I’m driving a new, blue, Subaru Crosstrek Sport this weekend and I’m pretty excited. I have always admired Subaru for pulling off one of the better cons on Americans. I mean, Americans love cons. We love getting conned. We love conning other people! We love it when we get to buy a Toyota Corolla but with worse reliability and gas mileage in exchange for all-wheel-drive we don’t need.
That’s always been my most skeptical read of the Impreza (and now the lifted Crosstrek as I’ll be driving as well), a car that is perfect for spending all day tearing up and down mud- or slush-covered back roads when you live on the side of some mountain range. It has all of the capability of a four-wheel-drive truck as far as getting around is concerned, minus all the fuel economy and handling penalties of a truck’s ability to tow horses around and fill a bed full of construction equipment. As efficient as a little Subaru is compared to something bigger, it always just reminds me buyers could be yet more efficient if they just stuck with front-wheel drive. Subaru sold 119,716 Crosstreks last year, as GoodCarBadCar tabulates. How many of those people live on an unmaintained road they have to plow themselves? How many even visit?
But maybe that’s all unfair. After all, how much of a penalty does a Crosstrek buyer really suffer as opposed to buying something normal, let’s say a Toyota, instead.
Well, the fuel economy penalty (as rated on FuelEconomy.gov) isn’t as bad as you’d think. I put the new Crosstrek against the Corolla Hatchback (which runs a couple grand less than the Crosstrek) and yes, automatic to automatic, the Corolla gets almost as good mileage in the city as the Crosstrek does on the highway. Now, I like the Corolla Hatch, as it’s a good-looking car and fun to drive with a six-speed manual. I also liked the hybrid sedan, too, though that’s a bit beside the point. The Corolla Hatch, though, is not exactly the most rough-road friendly car out there, with a somewhat sporty chin spoiler. If you raise it up into a C-HR (which runs about as much as a Crosstrek, give or take), mileage drops to just as bad as the Crosstrek. Worse on the highway, actually, even with the Crosstrek’s new 2.5-liter direct-injection engine. That’s good for 182 horsepower now. This is a meaningful step up from when the car made 150-something at its most powerful, 140-something as a hybrid.
I am indeed intrigued to see if the Crosstrek is actually as practical, useful, economical as I figure it’d need to be for me to tell anybody to buy one. Or maybe it really will have some charm, some brio that doesn’t show up on any spec sheet.
What is it that you would want to know about one?