While it could offer more cargo space and better acceleration, the 2016 Subaru Crosstrek is an excellent small crossover for the right buyer. Standard all-wheel drive and user-friendly tech features make the Crosstrek a great value, which is complemented by good fuel economy and some of the best safety ratings in the class.
The Subaru Crosstrek sees a number of updates for 2016, including updated front-end styling and a simplified designation that eliminates “XV” from the model name. Newly available features also debut, including blind spot monitoring and a telematics system. Three trim levels are offered: 2.0i, 2.0i Premium and 2.0i Limited.
Based on the Subaru Impreza hatchback, the 2016 Crosstrek benefits from unique styling updates that help it overcome its compact-car roots. An impressive 8.7 inches of ground clearance provides the Crosstrek with a stance that makes it suitable for light off-roading when the pavement ends, while 17-inch wheels, black wheel arches and body cladding provide a rugged exterior look.
All Crosstrek models come with tinted privacy glass and fog lights, while exterior upgrades can include a moonroof, heated sideview mirrors and automatic headlights.
The Crosstrek’s cabin features a functional design with straightforward controls on the steering wheel and center stack. The climate system is operated by large dials that are directly below the standard touch-screen display. One ergonomic misstep is the location of the switches for the available heated front seats. They’re located far back on the center console, directly behind the parking brake and well out of the driver’s line of site. The result is a slightly awkward reach when you want to turn them on or off.
Most surfaces are covered in hard plastic or metallic trim, but everything is nicely textured and fully in line with what’s offered in the compact crossover class. Despite its small size, the Crosstrek impresses with ample headroom and legroom in both rows. Cargo space falls short of what’s offered by competitors like the Honda CR-V and Subaru’s own Forester, but the Crosstrek’s 51.9 cubic feet of maximum cargo space is slightly more than you’ll get with subcompact models like the Jeep Renegade and Mazda CX-3.
The base Crosstrek 2.0i comes with cloth upholstery, while higher trims bring in upgrades that include a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, heated front seats, single-zone automatic climate control and leather upholstery.
The 2016 Subaru Crosstrek features a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission and all-wheel drive are standard, and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is available. The base Crosstrek gets an EPA-estimated 23/31 mpg city/highway. Models with the CVT get 26/34 mpg, which is great for the segment.
The Crosstrek’s Impreza roots are apparent behind the wheel. This model offers great fuel economy and a comfortable ride. Light steering makes the Crosstrek easy to maneuver, and its carlike handling is impressively composed for a compact crossover. Standard all-wheel drive and a notable 8.7 inches of ground clearance also make the Crosstrek a willing companion on snow-covered roads or situations that require light off-roading.
On the other hand, acceleration is not the Crosstrek’s strongest suit. Automotive journalists have criticized the model for being underpowered since it was introduced. Personally, I’m not convinced that the average buyer finds as much fault with the powertrain, even if it is a little underwhelming at times.
The engine and CVT are tuned to be fairly responsive from a stop, and there’s adequate power in most situations, but highway passing power is somewhat limited. You’ll want to plan carefully if you need to merge on busy roads or execute lane changes around slower moving traffic. While no one will consider it swift, I found the Crosstrek easy to live with as long as I was realistic about its capabilities.
The Crosstrek comes with Subaru’s Starlink infotainment system, which includes smartphone app integration, Bluetooth, a USB port and a 6.2-inch touch screen. An upgraded audio system, navigation, satellite radio and an enhanced Starlink system with a 7-inch display are available.
When the XV Crosstrek debuted three years ago, the available touch-screen navigation system was one of its biggest demerits. However, that problem was rectified last year when Starlink became standard equipment on the 2015 model.
Subaru has slowly rolled Starlink out across its lineup, with the system now included in models like the Forester, Legacy, Outback and WRX. While it currently lacks features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Starlink’s large touch-screen icons and generally quick response times make it an easy system to use. Primary functions are easily accessed too, with dedicated buttons and knobs on either side of the display.
Our test Crosstrek’s navigation system offered clear graphics and easy access to menus to select a destination or point of interest. It’s an intuitive system, though typing in an address results in more of a lag than you’ll experience with other Starlink functions.
The 2016 Subaru Crosstrek comes standard with a rearview camera. Lane-change assist and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert are newly available for the 2016 model year. Subaru’s EyeSight system is also available, bringing in adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking and lane departure warning.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2016 Crosstrek top scores of Good in every crashworthiness category. The Crosstrek also earned a top Superior rating for front crash prevention when equipped with the optional EyeSight suite of driver assistance features. As a result, the Crosstrek received a Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS.
In crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Crosstrek earned a top overall rating of five stars.
The base Crosstrek 2.0i starts at $21,595 plus an $850 destination charge. Premium and Limited trims start at $22,395 and $25,095, respectively. Our test Crosstrek Limited was a fully loaded model that included a moonroof, keyless access with push-button start, navigation and the EyeSight suite of driver assistance technologies, bringing the as-tested price to $28,840 after destination.
That’s slightly less than you’d pay for subcompact crossovers like a fully loaded Mazda CX-3 or Fiat 500X, though Subaru’s own Forester offers a significant upgrade in interior space and starts at just $800 more.
If a Crosstrek seems right for you, we think the best value might be the midlevel Premium trim, which adds heated front seats and an upgraded audio system, but also allows you to add options like EyeSight, blind-spot monitoring and the upgraded version of Starlink. A Crosstrek Premium with that level of equipment should carry a suggested price of about $26,000.
Limited power means that the 2016 Crosstrek may not make the cut for some shoppers. However, Subaru’s smallest crossover still has a lot going for it, including good fuel economy, excellent safety ratings and a competitive set of standard features. A capable all-wheel drive system and controlled handling also stand out among the Crosstrek’s attributes.