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Subaru Crosstrek 2023 review


Daily driver score

3.5/5

Urban score

3.5/5

Changing the name of a popular car model can be a very risky move - just ask Nissan.

The Nissan Pulsar was once one of Australia’s most popular small cars, competing directly against the Toyota Corolla. Then Nissan HQ forced the local operation to adopt the new global nameplate for its hatchback, Tiida, and immediately sales declined. So much so that even a name change back to Pulsar couldn’t help revive its fortunes.

So the arrival of the new Subaru Crosstrek is a risk for the Japanese brand. It’s a fresh name applied to this latest-generation replacement for the XV, which was already a subtle name change from the original nameplate for the model - the Impreza XV.

Which is unusual, because Subaru is a brand renowned for its careful and conservative approach most of the time, so ditching a name that has become one of the most popular models in the small SUV segment is unusual.

The Crosstrek name has been used in overseas markets for several years and Australia is simply catching up. Which is somewhat ironic, because the ‘XV’ name was the original internal codename given to the Subaru Australia-led project to create a high-riding Impreza hatch to compete in the growing small SUV market. 

But it’s a measured risk because everything else about the Crosstrek is a subtle evolution of the popular member of the line-up so there’s no reason to think this will suffer the same fate as the Nissan Pulsar.

Price and features - Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The name is new but Subaru has stuck with a familiar line-up for this new-generation model. There are two powertrain options - a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and a mild hybrid version - and four trim lines.

However, prices have risen significantly across the range, which certainly isn’t isolated to Subaru but the Crosstrek does highlight the industry trend. Case in point, the entry price to the Crosstrek range is $1800 more than where the XV ended up in December 2022, but is more than $5000 dearer than it was 12 months ago.

The range now begins with the Crosstrek 2.0L at $34,990 (all prices exclude on-road costs), which comes well-equipped for the price. Exterior highlights include 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, dusk-sensing headlights and black roof rails.

The Crosstrek is priced from $34,990 (exclusing on-road costs). The Crosstrek is priced from $34,990 (exclusing on-road costs).

Inside you’ll find cloth-trimmed seats, dual-zone climate control, USB-C and USB-A connections, a six-speaker stereo and an 11.6-inch tablet-style multimedia touchscreen with compatible wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as a wireless charging pad.

There’s also a lengthy list of safety features, too big to touch on here but check out the ‘Safety’ section below for all the details.

That specification is largely carried over to the Crosstrek Hybrid L, which is priced from $38,590. That positions it slightly above the $38,490 Crosstrek 2.0R, which takes the 2.0L equipment and adds two-mode X-Mode off-road settings, 18-inch alloy wheels, front and rear wipers with front de-icer (to target the alpine/snow country crowd), self-levelling LED headlights with auto off, front cornering lamps, heated door mirrors, front LED fog lights and dark grey roof rails. 

  • The pinnacle of the range - in terms of equipment - is the Crosstrek 2.0S, priced from $41,490. The pinnacle of the range - in terms of equipment - is the Crosstrek 2.0S, priced from $41,490.
  • Upfront of the Crosstrek is an 11.6-inch tablet-style multimedia touchscreen. Upfront of the Crosstrek is an 11.6-inch tablet-style multimedia touchscreen.
  • The 2.0S builds on the 2.0R with leather-accented seat trim and an electric sunroof. The 2.0S builds on the 2.0R with leather-accented seat trim and an electric sunroof.
  • The Crosstrek 2.0S features a 10-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. The Crosstrek 2.0S features a 10-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.
  • Coming standard in the Crosstrek is a wireless charging pad. Coming standard in the Crosstrek is a wireless charging pad.
  • The Crosstrek has smartphone connectivity with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Crosstrek has smartphone connectivity with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
  • The Crosstrek 2.0S wears 18-inch alloy wheels. The Crosstrek 2.0S wears 18-inch alloy wheels.

Inside the 2.0R gets premium cloth trim for the seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shift, sports pedals, auto-dimming rear mirror, heated front seats and a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat. It also adds USB-A and USB-C charging ports for the rear passengers, as well as some extra safety features we’ll detail later.

The Crosstrek Hybrid S is the most expensive model in the line-up, starting at $45,090, and is similar in specification to its petrol-powered sibling.

The pinnacle of the range - in terms of equipment - is the Crosstrek 2.0S, priced from $41,490, which builds on the 2.0R with an electric sunroof, leather-accented seat trim, satellite navigation and a 10-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.

Design - Is there anything interesting about its design?

Unquestionably the most interesting part of the Crosstrek design is just how similar it is to the out-going XV.

It’s not quite a case of ‘spot the difference’ but it’s very much an evolutionary design that will feel very familiar to all existing XV owners.

That should help with the name change, as regardless of the badge there’s a very clear visual link between the XV and the Crosstrek. 

Upfront of the Crosstrek is a new headlight design. Upfront of the Crosstrek is a new headlight design.

In saying that, every element is changed but not dramatically.

There’s more flourish to the design, or as Subaru puts it there are more “textures” and “sharp form lines” to “evoke a feeling of agile movement".

Certainly some of the details are nice and do make the Crosstrek look and feel newer, especially around the front end, with the new headlight design and the wheel arches, which have a more complex look.

Regardless of the badge there’s a very clear visual link between the XV and the Crosstrek.  Regardless of the badge there’s a very clear visual link between the XV and the Crosstrek. 

Practicality - How practical is the space inside?

Do you know how important your pelvis is to how comfortable you think your car is?

Apparently, it’s a lot. An unsupported pelvis leads to more shaking of your neck and head, which translates to you feeling uncomfortable.

Do you need to know this? Probably not, this is a car website, not a medical journal. But it tells you a lot about Subaru’s attention-to-detail for the new Crosstrek that one of the company’s lead engineers spent several minutes taking you through what sounds like a medical procedure.

The Crosstrek's new seat design provides a more comfortable and supportive ride. The Crosstrek's new seat design provides a more comfortable and supportive ride.

Tota Sakuari - whose job title is the lengthy Performance Planning and Integration Manager, Engineering Division, Subaru Corporation - spent more than 10 minutes explaining the lengths he and his team went to to improve the way you feel inside the Crosstrek.

All this translated to a new seat design, right down to how they are mounted in the car, to try and provide a more comfortable and supportive ride, by keeping your pelvis supported.

Whatever the science behind it, the Crosstrek is a pleasant car to ride in. The hard work on the seats paid off and after a day of driving - including a pair of off-road stints - this reviewer still felt fresh when I climbed out.

The Crosstrek certainly feels capable of taking four adults in relative comfort. The Crosstrek certainly feels capable of taking four adults in relative comfort.

There’s good room in the back too, even as a 180cm tall adult I was able to get behind my driving position and still have a centimetre or two of knee room. That may not sound like much, but this is a small SUV, not a limousine and the Crosstrek certainly feels capable of taking four adults in relative comfort.

Although that may be compromised somewhat by the lack of rear air-conditioning vents in the back of the centre console. It’s not a surprising emission from Subaru, as it’s something that company has chosen not to do in several models over the years, but it will lead to stuffy conditions in the back during hot Australian summers; at least in our experience with other Subarus in the past.

In terms of small item space it’s a similar story, with the front seat occupants better catered to than those in the rear. Up front there’s a pair of cupholders, a lidded centre console box, deep door pockets and the wireless smartphone charging pad. While in the back there are cupholders in the centre armrest but the door pockets are smaller and there are no seat-back pockets.

The Crosstrek's flat floor in the boot makes loading and unloading easier.  The Crosstrek's flat floor in the boot makes loading and unloading easier. 

The boot is slightly below-average for the small SUV segment, measuring 291 litres for the petrol-only models and 315-litres for the Hybrids. With the rear seats down that can expand to 883 litres and 922 litres, respectively.

The boot itself is a decent size, with a flat floor that will make loading and unloading easier. 

Somewhat strangely, and disappointingly, for a car Subaru is clearly pitching at those looking for off-road adventures or use in the alpine regions, there’s only a temporary spare tyre. It’s not a super-skinny space saver but it isn’t full-size and therefore would be difficult to use if you cop a flat in the bush or snow.

Engine and transmission - What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

In another demonstration of Subaru’s evolutionary process, the Crosstrek largely carries over the same powertrains from the XV. 

That means Subaru’s very familiar 2.0-litre flat-four petrol engine makes 115kW of power and 196Nm of torque. It’s paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with eight steps.

While not ‘under-powered’ those figures leave the Crosstrek slightly behind its key rivals again. Notably, in the US market the Crosstrek is available with a 2.5-litre flat-four, which makes 135kW and 241Nm, which is all it really needs to elevate it towards the top of the segment. Unfortunately, though, that engine isn’t available in Australian-bound models.

Under the Crosstrek's bonnet is a 2.0-litre flat-four petrol engine. Under the Crosstrek's bonnet is a 2.0-litre flat-four petrol engine.

The Hybrid uses the same engine but adds mild-hybrid support to improve fuel economy and make a modest improvement to performance, which is rated at 110kW and 196Nm for the petrol engine and adds 12kW/66Nm of electric motor assistance (Subaru doesn't provide a combined system output). The hybrid also gets a CVT but it has seven steps.

Both engines send power to all four wheels via another Subaru trademark - permanent all-wheel drive.

All models also get auto stop start (which comes with a handy digital display of how much fuel you’re saving everytime it switches off), Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-Drive) and X-Mode with hill descent control - but the entry-level 2.0L misses out on the two-mode X-Mode system.

Fuel consumption - How much fuel does it consume?

Subaru finds itself between a rock and a hard place with the Crosstrek when it comes to fuel efficiency and performance. Like every responsible car maker it’s looking to reduce fuel consumption but because the brand has built its image around permanent all-wheel drive, that has a detrimental impact on fuel consumption because of the drag it puts on the powertrain.

Which is why the Crosstrek suffers higher fuel economy than some of its key rivals. The official figures for the Subaru are 7.2 litres per 100km for the 2.0-litre models, which doesn’t compare too favourably to the Mazda CX-30 AWD (claimed 6.8L/100km) and Toyota Corolla Cross 2WD (claimed 6.0L/100km).

The Mazda manages to use less fuel despite running a bigger, more powerful 2.5-litre engine, while the Toyota is front-wheel drive but does offer more power and torque from its equivalent-sized engine.

The official figures for the Subaru are 7.2 litres per 100km for the 2.0-litre models. The official figures for the Subaru are 7.2 litres per 100km for the 2.0-litre models.

During our initial test drive, which included some urban roads and freeway, plus a lot of open-road running and some off-road, we saw 8.0L/100km on the car’s trip computer, which is impressively close to the claim given the variety of driving we did.

The Crosstrek Hybrid also underwhelms in terms of its efficiency, even if it is just a mild hybrid system. The official claimed consumption is 6.5L/100km, just 0.7L/100km better than the petrol-only models and with less power.

Compared to its key rivals the Crosstrek is trailing behind, because the Corolla Cross Hybrid AWD has a claimed rating of just 4.4L/100km, which is a huge advantage. The Kia Niro Hybrid is even greater, with a figure of 4.0L/100km, leaving Subaru some work to do to catch up in the hybrid small SUV race.

The Crosstrek suffers higher fuel economy than some of its key rivals. The Crosstrek suffers higher fuel economy than some of its key rivals.

Safety - What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

Obviously every respectable car company takes safety very seriously, but Subaru really emphasises it as part of its brand these days. Which is why the Crosstrek comes loaded with nine airbags (dual front, dual front side, dual curtain, driver's knee, far side, and front passenger seat cushion) as well as its EyeSight Driver Assist system across the range.

So even the entry-level 2.0L and Hybrid L are equipped with 'Front Pre-Collision Braking', adaptive cruise control, emergency lane keep assist, lane centring function, lane departure prevention, lane departure warning, 'Lane Sway Warning', 'Lead Vehicle Start Alert', 'Pre-Collision Braking System', 'Pre-Collision Throttle Management', 'Autonomous Emergency Steering', 'Brake Light Recognition', 'Intelligent Speed Limiter', 'Speed Limiter', speed sign recognition, wide-angle monocular camera and a new stereo camera with improved image recognition.

If that list isn’t long enough, it also includes Subaru’s Vision Assist package which adds, blind spot monitor, EyeSight Assist Monitor, lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking sensors, reverse automatic braking and front side radar.

The Subaru Crosstrek is well equiped with safety features. The Subaru Crosstrek is well equiped with safety features.

But, wait, there’s more. A driver monitoring system is also included, which brings a distraction warning, drowsiness warning and facial recognition; as well as remembering your last climate control setting.

Despite this lengthy list, believe or not there’s actually more safety for the higher-spec 2.0R, 2.0S and Hybrid S get 'Subaru Vision Assist', another safety package that adds 'Front View Monitor', 'High Beam Assist', panoramic 360-degree monitor and side view monitor.

Importantly, beyond just having these functions, Subaru has made sure they are well-integrated into the car. Too many modern cars have clumsy active safety features that ultimately end up irritating or, even worse, distracting the driver instead of keeping them safe. While the Crosstrek will beep at you if it feels you’re in danger - straying from your lane or not paying attention - it isn’t over-bearing and genuinely helps.

  • The Crosstrek comes with the EyeSight Driver Assist system across all variants. The Crosstrek comes with the EyeSight Driver Assist system across all variants.
  • The Crosstrek 2.0R, 2.0S and Hybrid S variants gets the 'Subaru Vision Assist' safety package. The Crosstrek 2.0R, 2.0S and Hybrid S variants gets the 'Subaru Vision Assist' safety package.
  • The 'Subaru Vision Assist' safety package includes 'High Beam Assist'. The 'Subaru Vision Assist' safety package includes 'High Beam Assist'.

Ownership - What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

The Crosstrek is covered by Subaru’s usual five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is normal for the industry these days, but falls short of the 10 years of coverage offered by Mitsubishi (conditional), as well as the seven-year warranties from MG, Haval, Skoda and Kia - all of which have rivals to the Crosstrek.

Servicing intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km and covered by Subaru’s five-year capped-price servicing plan. Over that five year span you’ll end up paying just over $2373.

Subaru does include 12 months of free roadside assistance too.

The Crosstrek is covered by Subaru’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. The Crosstrek is covered by Subaru’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

Driving - What's it like to drive?

Subaru only had the 2.0R and 2.0S petrol models available for us to review on this initial drive, but the Crosstrek Hybrid is due in dealers at the same time so stay tuned to CarsGuide.com.au and we’ll bring you a review on that as soon as we can.

As for the 2.0-litre Crosstrek it’s the very definition of an adequately powered car. While you can’t call it ‘gutless’, equally you couldn’t call it a ‘powerful’ small SUV. Instead, the combination of the engine and CVT feels at its best up to 60km/h but will labour if you need more dramatic acceleration and higher speeds. 

In other words, it feels good around town, in the urban setting, and rolls along nicely on the open road when it gets up above 80km/h, but if you need to overtake or make a quick getaway the Crosstrek won’t react quickly.

The 2.0-litre Crosstrek is the very definition of an adequately powered car. The 2.0-litre Crosstrek is the very definition of an adequately powered car.

It doesn’t need a lot more power, but the extra 20kW and 45Nm offered by the US-only 2.5-litre engine would really elevate the Crosstrek towards the head of the small SUV pack in terms of powertrain performance.

Especially as, dynamically, it’s a very impressive machine. Built on the Subaru Global Platform that underpins several models in the brand’s line-up, the Crosstrek feels like it could easily handle more power.

As we’ve found with the Impreza on the same platform, the Crosstrek is a responsive and engaging small car to drive. 

Steering feels direct and responsive on the open road. Steering feels direct and responsive on the open road.

To Subaru Australia’s credit the drive route they took us on for the local launch featured some very average tarmac, the kind of patchwork country roads that are unique to Australia but trip up more stiffly-sprung European models. In contrast, the Crosstrek soaks up the bumps well, with good compliance without sacrificing too much control. 

The steering is nicely weighted for navigating traffic and car parks, but also feels direct and responsive on the open road. While few owners will likely take a small SUV off-road, the sense of adventure is a big selling-point for the Crosstrek so Subaru has ensured it has genuine capability to get its wheels muddy.

We covered about 10km of off-road driving, climbing a rutted and rocky road, and while it was nothing a Toyota LandCruiser wouldn’t breeze over, it’s hard to imagine many of the Crosstrek’s competitors managing the same road with such ease.

The Crosstrek is a responsive and engaging small car to drive. The Crosstrek is a responsive and engaging small car to drive.

It would be easy to focus on the Crosstrek’s faults, because it isn’t the most powerful, most fuel efficient or most affordable small SUV on the market today, but there’s a reason why the XV has proven such a popular model and there’s no reason why the Crosstrek won’t continue that.

This is the type of model that feels greater than the sum of its parts. While not the most powerful, it has enough performance. While not the most fuel efficient, it’s not a thirsty SUV. And while not the most affordable, it comes loaded with equipment that elevates it above many of its peers, both in terms of creature comforts and potentially life-saving safety gear.

More than that, it’s a very pleasant small SUV to drive and with its ability to go off-road it offers something few of its rivals can.

Most importantly, while the Crosstrek is a new name, all these attributes are what made the XV a success, so there’s no reason to think things will change thanks to Subaru’s careful, evolutionary approach.

$34,999 - $46,743

Based on 75 car listings in the last 6 months

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.5/5

Urban score

3.5/5
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