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Cross-treking – Subaru Crosstrek first drive

In the realm of automotive exploration, where intrepid brands vie for supremacy, a new nameplate emerges from before, introducing the Subaru Crosstrek. Formerly known as the XV, this small SUV has been rechristened and reimagined, and boldly seeks to redefine the fiercely competitive category it initially pioneered.

Subaru has long since captivated the hearts of our intrepid Kiwi souls, beckoning us to not only embrace the thrill of the road but explore what may lie beyond the beaten track. With such fearless adventurers such as the Outback, Forester (and in many ways the WRX) in their arsenal, and armed with the ‘go anywhere’ Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive capability, Subaru has urged us to head for the destinations we yearn for, and make the most of our fleeting time on this celestial plane.

Ok, that’s enough ‘treky’ talk.

In 2012, Subaru introduced the XV, a vehicle that revolutionised the small SUV category and gained a significant following in New Zealand, now boasting over 7000 owners (in NZ units sold alone). Now, with the Crosstrek, Subaru is looking to add some excitement to the segment and reinvigorate it once again.

When it comes to the new moniker, Subaru believes that “Crosstrek” (the new name for the XV) truly encapsulates the essence of this vehicle—an All-Wheel Drive small SUV capable of traversing any terrain, be it the concrete jungles of the urban landscape or the untamed wilderness of outdoor adventures, and that their symmetrical 4WD system is the key to its success, distinguishing it from many other vehicles in the busy small SUV category. 

Subaru Crosstrek review NZ

Subaru says that while other brands in the segment may offer vehicles with increased ride heights and protective trim, most are limited by their two-wheel drive configuration when faced with challenging terrains. The Crosstrek, on the other hand, is equipped with the latest iteration of Subaru’s symmetrical AWD system, and features improved steering feel on loose roads and enhanced overall precision. The Crosstrek also incorporates the advanced X-Mode system, enabling you to confidently tackle less-than-ideal surface conditions at low speeds. In short, the Crosstrek is not just a jacked-up car; it’s a small SUV with genuine off-road capability.

Subaru Crosstrek review NZ

The Crosstrek comes in three models, AWD 2.0 Premium, AWD Hybrid, and AWD Hybrid Premium. The 2.0 Premium variant boasts a sporty yet refined 2-litre direct injection boxer engine (115kW/196Nm) paired with an 8-speed lineartronic transmission. The hybrid models feature the same powertrain as the outgoing XV, combining a 2-litre engine (110kW/196Nm) with 12.3kW (66Nm) hybrid technology and a 7-speed automatic transmission. The Crosstrek may not be the most fuel-efficient or CO2-friendly option in the category though, with petrol and hybrid variants consuming 7.2l/100km/165g/km and 6.5l/100km/ 147g/km respectively.

Subaru Crosstrek review NZ

Although the Crosstrek shares its frame with the XV, its platform has been enhanced to offer a 10% increase in rigidity while minimising noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH). The exterior design features a floating hexagonal grille and sharpened LED headlights, giving it a refreshed look. All variants showcase new texture wheel arch cladding that reduces wind turbulence and resistance and the textured mountain motif on the rear door side plates and lower trim of the tailgate, symbolises the Crosstrek’s adventurous spirit. 

Subaru Crosstrek review NZ

The interior has been redesigned with better convenience, trim and advanced infotainment technologies in mind. Across the range, you’ll find a large 11.6-inch high-definition touchscreen as standard, and Siri stands ready to assist. The Crosstrek has ‘cut the cord’ too, so along with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, there’s a wireless phone charger located at the front of the centre console.

Subaru Crosstrek review NZ

Beyond the lavish materials and refined finishes, (tricot with tetra embossing or leather accent seats), improving comfort and support for occupants was a key objective for the Crosstrek’s designers. Working in collaboration with a medical school, Subaru identified that ride comfort is affected not only by vibration but also by sound and changes in visual information due to head movement. As a result, the front seats have been completely redesigned based on the human body structure, and the seat rails are now directly mounted to the chassis to reduce swaying motion. These changes have led to a 44% reduction in head sway, even on bumpy roads, making the Crosstrek a more comfortable ride.

Subaru Crosstrek review NZ

In terms of safety, the Crosstrek leaves no stone unturned. It comes equipped with the latest generation of Subaru’s ‘Eyesight’ Driver Assist technology, featuring stereo cameras with an expanded field of vision compared to the outgoing XV. With 12 individual safety features, including a Pre Collision braking system, adaptive cruise control, lane centering, and speed sign recognition, the Crosstrek offers all round, comprehensive protection. It also introduces a new camera with pedestrian and cycle detection, along with front and side radars to aid collision avoidance at intersections with poor visibility. 

Additionally, Subaru’s driver monitoring system is a first for the Crosstrek, and a total of 9 airbags, including a passenger side cushion airbag and side airbag (another first), further enhance safety. Premium models of the Crosstrek even include a 360-degree panoramic monitor that combines images from four cameras to provide a bird’s-eye view, assisting the driver in navigating blind spots during parking.

Subaru Crosstrek review NZ

For the test drive, Subaru had mapped out a two hour loop that began and ended at the McCallum Residences near Clevedon. The route covered various road conditions (there are a lot of road works being undertaken there), and included the tight twists and turns of the Hunua ranges. 

Although only the 2.0 Premium model was available for testing (the Hybrids are still on the boat), it provided a comfortable and composed ride. The Crosstrek handled well on the tarmac, displaying the stability and poise of a much larger vehicle. As we gently hugged the picturesque Kawakawa Bay coastline, the SUV’s Intelligent Drive system ensured optimal engine economy, while the suspension effectively absorbed rough road surfaces, delivering a calm and serene driving experience. 

However, as we headed into the ranges, we engaged ‘sport mode’ and let it play a little. The Crosstrek’s steering felt positive and precise, making the drive thrilling and engaging, it felt well balanced in the corners and as advertised, my head didn’t bob around much at all – just nodded in appreciation. The lane keep alert system did intervene frequently (it is there to help keep you safe after all), but it can be adjusted or turned off for those seeking a more adventurous driving experience.

After swapping drivers, the road widened, granting the Crosstrek the freedom to unleash its more straight line potential. While not a sports car by any means, it effortlessly traversed the national speed limits, displaying an unperturbed powertrain.

Subaru Crosstrek review NZ

Alas, our voyage did not include an off-road segment, meaning that the evaluation of the Crosstrek’s X-Drive capabilities and conquering prowess of rugged terrains for another occasion. Nonetheless, regarding on-road prowess (for which it will probably spend the majority of its life), the Crosstrek is a remarkably composed SUV.

The Crosstrek is an excellent choice for city dwellers who enjoy adding some spice to their weekends and venturing off the beaten path. Its versatility allows it to accommodate your family and tackle adventurous journeys, while still being suitable for everyday use – and more importantly for many, the confidence provided by the AWD system should not be underestimated. 

Subaru Crosstrek review NZ

So in true treky speak, based on the success of the XV, the Crosstrek is sure to ‘live long and prosper!’

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