Not long ago, senior editor Kirill Ougarov had an opportunity to sample a top-trim Crosstrek 2.0i Limited outfitted with Subaru’s continuously variable transmission. So when I had a chance to spend some time in a 2018 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i Premium—the mid-level version—equipped with the standard 6-speed manual, I jumped right into the driver’s seat. Turns out, the manual shifter changes the feel of the car in ways both good and less good.
Let’s be clear right up front: The Crosstrek is not for performance fanatics. The standard direct-injection 2.0-liter flat-four is naturally aspirated and makes just 152 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. That said, the six-speed improves things a bit acceleration-wise, cutting almost a second from the CVT version’s 0-to-60-mph times (about 9.5 seconds with the manual). Shifter feel and clutch action are both excellent, making rowing through the box a pleasing affair—and adding an element of sportiness to the Crosstrek’s portfolio. For that added measure of driver control, I can certainly see a lot of can-do Subaru devotees opting for the standard gearbox.
On the flip side, choosing the six-speed means cutting EPA fuel economy figures from 27/33 city/highway mpg to 23/29. What’s more, you’ve got to be a driver who really enjoys rowing the stick yourself because the little four-banger doesn’t reach its meager torque peak until 4,000 rpm. Off the line, the Crosstrek is all but asleep; patience and astute shifting is absolutely required to get the most from the anemic engine. For sheer user-friendliness and driving ease, the CVT is unquestionably the better choice. It’s better able to keep the engine in the meat of its torque band, and does so with zero added driver interaction necessary.
In almost every other respect, though, this Subaru is a charmer. As Ougarov pointed out, packaging versatility is a Crosstrek strength. The smartly arranged 60/40 split rear seat (the “40” portion is behind the driver’s seat) allows you to stow long pieces of cargo and carry a second passenger, while total cargo volume with the rear seats folded down is a generous 55.3 cubic feet. Roof rails are standard, too.
Inside, the Premium edition is a marriage of simplicity and smart function. The seats are supportive and well-bolstered, the controls (including a 6.5-inch touchscreen) are intuitive to use, and all the stuff you’re likely to need is on board as standard. That includes electric power steering, power locks and mirrors, a rear-view camera, a six-speaker audio system, and a multimedia system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto plus such apps as Aha and Pandora. Nothing fancy, mind you, but all the gear anyone would need for most driving missions. In fact, my tester—gleaming in Sunshine Orange paint—carried no options at all, checking in at a very reasonable $23,510.
Naturally, the Crosstrek being a Subaru through and through, it’s ready for action right out of the box. In addition to Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, the Crosstrek boasts 8.7 inches of ground clearance, active torque vectoring for improved responsiveness in corners, and standard hill-descent control. The ride is well-damped even over pock-marked surfaces and steering feel is weighty and accurate. With the manual shifter you also get standard incline start assist that holds the vehicle in place while you jump from brakes to gas while stopped on steep hills. Anyone driving a clutch-pedal-equipped Crosstrek through San Francisco would never want to be without it.
In sum, the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek is an honest, approachable, hard-working, and supremely versatile all-rounder for not a lot of dough. I can see why Subaru owners are so loyal to the brand. It’s hard not to be charmed by a vehicle that handles so many driving tasks so well without asking a lot in return.
With a turbocharger on board, the Crosstrek would win fans even faster.
2018 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i Premium Specifications
|PRICE||$23,510/23,510 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||2.0L DOHC 16-valve flat-4/152 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 145 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|EPA MILEAGE||23/29 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||175.8 x 71.0 x 63.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||9.5 sec (est)|
|TOP SPEED||123 mph (drag limited)|