- Spacious front and rear seating with lots of legroom
- Infotainment system works with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Symmetrical full-time all-wheel drive
- Engine immobilizer system and anti-theft security system
- Heated door mirrors
- Power door locks and windows
- Raised roof rails
If safety, roomy seating and a budget-friendly price tag are on your list of must-haves for your next family vehicle, then you’ll want to take a look at the Subaru Crosstrek. Our editors jumped behind the wheel of this crossover SUV (specifically, the Limited with EyeSight package trim) and put it through a series of tests assessing its quality and ease of use. We also arranged week-long loans for three families so they could spend some time behind the wheel and let us know how it performs in day-to-day family use. Both our editors and testers were impressed with how the Crosstrek handles on the road, the quality of materials and the range of safety features available, and parents especially loved the sporty feel and the legroom in both the front and rear seats. Even better, it’s very affordably priced, so your dollar’s going to go a long way.
Safety is always going to be a top priority when you’re buying a family vehicle, and you might be surprised some of the safety features come standard in the Subaru Crosstrek. The Vehicle Dynamics Control System provides stability and traction control, while electronic brake force distribution ensures all wheels are receiving the right amount of brake power given the conditions. Meanwhile, heated side mirrors ensure you don’t have to worry about losing visibility due to cold temperatures and ice during those winter months. Inside the Crosstrek, there’s a rearview camera with coloured guidelines, front seats are designed to reduce whiplash and there are lots of airbags.
If you opt for one of the Sport or Limited models, you’ll also get Subaru Rear/Side Vehicle Detection System (SRVD). This system includes rear cross traffic alert, which will let you know if there is a vehicle behind you or approaching when you’re reversing, as well as blind spot detection and lane change assist—a feature to let you know if there’s a speedy vehicle coming up on your right or left when you’re changing lanes.
For the most advanced high-tech features, you’ll want Subaru’s EyeSight, an option on the Sport and Limited trims. EyeSight uses two cameras mounted at the top of the windshield to monitor for potential hazards on the road, acting as a second pair of eyes while driving. Most manufacturers use radar or lasers to help with adaptive cruise control and collision avoidance, but Subaru’s cameras can detect the difference between pedestrians and cars and can also determine when brake lights on vehicles ahead have been activated. A range of collision-avoidance features work with these cameras. Adaptive cruise control automatically adjusts your speed to keep you at your desired distance from vehicles ahead—great for highway commuters. Meanwhile, three features work together to keep you centred in your lane: Lane departure warning beeps and flashes if you begin to move out of your lane without signalling; lane keep assist will “nudge” your wheel back into the centre of the lane; and if the lane keep assist has activated twice and no correction is made, lane sway warning will beep and light up the dashboard to alert the driver—super useful for distracted drivers (and with kids in the back seat, who isn’t distracted?) and sleep-deprived parents.
The Sport with EyeSight and Limited with EyeSight editions also feature reverse automatic braking to stop the car if it detects a person or object behind it, as well as high beam assist, which switches from high beams to low beams when another vehicle is approaching you, and then shifts back to high beams once the vehicle has passed.
Our editors were impressed with the Crosstrek’s safety features, and parents agreed—in fact, one specifically mentioned that EyeSight gave them a real boost of confidence on the road. Parents were especially taken with the lane keep assist and rear-collision warning , which will sound an alarm to help prevent you from colliding with other vehicles when reversing, say, out of a parking space. When comparing the Crosstrek to other crossover SUVs, our editors were impressed with the affordability of these features—the Subaru Crosstrek offers good bang for your buck when it comes to safety.
The interior of the Crosstrek is roomy for both driver and passengers with lots of legroom. The doors have a wide frame and open generously, making it easier for someone tall to get in and out. While the roof height is lower than in some other compact SUVs, there’s still plenty of space above your noggin once you’re in and seated.
One tester said the seats are sportier than they are used to and, as a result, they felt more secure behind the wheel. The driver’s seat is adjustable in six ways and is easy to operate (manually in the Convenience and Touring trims and an electronically in the Sport and Limited trims), but there’s isn’t a memory setting. The passenger seat is also four-way manually adjustable on all trims, and both front seats in all trims provide lumbar and hip support.
The Crosstrek Limited with EyeSight Package comes with dual climate control that lets the driver and passenger adjust the temperature to their own preference—something testers had no problem doing. But it’s worth noting this is the only trim level you can get this feature on. (The standard Crosstrek Convenience trim has manual climate control and the Crosstrek Touring and Sport trims deliver automatic climate control without the dual-climate feature.) If you want a heated steering wheel, you’ll have to opt for one of the Limited editions. Both parent testers and editors appreciated this feature, and you probably will too when winter rolls around.
Crossover SUVs are smaller vehicles compared to mid- and full-size SUVs, so automakers generally have to choose between giving you a bit more cargo space at the expense of legroom in the rear seats, or vice versa. With the Crosstrek, Subaru opted for more space for passengers, giving up a bit of storage in the back to provide a more comfortable ride (hello legroom). The space is definitely large enough for a trip to the grocery store or packing up for family vacation—but you might find some difficulty hulling all your bulky baby gear at one time. A large stroller (the UppaBaby Vista) fit in cargo area, but it nearly filled it. A compact, square folding stroller would work best with the Crosstrek—you’d have space for other things, and you won’t spend time arranging things to fit. Of course, if your kids are past the stroller years, the extra space in the cabin’s interior might be more than a fair trade.
For additional cargo space, the rear seats fold in two sections (one outer seat, and the other outer seat and middle seat together). Our editors found the rear seats fold down quite easily, requiring only the pull of a lever located on the seat’s shoulder. Putting them back up required little effort, too. It’s also worth noting that while Crosstrek may have sacrificed a bit of cargo space, Subaru offers a ton of sport accessories, like bike carrier mounts, canoe carrier, roof basket and roof cargo boxes to name a few, giving you some flexibility and other storage options.
Getting into the cargo space is another important thing to consider. While the Crosstrek doesn’t have a power liftgate, a press of the keyfob pops the liftgate open a few inches for easy manual lifting. The floor of the cargo space sits slightly below the liftgate frame, so items have to be lifted out (rather than being able to slide them), but the frame of the liftgate is quite wide, so it’s easy to get large items in and out.
The Subaru Crosstrek is an all-wheel drive vehicle all the time and while that typically means a vehicle uses more fuel, the Crosstrek actually has one of the best fuel efficiency ratings among crossover SUVs that we’ve tested. Subaru has spent decades fine-tuning its symmetrical all-wheel drive system to squeeze out every bit of efficiency from it, and the Crosstrek has a Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission (available on all trims, standard on the Limited trims and Sport with EyeSight), which keeps the vehicle’s engine in its more efficient range. Plus, the four-cylinder engine (typically used in smaller vehicles), uses less fuel than bigger engines and is efficiently designed to power this compact SUV and its four-wheel drive system.
If you opt for the automatic transmission, Subaru says you should get around 8.8 litres per 100 kilometres in the city and 7.2 L per 100 km on the highway. The manual transmission (available on all trims except for the Limited) uses more fuel: Subaru projects you’ll use 10.5 L per 100 km in the city and 8.1 L per 100 km on the highway.
This is one crossover that doesn’t feel like a big vehicle. Whether on the road or navigating busy parking lots, our parent testers and editors were in chorus when singing the praises of the Crosstrek’s nimbleness. It makes tight U-turns, is easy to park and doesn’t handle like a bulky SUV on tight neighbourhood streets.
Parent testers found the Subaru Crosstrek an absolute pleasure to drive. The layout of the cockpit is thoughtful in a way that makes everything intuitive and within reach of the driver. Our editors appreciated the secondary multifunction display, located above the dashboard touchscreen, which can display time, weather, safety features in use, fuel usage and more. Having this screen separate from the main infotainment display keeps things straightforward when looking for certain information on the road. The Crosstrek also features a driver information display between the speedometer and tachometer, behind the steering wheel, where you can monitor your speed, fuel, settings and tire pressure, as well as lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control if you are using these features. One parent tester in particular was a fan of this layout as it allowed her to better keep her eyes on the road while driving.
While our editors found the Crosstrek’s blind spot to be very minimal, the blind spot warning included in the Subaru rear/side vehicle detection system (standard on Sport and Limited models) came in handy as a good gut-check before changing lanes. It lights up the corner of your side mirror when it detects a vehicle in your blind spot, and our editors found the light would come on even before the approaching vehicle had left the mirror, giving you plenty of heads up not to move over.
It was nothing but smooth sailing when our editors took the Subaru Crosstrek for a spin. The automatic lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) smooths the transition between gears for seamless acceleration, so you won’t feel any jolts while cruising. All CTV-equipped Crosstreks come with X-Mode, which takes over the engine, transmission, all-wheel drive system and brakes to safely and smoothly tackle the trickiest terrain. (If you yearn for a stick shift, you can get a manual transmission in the Convenience, Touring and Sport trims.)
Our editors were impressed with quality of materials and the thoughtful design of the Crosstrek Limited’s interior. The Limited trim comes with leather seats and steering wheel, jazzed up with burnt-orange stitching throughout, which adds to the overall sporty feel of the vehicle. The Sport and Touring models also feature orange stitching, on premium sport cloth upholstery and premium cloth upholstery respectively. The Touring trim also introduces the leather wrapped steering wheel leather CVT shift boot, both with the signature orange stitching. The base Convenience trim comes with cloth upholstery. Parent testers were unanimous in giving the Subaru Crosstrek high ratings for style and quality and durability of materials, and they liked that the seats felt breathable.
INSTALLING A CAR SEAT
Installing a car seat can be an adventure that tests the limits of your flexibility. In the Crosstrek, the doors open wide and the door frame is spacious, so you can slide a car seat in easily. The rear seat stands around hip height when you’re standing outside the vehicle, so you don’t need to place a heavy car seat down into the vehicle—which, as any parent knows, can really put a strain on your back. Working around the car seat as you’re fastening buckles or clips, tightening straps and checking level lines is easier in the Crosstrek than in some other crossovers thanks to the generous legroom in the rear seats, but headroom is a bit tight (the vehicle is long and low), so getting leverage on a car seat when tightening belts can be a little tricky. Our editor bumped her head a few times while installing the car seat—worth taking note of, especially if you’re tall. Our parent testers found the car seat installation easy, but they noted that when using the tether strap (for forward-facing installations) you cannot use the cargo cover for the trunk. A big bonus, however, is the anchors are easy to reach and there’s no risk of scraped knuckles when installing.
What really wowed our editors was the ability to install a rear-facing convertible car seat at the infant recline angle without having to move the Crosstrek’s front seat forward to accommodate it—a rare feat. (Some mid-size SUVs don’t even have space for this.) Even if you have to move a front seat forward a bit to accommodate a car seat, as one of our testers did, there’s plenty of room to move the front seats up a bit without impacting anyone’s comfort or the driver’s sight lines.
Three tethers across the back row give you the option of installing up to three car seats, but you may find the vehicle seats’ width unable to accommodate three large car seats across—but this is common with most crossovers. There are some narrow car seats on the market, though, that could fit. It’s worth noting that the generally spacious cabin feels less airy after you install a second or third car seat.
Device connectivity has quickly become a measuring stick for infotainment systems in vehicles—so much of how we interact with these systems is tied to smartphones. The Crosstrek supports both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as and Starlink (if you happen to have a non-iOS or non-Android device). During testing, our editors didn’t have any issue connecting their devices—the process was quick and simple. Plus, our parent testers said connecting multiple smartphones in the Crosstrek was easy and each device connected on the first try.
The Subaru Crosstrek Limited and Sport trims include an eight-inch screen, while the Convenience and Touring trims come with a slightly smaller 6.5-inch screen. The easy-to-operate menu system is the same in all trims.
When the car was in motion, our testers reported some frustration in getting the system to respond when using the vehicle’s preset voice commands—which are necessary to use when driving, as the system locks out keyboard input on the screen. However, one of our editors in particular was a big fan of the Crosstrek’s voice command system, as it was one of the only vehicles that actually registered her voice. Plus, we also like that the Crosstrek will pick up voice commands from either the driver or passenger.
Buying a family vehicle is an investment, so it’s great when you can get a quality vehicle at a budget-friendly price. The Subaru Crosstrek’s base price of $23,695 is one of the most affordable you’ll find among crossover SUVs. If you want a vehicle with all the creature comforts, the top trim Crosstrek Limited with EyeSight package starts at a very respectable $33,195. With its comfortable rear seating, intuitive infotainment system and great safety features, you get a lot of vehicle for your money.
The Subaru Crosstrek made a great impression on our editors and parent testers. All of our parent testers gave this crossover SUV very good ratings for quality, and the majority gave it very good to good ratings for ease of use and value. Parents were particularly impressed with the interior finishes, especially the sporty look. One tester was a big fan of the sporty bright orange exterior, but if orange isn’t your jam, the Crosstrek also comes in a range of neutral colours. Families who tested the vehicle reported that the safety features in the EyeSight package are easy to use, the backup camera was quite helpful and the blind spot warning lights came in handy. Our parent testers unanimously felt the Subaru Crosstrek should receive the Today’s Parent Approved seal and none of them would hesitate recommending this vehicle to other families. They said that if they were shopping for a new vehicle, the Crosstrek would be on their shortlist, and we’re not surprised in the least.
- Up to five passengers
- Two rows of seating
- ISO-FIX/LATCH anchors for 2 car seats
- Tether anchors for 3 car seats (for forward-facing installation)
STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES
- Side curtain airbags, driver and front passenger front and side-impact airbags, and driver's side knee airbag
- Rearview camera
- Vehicle Dynamics Control System provides stability and traction control
- Electronic Brake-force distribution can apply more braking force to the rear wheels (depending on vehicle’s load and speed) to max out effectiveness
- Brake assist monitors vehicle speed to apply force for immediate braking
- Brake override system stops acceleration when when the vehicle is moving but both the gas and brake pedals are depressed
- Whiplash-reducing front seats
- Automatic — City: 8.8 L/100 km
- Automatic — Highway: 7.2 L/100 km
- Manual — City: 10.5 L/100 km
- Manual — Highway: 8.1 L/100 km
ENGINE, HORSEPOWER, TOWING
- 2.0-litre dual overhead camshafts (DOHC), 16-valve, horizontally opposed, 4-cylinder boxer engine
- 152 horsepower at 6,000 rpm
- 145 lb.-ft. torque at 4,000 rpm
- 680-kg (1,499 lb.) towing capacity