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2016 Subaru Crosstrek First Drive

Montreal, QC — The term “crossover” aptly describes what the 2016 Subaru Crosstrek is, namely a cross between the Impreza 5-Door and the Outback wagon. 
Launched in Canada in late 2012, this small urban CUV’s sales are steadily increasing. Unsurprisingly, Subaru decided to make a few updates for the 2016 model year. Nothing major, though; after all, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? 

You may have noticed that it’s no longer called “XV Crosstrek” in an effort to simplify things for customers. But what else is new? The local media were recently invited to Montreal to find out. 

Subtle lifting
Looking like a manly, jacked-up compact car, the Subaru Crosstrek is winning over a ton of buyers. In fact, company reps told us that people are first drawn to this sub-compact crossover precisely because of its bold, distinctive silhouette. 

Where the 2016 model stands out from the previous edition is in the details. Up front, the headlight clusters now sport a silver finish, while the grille is decked with a larger badge and beefier chrome strip. The bumper has been slightly redesigned and incorporates L-shaped chrome accents around the fog lights.

The Crosstrek appeals to many with its rugged-looking wheels, and designers were wise not to mess them up; they just tweaked them a bit to add some movement. As for body colours, Tangerine Orange has been replaced by a Hyper Blue option that similarly won’t go unnoticed. The rest is pretty much identical to last year’s model.

Although the Crosstrek Hybrid was missing at the event, look for it to receive the same styling updates while continuing with its own unique set of alloys. Plasma Green will be dropped.

Playing it safe inside, too
It’s no shocker that the interior didn’t go through a major overhaul, either. After all, Subaru is known for being fairly conservative. The dashboard layout remains unchanged, but it does sport new glossy accents and new HVAC controls. The arrangement of buttons on the steering wheel was revised for more clarity, while available orange topstitching adds contrast to the seats, door panels, and armrests (Sport and Limited models). 

The top-of-the-line Crosstrek Limited offers leather upholstery, satellite radio, a centre touch screen, dual-zone climate control, HID headlights, and more.

And then there’s the Technology Package option, which comes with Subaru’s EyeSight system. The latter uses cameras and sensors all around to help prevent collisions and keep the car in its lane. Adaptive fog lights and intelligent key are also part of the mix.

An adventurer for the road
In order to demonstrate the 2016 Subaru Crosstrek’s split-personality, the company set up a route that included various jaunts across the city, a bit of highway driving, and some twistier roads in the Eastern Quebec countryside. They also arranged for a brief stint off the beaten path — even though very few sub-compact CUV drivers will ever dare to venture that far. 

Let’s be realistic, here: Despite the Crosstrek’s superior ground clearance, just about any vehicle would have fared well on the paved portion of the drive event. As for the off-road exercise, while a regular car likely would have been unable to overcome one or two obstacles we encountered, the Subaru Crosstrek isn’t significantly more capable, and therefore can’t be considered a true 4x4. That’s fine, though.

Under the hood, there are no changes to report about. The Crosstrek carries over the famous 2.0L 4-cylinder Subaru BOXER engine that produces 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque. A 5-speed (why not 6?) manual transmission again finds its way into Touring, Sport, and Limited models, while those equipped with the Technology Package (like the ones we tested) get a CVT instead. The folks at Subaru Canada quickly reminded us that this type of transmission is increasingly popular among car buyers, mainly for fuel-economy reasons. 

The 2016 Subaru Crosstrek is no rally car, but it’s peppy enough to make drivers happy. Unlike traditional CVTs, Subaru’s Lineartronic unit doesn’t whine and actually varies engine speed under acceleration, so it kind of feels like you’re driving a regular automatic. The paddle shifters are nice and work decently, but that’s it.
Despite having a taller ride height than competitors (due to its class-leading 220mm ground clearance), the Crosstrek inspires plenty of confidence on the road thanks to a firm suspension and wide tires, not to mention Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive system. Steering may not be razor-sharp, but I found it precise and responsive enough. Around town, this small CUV easily navigates through traffic. 

Final word on the Crosstrek
Small crossovers are all the rage at the moment, and Subaru must be glad to have one of the better established specimens in its lineup. The Crosstrek is already part of the automotive landscape in Canada, and further reinforces the Japanese brand’s adventurous image. 

Subaru is on a roll now, and the Crosstrek’s 2016 mid-cycle update should only keep that going. In fact, we were told that the only thing that limits sales right now is production capacity not keeping up with consumer demand. 


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