First Drive

2016 Subaru Crosstrek plays dirty while keeping clean

Crosstrek straddles the line between compact SUV and subcompact crossover

2016 Subaru Crosstrek
Photo by Kanishka Sonnadara fo Autofile.ca

TORONTO, ON ­ From the brand that wears its outdoor heritage as a badge of honour comes the latest revision to its pared down baby crossover. After two days of driving it hard on the road and off, it’s easy to see that this baby is every bit as accomplished as its older siblings.

Going past the pavement

When we review new vehicles, numbers are often thrown around almost thoughtlessly. But never have I appreciated the significance of a specific number more than when I drove the 2016 Subaru Crosstrek through a deeply rutted and grooved off­road segment. Its 220 mm (8.6 inches) of ground clearance is not only class leading, it’s truly exciting to experience in person.

During the drive event, Subaru had journalists take the refreshed Crosstrek from the urban jungle that is downtown Toronto to the seemingly unimpressive fringes of the city up in Caledon. To our great surprise the carefully planned route took us from paved highway to dirt country roads to full-­on off-­road terrain very quickly.

Turning off traction and stability control – as foolhardy auto journalists often do – I found myself reaching for the handbrake and dancing the little crossover along deserted stretches of gravel road. The Crosstrek is light and nimble, powered by a butter-smooth 2.0-litre boxer engine that’s reasonably responsive at higher RPMs.

Subaru’s full­-time all­-wheel-drive system is as fantastic as always and keeps you moving in the right direction.

Mountain goat capability

The real excitement, however, didn’t begin until we slowed things right down to a crawl. Entering a closed road with a surface that resembled a scale model of the Grand Canyon, I was highly skeptical of the Crosstrek’s ability to take on such dramatic hills and gullys.

Guided by the drive program coordinators, the little Subie took on every seemingly insurmountable challenge and conquered each with confidence.

Rolling on factory rubber, the crossover had to rely heavily on its engineered off­road competence to fill in for the shortfalls of using street tires; a Crosstrek on proper off­road tires would be one mountain goat of a vehicle.

Living with it

Hop inside a 2016 Crosstrek and you’re immediately greeted by a youthful and dynamic interior. Subaru opts for a cabin in black with silver/grey accents and bright orange stitching. The orange stitching is standard across all trim levels, with Sport trim and above getting a leather wrapped steering and shifter with the same stitching. Small details like light beige pillars and ceiling keep the cabin of the Crosstrek feeling bright.

Cabin tech is on par with what you’d expect from a modern vehicle. Housed in a 6.2­inch or 7­inch (depending on trim level) touchscreen display, the infotainment system is a carryover from the previous year.

Like much of its competition, Subaru was caught unprepared when rivals Honda and Volkswagen introduced Android Auto and CarPlay connectivity for their infotainment systems late this year. No matter how high up on the equipment list you take the Crosstrek, in that respect it pales in comparison to an Andriod Auto/CarPlay equipped vehicle.

The Crosstrek does boast near segment-best driver and passenger legroom along with generous cargo space. The spacious cabin, combined with simple, well laid out controls leave little to complain about.

Clean and safe

A brand known for its eco-­friendly credentials, Subaru builds the Crosstrek at a zero landfill factory in the Gunma prefecture, Japan and features a powertrain that is Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (PZEV) rated.

As Subaru extends its IIHS Top Safety Pick status on all its models for the fifth consecutive year, the refreshed 2016 Crosstrek continues the family tradition of vehicles built on a brand pillar of safety.

Opt for the EyeSight equipped Crosstrek, and that IIHS rating gets bumped to a Top Safety Pick .

Packaging and value

Calling the Touring trim 2016 Subaru Crosstrek the base model is a disservice to what is a very well packaged entry point to the model. Priced at $24,995, the manual transmission equipped Crosstrek Touring package has a long list of standard features including: a rearview camera, automatic headlights, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, automatic climate control, heated front seats, a retractable cargo cover and 17­inch alloy wheels. Automatic transmission models feature a CVT with paddle shifters for $1,300 more.

Sport trim Crosstreks begin at $26,995, while a fully loaded Limited Technology package model will set you back $31,895. The 2016 Crosstrek can also be had in a hybrid variant for $30,495.

To the admiration of many an enthusiast, Subaru also makes the Crosstrek available with a good old fashioned manual gearbox at every trim level, except Hybrid.

Subaru positions the Crosstrek as a vehicle that straddles the compact SUV and subcompact crossover segments. Combining an engaged on road driving experience with unparalleled off-road capability, a comfortable and spacious cabin, along with industry leading green credentials, the 2016 Crosstrek makes a strong argument for being the vehicle of choice for consumers who live – or aspire to live – active, at­-one-­with-­the-­environment lifestyles.

With a vibrant product lineup that shares much of the same values, Subaru is currently riding at its highest market share of all time. A recent study found that 98% of all Subaru vehicles sold in the past 10 years are still on the road today. Although the 2016 Crosstrek is mostly a carryover from the 2015 model, it’s hard to argue with a proven product.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Model: 2016 Subaru Crosstrek

Price: $24,995 Touring 5­speed manual transmission; $26,995 Sport 5MT; $29,395 Limited 5MT; $30,495 Hybrid CVT; $1,300 for CVT; $1,200 for Technology option on Sport CVT and Limited CVT 

Engine: 2.0-litre 4­cylinder Subaru Boxer engine, 148 horsepower, 145 lb­ft of torque; Hybrid adds electric motor, 13.4 horsepower, 48 lb­ft of torque

Transmission: 5­speed manual transmission; automatic CVT with paddle shifters

Fuel Consumption (city/highway): 10.2/7.7 L/100km 5MT; 9.1/7.0 L/100km CVT; 7.9/6.9 L/100km Hybrid CVT

Length: 4,450 mm

Width: 1,780 mm (without mirrors)

Wheelbase: 2,635 mm

Competitors: Honda HR­V, Mazda CX­3, Jeep Renegade, Nissan Juke, Mitsubishi RVR

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