By Shari Prymak

2018 Subaru Crosstrek - Many automakers these days seen to have forgotten what the word “Sport” in Sport Utility Vehicle really means. Despite mostly being used for work commutes and shopping runs, SUVs were traditionally meant to take you just about anywhere from sketchy mountain terrain to snow-covered country trails. The “Sport” represents the adventure lifestyle and having a vehicle that matches it. Subaru is a brand dedicated to instilling some degree of adventure capability into just about every vehicle they build. And the Crosstrek is one of the most affordable ways to get in on the fun.

It’s no secret that most small crossovers today are designed more for the urban lifestyle rather than the adventure lifestyle. They are essentially hatchbacks that have been jacked-up, given some wheel cladding, all-wheel drive, and different styling. Subaru, however, appears to have skipped the different styling part, because, aside from the wheel cladding and higher ride height, the Crosstrek really looks no different than its Impreza hatchback stablemate. Even so, the clean rugged look suits its adventure persona perfectly.

The Crosstrek is built on Subaru’s new global platform, which makes it significantly more rigid and safe than prior models. The result is a ride that feels solid, stable, yet also quiet and comfortable for the daily grind. Compared to a regular Impreza, the Crosstrek boasts 8.7 inches of ground clearance, plus impressive approach, departure, and break over angles for a bit of off-road capability. It’s no rock-crawling Jeep Wrangler, but it’s more than happy enough to tackle some iffy terrain.

Subaru Crosstrek

Power comes courtesy of a 2.0L, 4-cylinder boxer engine that produces 152 horsepower and 145lb-ft of torque. It’s efficient and reasonably refined, but don’t go looking for any kind of power because there’s none to be had here. The engine comes matched to a 6-speed manual gearbox and all-wheel drive as standard. I’d recommend splurging for the optional CVT automatic. It performs better and achieves better fuel economy with a posted rating of 8.8L/100km city and 7.2L/100km highway. CVT models also get a more advanced symmetrical all-wheel drive system with an “X-Mode” that supposedly optimizes the various systems to help navigate through off-road conditions.

As is often the case with Subaru, the interior prioritizes straightforwardness and functionality over design and flashy details. The controls are easy to use and the touchscreen works well. The display measures 6.5 inches on lower trims, 8 inches on higher ones, and both come standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. Interior space is quite good overall, and the cargo area is large enough to swallow quite a bit of gear. With the back seats folded, a pair of bicycles can fit no problem.

Prices start at $23,695 for a manual transmission Convenience model and climb as high as $33,195 for fully-equipped Limited model with Subaru Eyesight active safety technology. The Crosstrek comes well-equipped at all trim levels, however, it is a little stingy of Subaru to make buyers move up to the $25,295 Touring model for heated seats and the top end Limited model for a heated steering wheel. You can get both of those features on a base Kia Rio. Even so, it is price competitive with other small crossovers.

The Crosstrek isn’t flashy or that exciting to drive really, but it will do just about anything one could reasonably ask of it. It’s practical, affordable, and well-designed, with enough off-road ability and ruggedness to give it the upper-hand over its less adventurous rivals. And because it’s a Subaru, safety, reliability, and resale value are all pretty much top-notch.  Crossover lovers looking for a low-priced, yet highly capable small rig to fit their active lifestyle will have a hard time finding anything better suited for the job than this.