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Eye Opener: 2023 Subaru Crosstrek Premium Review

Over the last two or so decades, the mention of Subaru in any conversation would draw instant links to an Impreza of some sort, likely a WRX or WRX STi. Subaru was the Impreza and the Impreza was Subaru. As the brand moved into a new age with the Impreza name becoming less prevalent than it was before, the public’s eye then focused on cars like the Impreza XV or Legacy Outback.

However, as those same cars became the XV and Outback correspondingly, was the old Subaru spirit lost somewhere along the way? Now as the XV morphs into the Crosstrek, can the brand’s SUV entry point serves as an eye opener for the skeptics, let’s find out!

To further widen its appeal, the Crosstrek is available in three different varieties here in New Zealand, two hybrids and one pure petrol which is the one being reviewed. The resulting choice proves that Subarus can be fun but also frugal! Speaking of fun, the list of optional colours is very creative. My review model came in ‘Sun Blaze Pearl’ although ‘Oasis Blue’ and ‘Sapphire Blue Pearl’ did catch my eye as well. Pair the latter with some aftermarket gold wheels and some might even say its a nod to the brand’s storied history in rallying.

Front three quarters view of a 2023 Subaru Crosstrek Petrol Premium in Sun Blaze Pearl at sunset
Range of colours and engine choices give the Crosstrek a broad appeal!

However, with the brand making Crosstrek a standalone nameplate, Subaru clearly has its sights set on the future! For a modern look, the styling has now changed to reflect what the brand’s other cars are wearing currently. Sharp looking light fixtures at the front and rear along with plenty of cladding identify it as a Subaru. That aspect of rugged functionality also extends to the roof rails for example which are actually usable rather than being purely design based.

However, where the Crosstrek really excels is in its raised ride height, allowing for a wading depth of 220mm! That’s pretty incredible for an urban oriented crossover but then the Crosstrek also features a ‘symmetrical AWD’ badge on the rear, proving that it means business.

Side view of a 2023 Subaru Crosstrek Petrol Premium in Sun Blaze Pearl. Photo taken at sunset.
Rugged but functional, Crosstrek means business!

Speaking of business, this Crosstrek Petrol Premium model is right on the money when it comes to interior luxuries. The package includes a sunroof, two way heated seats, metal pedals, wireless phone charging and a premium Harman Kardon audio system that sounds good too! A leather upholstered interior further adds to the elevated feel.

On one hand, there’s a neat list of upgrades as pointed out above but this comes without loss of the Crosstrek’s practicality. Generous door bins are present as well as plenty of handy storage spaces but the boot could do with a little extension. The rugged factor is still a big part of the Subaru brand so build quality is solid and plastics are hard for the most part but not a bad thing considering that this is very much an outdoorsy type crossover!

Interior of the 2023 Subaru Crosstrek Petrol Premium
Crosstrek offers both a a comfortable but mud friendly interior!

On the other hand, the Crosstrek does suffer from an issue that plagues many modern cars where the infotainment screen effectively controls everything. I did find the AC controls slightly distracting to use while driving but that was about the end of it, the shortcut buttons do help with this! Bluetooth pairs up quickly and the Starlink system offers both Andoid Auto and Apple CarPlay. The system responds quickly and isn’t quite the fingerprint magnet that these screens can be.

Central infotainment screen on the 2023 Subaru Crosstrek Petrol Premium
Cental infotainment screen is divided into three distinct sections for ease of use

Speaking of magnets, Subaru’s EyeSight is firmly fixated on driver safety. It was quick to respond if it noticed me fiddling with the AC controls, alerting me to keep my eyes on the same road. At the same time, it did once warn me about suspected driver fatigue, a warning which came about 5 minutes into my commute one morning! While that is well and good as a safety feature, there is a downside as I found out while driving with the setting sun behind me.

On one particular evening, the sun’s rays severely interfered with the system, causing it to keep interrupting my tunes to warn me that my eyes weren’t on the road when they in fact were! In an attempt to turn this feature off, I struggled to find a relevant menu, coupled with the precaution of having several menus inactive for use while driving, the result of which sees me still haunted with that warning sound!

Rear three quarters view of the 2023 Subaru Crosstrek Petrol Premium in Sun Blaze Pearl
Crosstrek is happy on both paved or unpaved roads!

However, I want to make it clear that this experience was only on one evening and is a small blemish on my otherwise outstanding week with the Crosstrek. Turning my eye to the driving feel, the Crosstrek was buttery smooth over the rougher roads with the suspension soaking up most bumps along the way. I also enjoyed the way it cornered, the Crosstrek particularly seemed to like gravel road driving too, making the most of its AWD system to keep the car as planted as possible. Equally as comfortable on road, the ride was soft without losing driving feel, a quick blast down some windy roads even brought a beaming smile to my face, proving the Crosstrek’s character!

In the same way that the AWD system is Subaru’s trusted twin Torsen differential set-up, the engine follows the same formula of being a brand favourite. The 2 litre naturally aspirated boxer engine provided 115kW and 196Nm on tap. What this means is an efficiency figure of 7.2L/100km, certainly achievable as I recorded 7.5L/100km over my week of driving in the Crosstrek. Do note though that it can take equally as long for the engine to warm up on colder mornings.

Subaru Symmetrical AWD badge highlighted on the 2023 Crosstrek
The brand still retains its outdoorsy appeal

My week with the Crosstrek however has done exactly that, warm me up to the Subaru brand in a way that I wasn’t expecting. I found the car genuinely ready to tackle almost every possible scenario that one might face while driving in this great southern land. Call it an eye opener if you will, one that will certainly bring many new eyes to the Subaru brand and it wouldn’t surprise me to see it garner a fan base of its own over time!

2023 Subaru Crosstrek Premium Petrol: 4/5

Thanks for reading! For more Subaru news and reviews, visit Tarmac Life.

Car courtesy of Subaru Motors New Zealand. Words and pictures by Matthew D’Souza.

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