The Subaru Crosstrek’s popularity is a curious thing. What’s very obviously a cheap hatchback on stilts shouldn’t be wildly successful, yet it is. Perhaps it’s the model’s sincerity, or it’s the same lightning that hit the Outback striking twice. Plenty of people just want something practical, fuel-efficient, capable of handling bad weather and vaguely SUV-ish enough to convince them they aren’t in a cheap hatchback. Regardless, the Crosstrek has its own song and a legion of devotees, so this new third-generation model better live up to expectations.
The North American version of the new Crosstrek was unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show today, and if you always liked the Crosstrek, great news. This new one doesn’t mess with the recipe too much, although if you loved shifting your own gears it before, you may now need to upgrade to a WRX or a BRZ.
The first signs suggest that the new car won’t spook many customers. While this is fundamentally the exact same Crosstrek we saw debut globally last year, there are a few differences for our market. For instance, pour one out for the manual gearbox. Two-liter flat-four Crosstrek trims are now CVT-only, much to the chagrin of Subaru enthusiasts. Sport and Limited trims get a 182-horsepower 2.5-liter flat-four, albeit still hitched to a CVT, that should do a better job of moving the Crosstrek along in locales like Denver. Two-liter models will be made in Japan while 2.5-liter models will be built in Indiana, a slightly unusual move.
On the inside, lower trims get a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system while higher trims get a massive 11.6-inch portrait-oriented infotainment screen shared with higher-end Imprezas. After all, the Crosstrek is just an Impreza with a lift and some cladding. On the plus side, this means that interior materials are massively improved over the old Crosstrek and that the new car has a stiffer unibody. On the minus side, there’s a little bit less maximum cargo space with the new car.
For those who Subaru to the extreme (not in the stage rally sense, though), the Crosstrek still has 8.7 inches of ground clearance and available X-Mode off-road drive modes, perfect for lightly rocky camping trails. This isn’t a machine that’ll get you very far off the beaten path, but it’ll get you across a reasonably dry field or to a relatively accessible campsite nicely. What’s more, all that cladding means that you don’t have to worry much about low-lying brush scratching the rocker panels. It’s not exactly pretty, but it’s very pragmatic.
More important than the much nicer interior or the powertrain choices is that at $26,290 including a $1,295 freight charge, the new Crosstrek isn’t much more expensive than the old one to start. Once you tick the box for a CVT in the outgoing base-model Crosstrek, just $70 separates new from old when freight is included. That’s like one phone bill. Slow as it is, the Crosstrek remains one of the better and more affordable new car deals, especially for its level of capability.
Expect the cheap trims to arrive this Spring, with 2.5-liter models rolling into showrooms this summer. With pricing like that, don’t be surprised if they fly off the lots.
(Photo credits: Subaru)
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I think there’s quite a lot to be said for the crosstrek as a “smaller” SUV. There was already demand for lifted hatchbacks (see all the lift kits available for previous generations of impreza). People wanted ground clearance without all the bulk of something gigantic like a Suburban. And especially in parts of the country with hilly/gravel/snow-covered roads, the AWD is a really nice benefit.
I have a lifted 2011 impreza (we have crosstrek at home) and it’s just perfect for navigating absolutely terrible roads in the northeast and getting to hiking spots in state forests down heavily degraded roads.
Hopefully we’ll see more high-ground-clearance hatchbacks/crossovers! More utility without a ton of bulk
My wife has a ’19 Crosstrek Premium. She loves it. It consistently gets 29-30 mpg around town in our hilly area. Power is sufficient for her. Cruises at 80 on interstate no problem. She doesn’t have to slow down in the twisties and it has Apple Play, so she’s happy. Previously had a ’05 Outback XT. She thought the newer Outbacks/Forresters were too big/tall. Previous to Outback, she had BMW E46 Convertible…awesome driving car, but got tired of replacing the deteriorated plastic part of the month.
Crosstreks are great. I’m very far from their target demo but I drove one for 800 miles on a vacation and really enjoyed it.
The Crosstrek is great, but I don’t get why they won’t drop a WRX motor in there and compete with the Kona N.
I’m a Kona N owner and I would absolutely consider a Crosstrek WRX if they made one
My wife and I have a Crosstrek 2.0L and would trade it in for a Crosstrek WRX tomorrow, even if it was CVT only.
The trouble with manuals is that you can’t put on safety features that score well in IIHS or others. You get points for just having certain systems and manuals often do without things like AEB or adaptive cruise, etc. The trouble is the computers can’t disengage the clutch. For a brand that has traded a fun image for a safe one, this makes all the sense.
This has been the case with EyeSight, but Honda and Toyota have paired manuals with their safety suite before. The Civic hatch loses traffic jam assist and low-speed follow with the manual, but otherwise has the same equipment as the CVT models and gets top marks for the safety equipment. (At least, until they up the requirements again for the tests.)
Subaru likely could have figured out a way to engineer it with the manual, but either saw the writing on the wall for manuals or figured it wouldn’t sell any more manual cars.
I hear you on the AEB and clutch work but most base trims don’t have that so WTF Subaru. You could disengage adaptive cruise if RPM drops enough. I get those warning message all the time about lane assist and cruise not able to function.
Those are compelling reasons to offer automatic only, but as we all know, a CVT is definitely not a conventional auto.
In a vehicle with AWD, I would say the CVT is a 5-7 years transmission, whereas a conventional auto would easily last the life of the vehicle. Once it has failed, the CVT will cost more than the value of the car to replace, so the car’s lifespan is now 5-7 years.
Subaru knows fully well that this transmission has a limited lifespan, and they have chosen it as the only option for this vehicle.
The only company I see that is not willing to throw reliability down the toilet by switching to a cheap simple CVT is Toyota. They have actually decided to adress the issue that causes all CVTs to fail early.
Subaru has not.
I’ve seen over decade-old, 200k mile Subaru CVTs. They’re not great transmissions, but they’re also no mid-2000s Honda V6 five-speed. Regular fluid changes keep everything pretty drama free.
I wish companies would give the marketing love to their regular cars (if they exist) like they do to their tall counterparts. In these pictures they’re selling fun! Camping! Surfing! The activities that they say are made easy with the Crosstrek. And all of which can be done in an Impreza.
I get that ride height is a big selling point, but one of the reasons I think most manufacturers have hit people in the feels with their marketing of crossovers are all the activities that they’re selling with it. The illusion of a car purchase making their leisure time better. All the marketing I see for regular hatches and sedans show people in urban centers getting coffee, and occasionally doing something quirky that can’t be linked to the cars capability, even irrationally.
On another note, look! A green color! And yellow seat bolsters?
The wheels are hideous though.
But that’s just the thing, if they’re marketing the CUV variants as soft-roadery outdoorsy lifestyle machines, what do they have left for marketing a ‘lifestyle’ in terms of the regular cars? Use an Impreza to go get coffee with a coworker? By the very nature of selling the two variants they can’t advertise the normal one as ‘outdoorsy’ because it would obviate the existence of the lifted one, so the normal one has to be intentionally hamstrung with regard to lifestyle marketing. I’d certainly agree with you that while maybe not a conspiracy, there is definitely a level of turning a blind eye toward marketing the regular cars vs the CUVs, but no doubt that has to do with the fatter margins on the CUV variants, too.
“What’s very obviously a cheap hatchback on stilts shouldn’t be wildly successful, yet it is.”
Doesn’t this description fit most of the top-selling vehicles in the US (trucks excepted)?
Every small, underpowered car is better with a manual. Period.
…have you driven a Crosstrek manual? I have and found it to be an utterly joyless experience. That engine is just so underpowered and the stick in the one I drove was just clunky as hell. The clutch was weirdly heavy and vague, the shifter went into gears fine but just felt agricultural, etc.
Granted I’m not exactly amazing at driving stick so take this with a grain of salt, but the example I drove was a lousy manual.
Clarification: I’d rather there be a lousy manual option than no manual option at all
I’m pretty sure that the 5 Speed in the Impreza is a much better manual (driving experience wise) than the 6 speed in the crosstrek because the 6 speed uses cables for shifting whereas the 5 speed uses pushrods.
TBH I wouldn’t use the term agricultural to describe a bad driving experience, my favorite liquid cooled inline 6 is the Ford 300CI I6 and it’s basically a gas powered tractor engine.
Honestly we need more low revving tractor style engines backed by manual transmissions.
This. Someone I knew got one with a manual and she’s a pretty terrible driver (but hey, stopped clocks etc. and I’m glad she still shifts for herself). Every time I ride with it seemed like she had no idea what she was doing and then I drove it and UGH. I daily a manual, have driven them most of my life, and I would choose an auto over that thing.
Make it with the Turbo 4, cowards.
they made one with a turbo 4 and manual, but the take rate was abysmal, that there are no longer any Forester XTs, or manuals for that reason.
I’m surprised and disappointed the rest of the industry didn’t follow this template so we’d have more non-lifted hatchback choices as variants of now-volume-seller lifted models, given that body tooling is much more expensive than suspension development.
CVTs don’t like off-roading much it seems, and Subaru is still far behind on hybridization where the electric torque from 0 RPM can be applied to make up for this. I wonder if they’re adopting Toyota’s mechanical “launch gear”?
Planetary e-CVTs seem to have no problem off road, the issue is noone puts them in off roaders. I do agree though that regular belt style CVTs are pretty trash off road.
I was looking at getting a Outback Wilderness edition but guess what? IT ONLY COMES WITH A BELT STYLE CVT!
Make one with a Manual Subaru and I’ll buy one.
When the Jeep Patriot/Compass (aka “Compatriot”) moved off of the dreaded Jatco CVT in favor of the Powertech 6-spd (from Hyundai), they still had to keep the CVT for the offroad-oriented Freedom Drive II models. I assume that’s because those had a low range and hill descent control, and FCA did not want to spend money to engineer a new drivetrain for their entry-level Jeeps.
It’s not a belt style CVT. It’s a chain style CVT.
Fair enough, though when compared to planetary e-CVTs the belts and the chains are in the same boat.
Looks like someone threw a box of angles at it.
The really disappointing things about the loss of the manual are 1) the higher base price and 2) the AWD system. Subaru’s AWD is nothing like it used to be anymore, except for on the manual models where afaik it was still a viscous center diff. Current auto ones are iirc nominally 95% tq front and 5% rear which is a nice way of saying it’s pretty much a Haldex system. With the loss of the Torsen Quattro on the A4 you now have to go all the way to an A6 to get actual full-time AWD now, and they don’t sell manuals either!
As we’ve seen with the CRV in the past sometimes these modern “AWD” systems are little more than symbolic.
CVT cars are a great source of parts to keep manual cars running! When they get totaled in 15 years with 100k miles everything else will be working great.
I wonder if you can rip those godawful black plastic wheel arches off and get some aftermarket flares or fab some up. It would improve the look of the car 200%.
Here, in the Rust Belt, Crosstreks make a lot of sense given the crap city streets and the equally crappy weather. Low-profile tires and potholes are never a good mix, and struggling cities simply don’t have the money to fix their urban infrastructure as it attempts to return to nature, while the low price is the better fit for many personal budgets.
Most vehicles can “… get you across a reasonably dry field or to a relatively accessible campsite”, but Crosstrek offroad really is a thing where I live. Several years ago I made the trip up to the North end of US 41 and then continued 10 miles out on some pretty tough logging roads to reach the tip of the Keweenaw peninsula at High Rock Bay. Sure I saw plenty of Jeeps and solid axle trucks up there, but I swear every other vehicle camped out there was a Subaru Crosstrek with BFGs. The thing about Subaru is they make vehicles that can get you to places that you actually want to go….sure there are more extreme offroad venues in Michigan, but most of those are purpose built to wreck your stuff. If you just want to go camping somewhere off the beaten path, Subaru really has the formula down. I hope other companies take note. One of the reasons I sold my Wrangler is that I didn’t need it to do the stuff I wanted to do and it was fairly bad at doing the more routine things. I’m still grad Wrangler exists though.
and no hybird!
hybrid need an edit button folks!
Fun fact: with the death of the 5-speed in the Crosstrek and Impreza, there is only ONE car sold in the US for 2024 with a 5-speed manual transmission.
The Nissan Versa. Cars.com says there are a mere dozen stickhift Versas for sale nationwide. If you want a 5-speed car, you’re gonna have to work for it.
(Other manual transmission vehicles are available, obviously. Aside from the Versa, they all have 6 or more forward gears.)
I didn’t know that, and it definitely falls under the fun fact criteria. I am old enough to remember when a four speed transmission was the mark of a sporty car, and many trucks and American cars still had three speed manuals “standard shift”. Five speeds were reserved for exotic and or Italian cars.
I dig little trivia like this, although I will offer a minor correction on the Subaru part – the Crosstrek manual was a 6-speed in the outgoing gen, while just the Impreza soldiered on with the 5-speed mated to the same engine.
I never understood dumping the stick on small cars. They typically outsource the transmissions to a supplier and they are less expensive than CVT transmissions so why get ride of it? What could the savings be? Perhaps its resale value. Manuals take longer to sell and for less on the used market so I guess they are playing the long game?
-Standardization of parts and ease of manufacturing
-Costs to certify the powertrain
-As others have pointed out, it can be more difficult to incorporate modern safety equipment. While this sounds like a positive for Luddite enthusiasts, it’s a tougher sell to regular buyers and anyone who pays attention to safety ratings.
Every now and then I forget that some folks use safety ratings as part of their car purchase decision making. Hell, I don’t even understand my own decision making process. I like the idea of fast cars, but I also like slow cars. Convertibles are cool but now I have 2 cars I can’t drive in the winter.
I’m in the market for a Wilderness edition Outback or Forrester but there’s no way I’d buy ANY new ICE car with a CVT, and that’s the only transmission option for both.
If I don’t want to shift I’ll just buy a BEV. If I’m burning Dino Wine to get around I’m only going to do so with fun vehicles.
I said the same things about automatic cars in general but after using my employers / girlfriends auto cars (New Hyundai Kona, Mazda cx30 and Subaru Outback). They have vastly improved over the past few years. In fact I prefer the new CVT in the outback to the DSGs of that VW were using and understand why Subaru have kept them. Much smoother. Good fuel economy and allow them to be programmed to X mode etc. With the 2020 Outback. None of these are performance machines and won’t beat a manual on an twisty road but I would recommend you give them a go.
The Crosstrek love is real. The missus is on her second Crosstrek and loves it. Her first Crosstrek was totaled by Harvey and she took her insurance check to the same salesperson at the same Subaru dealership and ordered another Crosstrek exactly like her old one. That was 5 years ago and she’s still in love with Crosstrek 2 (which I call Boogaloo).
The only thing that will make her trade in her Crosstrek is if Subaru finally gets their act together and offers a Kelly green Crosstrek. Or if they make a WRXTrek I might start whining until she caves in and gets one.
My wife loves her Crosstrek too. Bought new last year, we drove a lot of small SUVs, but they felt like SUVs, kind of a foreign thing to both of us. The Crosstrek felt like a small wagon, only floating in air (in a good way) after driving it all other options were forgotten and we ordered a new one (as low mile used cost nearly as much as new).
I would rather have gotten something without a CVT, but she was so sold on the Subie, and I was tired of shopping. I think the CVT is a better driving experience than other cars I have tried with them. I do have to say the thing kind of sounds like an old tractor starting up at high cold idle in the morning, but that is about my only complaint.
It definitely sounds clattery and rough for the first few seconds but smooths out after that. So far ours has been pretty trouble free though.
I am once again asking what’s up with Japanese manufacturers and their whack transmission choices. I get that CVTing all the things is good for compliance but you could also just…I dunno, sell more efficient vehicles? Not be so behind on EVs maybe? Even though I didn’t much enjoy the manual in the Crosstrek I drove that had one I’d still prefer that it be out there as an option.
And now Honda is trying to push their CVTs upmarket. The new Accord is CVT only (pour one out), the Integra has a goddamn CVT as its auto option despite the fact that they developed a perfectly good DCT for the ILX, the only automatic options across all the Japanese performance compact cars are CVTs…what gives?
I guess that maybe I’m just an enthusiast yelling at clouds, but do normies really not notice how terrible driving a CVT is? It’s not like it’s THAT hard to develop a decent auto in 2023, or they could just straight up buy them from ZF like all the Germans do. What’s next…are we going to get CVTs across the Acura and Lexus lineups? Wait…don’t answer that.
If (when) the wife and I are in the market for a normie car a CVT is going to be a dealbreaker. I know we have a few “they’re not THAT bad” folks ‘round these parts but I’ve driven several and absolutely loathe them…not to mention they require more upkeep than a traditional torque converter. If I’m going to have to do frequent transmission services I’d rather have a DCT. Other than a slight boost in fuel economy what does a CVT offer? They’re less reliable, slower, and zap character out of every car they’re in. No dice!
The CVT in the WRX or the Levorg STi makes no sense. It wouldn’t pair well with high HP in my opinion.
But in my wife’s Crosstrek it’s fine. Honestly the car’s lack of HP is fine as long as you’re not trying to race it. It gets up to freeway speeds without complaints as long as you’re not flooring it. And at this point my wife is spoiled by the CVT. She doesn’t care about the difference between gears vs a band or simulated shift points and power bands but she does notice how much smoother it is than her mom’s Rav4 automatic and she equates that smoothness with luxury.
I have a hard time figuring out if the CVT vitriol is just because they’re different or if it’s simply over durability concerns. Sure, they’re much less responsive than a DCT or manual, but I’ve driven so many torque converter autos that are appallingly bad, i.e. jerky downshifts, high RPMs because you’re out of gears, lugging for no reason, etc. etc. By comparison, the CVTs I’ve driven in early fourth-gen Foresters were a revelation; they’re not fast cars by any means, but when you foot the throttle you can feel the surging of the pulleys ‘slinging’ the car to speed while the RPMs stay consistent. The smoothness is uncanny and I find it very intuitive since, well, obviously you’d want to keep the engine in the powerband when accelerating; it feels like pushing the throttles up to power in a plane. Best yet, when you’re cruising along the CVT lets the engine spin under 3000 rpm which does wonders for refinement. I’ve also driven Honda’s in the outgoing Fit as well as the new Toyota 1+CVT, and all were completely unintrusive and miles better than the four-speed autos Toyota and Honda used to use. I can’t speak for longevity as I’ve never owned one, but I just don’t see why the driving characteristics get so much hate when they’re miles above the older torque-converter autos that they replaced.
Totally agree. I’m generally a manual driver and was appalled by the behaviour of my works mk6 Golf DSG it really struggled with traffic clunking and struggling. New Outback is very refined and smooth in city and highway and pretty well unobtrusive unless thrashing it and allows Xmode. Subaru have AWD yet get similar fuel economy to front wheel drive cars. Its not an issue.
But how much RTV does it come equipped with?
Too much, but also not enough.
Disappointed but not surprised at dropping the manual. Yeah, I know every review of it says it’s not a quick or fun car with a manual, but it was one of the few holdouts. Some token trim with a manual would have been neat.
$34-35k for a loaded Limited, while still same as the current one, I have to wonder the take rate – that’s pretty much right on top of a Forester Limited.
Good jump for creature comforts in the new one, with dual-zone HVAC standard and a 10-way power seat available on most trims (just 6-way on the old one). Seems like they kept the hard high/low switch for the heated seats which is surprising but refreshing.
Sport had the “StarTex” upholstery (vinyl? Leatherette?) before and switched to cloth which is either a plus or minus depending your preferences and use case.
It will be interesting to see what may be next for a hybridized version.