The compact SUV market is pretty thankless. Buyers want maximum bang for minimum bucks and expect everything you would find in a larger sport ute, but with a smaller price tag and better fuel economy.
But here’s the thing. Manufacturers have been delivering precisely that for years. Honda, for example, has been selling its CR-V by the trainload since its introduction, in 1995, and Toyota’s RAV4 – a direct competitor – isn’t far behind. Both of these vehicles can be had with all-wheel-drive, and the CR-Vs baby brother, the HR-V, is already well on its way to being a best seller.
But sitting patiently on the sidelines is the Subaru Crosstrek, which has been well-received, if not wildly popular, since it hit the market, in 2012. In the words of Subaru Canada’s director of product management and sales training, Anton Pawczuk, the Crosstrek “straddles two markets” and blurs market segments. Part compact and part sub-compact SUV, the Crosstrek is aimed at those buyers who crave “urban adventure” and it can handle itself as an about-town schlepper, while being surprisingly adept off-road. One of the things I’ve always liked about Subaru products is that they are remarkably good when road conditions things deteriorate, and the Crosstrek offers 220 millimetres of ground clearance….enough to drive over a curb or two without hitting bottom, for instance.
It’s also interesting to note that the Crosstrek attracts buyers who have been down the compact SUV road before. Says Pawczuk: “70 per cent of all Crosstrek buyers have come from other manufacturers”, adding that 97 per cent of all Subaru products sold in Canada over the past decade are still on the road. Competition for the Crosstrek includes Mitsubishi’s RVR, the Nissan Juke, and Honda’s aforementioned HR-V.
But enough numbers. What’s new for 2016 with the Crosstrek? Not a hell of a lot, actually. A few new paint choices (including a surprisingly effective “Hyper” blue paint scheme), new interior treatment, a fresh front end design, and various cosmetic odds and ends. Why mess with success? There was/is nothing wrong with the 2015 Crosstrek, and to throw out another cliché, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Power is still provided by a horizontally-opposed, liquid cooled, “flat four” displacing two litres, and developing 148 hosepower, mated to either a CVT automatic or five-speed manual. Subaru must be one of the last manufacturers to still offer a stick shift in this market, and it’s a nice touch. If I had my druthers, I’d opt for the manual shifter over the CVT; it delivers livelier performance and is about $1300 cheaper. That said, it is slightly harder on fuel. (9.1 L /100 km combined rating vs. 8.1). Nonetheless, I’m not a fan of CVTs and the Crosstrek does nothing to change that.
What I am a fan of, however, is Subaru’s PZEV technology. In a nutshell, this alters ignition timing during cold starts, channels the exhaust through a more robust catalytic converter, subtly changes fuel injection settings, and provides a charcoal canister in the air intake to reduce unspent gas emissions. The result is one of the cleanest non-hybrid vehicles on the market…..and not at the expense of performance.
If that isn’t enough, you can also get the Crosstrek as a hybrid, which features the same flat four engine, but with a 13.4 horsepower electric motor thrown into the bargain. This model only comes with a CVT, but does offer better fuel economy, of course. That said, the Hybrid is almost six grand pricier than the base model.
Needless to say, all Crosstreks come with all-wheel-drive, and you can choose from a wide range of extras and modcons. For example, the Limited package has all leather interior, with an available GPS, and dual zone climate control. The Crosstrek is definitely not a luxury SUV, but it has all you need and then some. Interior cargo capacity, incidentally, is 1470 litres with the seats folded. This compares favourably with the HR-V (1665 litres). Which, incidentally, cannot match the Crosstrek when it comes to off-road ability.
Prices for the 2016 Crosstrek start at $24,995 for the manual transmission Touring model, going up to $30,495 for the Hybrid.
AT A GLANCE
Engine: 2.0 litre horizontally-opposed four cylinder
Transmission: CVT / Manual five-speed
Drive: All-wheel drive
Horsepower: 148 hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 145 ft. lb. @ 4200 rpm
Price Range: $24,995 - $30,495
Fuel Economy: 8.1 litres per 100 kilometres & 9.1 (combined). Regular fuel.
Alternatives: Nissan Juke, Mitsubishi RVR, Honda HR-V, Toyota RAV4, Chevrolet Trax, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson.