Subaru’s Crosstrek hatchback debuted in 2016 and wasted no time muscling itself into the top ranks of the corporate lineup.
September saw the compact hatch ($21,895) outselling the mighty Outback, while nipping at the heels of the Forester.
This year, Subaru aims to deepen its appeal with the advent of an all-new plug-in hybrid. The Crosstrek Hybrid ($34,995) is more powerful and more frugal than its non-hybrid siblings and provides up to 17 miles of EV-only driving.
The Crosstrek serves as an entry point into Subaru’s collection of AWD wagons and crossovers. It embodies the company’s rugged, go-anywhere ethos and its vehicles’ proven reliability.
Smooth, compliant ride
Because it’s a Subaru, full-time all-wheel drive is standard. A lofty 8.7 inches of ground clearance and traction-management software extend its off-road capabilities.
Despite its off-road orientation, the Crosstrek offers a smooth and compliant ride. It feels solid and planted on the road. Despite its elevated ride height, it handles corners taken sanely with modest body lean.
Push it, though, and physics rears its immutable head. Any road-surface disruption that arises mid-corner is likely to undo the hatchback’s composure.
The Crosstrek is nimble and easy to drive in traffic and crowded parking lots. Yet it’s roomy enough to house four adults and has a good-sized cargo hold.
The hybrid’s battery pack is located beneath the cargo area, which elevates its floor and reduces usable space.
Substance trumps glamor
Over the years, Subaru buyers have proven themselves to prefer substance to glamor. Accordingly, the Crosstrek cabin is a mixed bag of soft-touch surfaces and thin, hard plastics that betray a cost-accountant’s attention to detail.
Materials quality is so-so and, with its muted color schemes, the cabin is serviceable but humdrum. Subaru strives to brighten things up a bit, with faux carbon-fiber trim and orange contrast stitching on seats and door panels.
There’s adequate in-cabin storage, though the various cubbies and trays are plastic-lined, and not rubberized. The climate-control knobs feel brittle and rotate stiffly.
The base Crosstrek is reasonably well equipped. It includes a 6.5-inch touchscreen dashboard display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone integration, and a four-speaker sound system. There are automatic up/down front windows, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, a rearview camera, a driver information display and 17-inch wheels.
EyeSight widely available
Subaru's EyeSight driver-assist suite is optional on lower trims, standard at higher levels. It includes adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning with automatic braking and lane-keeping assist
The hybrid’s dressier cabin features matte-blue plastic trim on the doors and dashboard, and soft perforated panels on the doors. Standard gear includes leather upholstery, heated front seats, automatic climate control and push-button ignition.
The Crosstrek’s steering is well-weighted and builds resistance as it moves off-center. Its AWD system curbs understeer by delivering engine torque to the wheels where it’s needed most.
All Crosstreks but the hybrid are powered by a 152-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that earns an EPA-estimated 29 mpg combined (27 city/33 highway).
The four is paired with a six-speed manual or a continuously variable unit transmission (CVT). Either way, it’s a tepid brew, as 0-60 comes up in a leisurely 9.3 seconds.
Once the battery has been discharged, the hybrid is EPA-rated to deliver 35 combined mpg, versus the standard model’s 29 mpg. Buyers must decide if that’s sufficient to justify the $8,000 bump to the bottom line.
Combined city/highway mileage jumps to 35 mpg with the hybrid and it earns an MPGe of 90. The hybrid also trims a full second off the non-hybrid’s 0-60 time.
The CVT uses simulated gear ratios to replicate the performance of a conventional automatic. Still, flooring the throttle to merge or pass, sends engine revs soaring noisily and produces the disconcerting elasticity to which CVTs are prone.
The regular Crosstrek can tow up to 1,500 pounds; the hybrid maxes out at 1,000 pounds.
Others in its class are more refined, but none are more capable. Subaru buyers have already proven that’s a trade-off they’ll happily live with.
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2019 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid
Vehicle base price: $21,895
Trim level base price: $34,995
As tested: $38,470 (includes destination and handling)
Options: navigation; power moonroof; heated steering wheel; Harmon-Kardon audio system
Tow rating: 1,000 pounds
EPA rating: 35 mpg combined/90 MPGe
Regular unleaded fuel specified