how they feel after a few hours. I had no discomfort, and neither did my driving partner, after several hours on the road. We swapped out of the 2.0i Limited into a 2.0i Premium to not only sample the six-speed manual, but to spend some time with the cloth seats. In a way, they’re more comfortable than the leather seats are, especially in warmer temperatures. The cloth seats seemed to be able to dissipate the heat more effectively than the leather seats did.