Hatchbacks are not what they used to be, mainly because another type of vehicle has taken the industry by storm. You may have heard about them—they’re called SUVs and crossovers. Foreign automakers look at the North American market and obviously see the U.S.—not the Great White North—as the primary target. And American consumers love SUVs a lot more than hatchbacks.
Subaru offers an interesting case with the Impreza/Crosstrek duo. They’re pretty much the same vehicle, with the same engines, dimensions and everything, except that one rides higher than the other. Both are rated above average in their respective segments, but the Crosstrek is unquestionably the favourite of shoppers (as evidenced by sales totals) and our team here at The Car Guide (as evidenced by the number of Best Buy awards).
- Also: 2024 Subaru Crosstrek: The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same
- Also: 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Beefs Up With Wilderness Model
Consider the Subaru Crosstrek a handy hatchback with SUV-like ground clearance that proves ideal in many parts of the country with poorly maintained pavement or no pavement at all. It’s been redesigned and improved for the 2024 model year—just like the Impreza, by the way—but continues to shine when it comes to versatility, build quality and ergonomics, not to mention the car-like fun factor behind the wheel.
These attributes and more also explain the success of the Subaru Outback, but that’s a topic for another day.
No Time for a Revolution
Built on the same platform as its predecessor, the 2024 Subaru Crosstrek is fundamentally very similar. You don’t mess with a good thing, after all. The exterior dimensions are nearly identical, while styling is enhanced with new wheels, additional black cladding on the lower body, as well as a revised front grille, headlights and taillights.
There’s a brand new Crosstrek Wilderness for those who want even more body cladding along with all-terrain tires and a raised suspension. The mid-grade Onyx (as tested) stands out with 18-inch black alloy wheels, black exterior trim, expanded body colour options and electric yellow housings for the fog lights. It’s roughly the equivalent of the Sport model sold in the U.S., except for a few cosmetic tweaks.
While the third-generation Crosstrek looks familiar on the outside, it does have one big addition inside, namely an available 11.6-inch touchscreen (base models get dual 7-inch displays). This is the main change to the cabin, although the dashboard and centre console have been redesigned, too.
The rest is typical Subaru design. The front seats are comfortable and supportive enough, while the rear bench accommodates two adults. Cargo room is 564 litres in the trunk or 1,549 litres when the rear seats are folded down. You can find more capacious rivals in the small-SUV segment. Heck, even the new Impreza packs more than that (578-1,586 litres).
How’s the Drive?
Subaru engineers have made adjustments to the chassis that result in a smoother ride, regardless of wheel size. If you thought the old Crosstrek was too stiff, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Then again, there are more comfortable alternatives out there. The good news is that the extra dose of comfort doesn’t come at the expense of handling.
Steering is heavy yet precise, using a similar setup to the WRX sports sedan, while Subaru’s full-time symmetrical all-wheel drive system keeps the vehicle on the right track at all times. You’ll never know it when driving at lower speeds around town, but the latter makes a ton of difference on slippery surfaces. The softer suspension comes with some ill effects during more aggressive manoeuvres, including a bit of nosediving under hard braking, but rest assured the Crosstrek hasn’t suddenly turned into a Buick.
Under the hood, once again, is a standard 2.0-litre flat-four engine that generates a modest 152 horsepower. The Onyx and top-line Limited models benefit from the larger 2.5-litre mill producing 182 horsepower along with 176 lb-ft. of torque. The harshest critics will say Subaru should have also offered the turbocharged 2.4-litre engine found in the WRX and Outback, but the truth is that the 2.5-litre unit is a fine performer. Whether accelerating from a stop or passing slower traffic, it generally works pretty well with the continuously variable transmission. Sure, a hard jab at the throttle will make the engine scream its heart out. However, the second you get to your desired cruising speed, the Crosstrek goes back to being as quiet as a lamb, so to speak.
Due to its strong popularity, the Subaru Crosstrek can be tough to get. Customers must be prepared to wait a long while before taking delivery of the unit they ordered. To be fair, many other vehicles are facing the same problem.
As conventional cars keep dropping like flies to make room for SUVs, rugged and versatile hatchbacks like this one are in a much better position to survive and thrive. The Crosstrek handles like a car, is about the same size, and barely needs more fuel with the 2.5-litre engine. It will never get stuck in a snowbank and can even drive up and over sidewalks or parking lot curbs when necessary (just take a look at the photo gallery).