Subaru Crosstrek: For the young, active, adventurous

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Subaru has been selling cars in the United States for 50 years now, but for many of those years the company struggled to gain better awareness with the American car-buying public. Today, all that’s changed. Subaru buyers are a loyal bunch, and they love the cars they buy.

That’s the assessment from Michael McHale, director of corporate communications for Subaru. Subaru customers tend to be younger, more active and adventurous, he said, which is one of the reasons the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek is such an important vehicle for the company. After doing surprisingly well since its original launch in 2012, the Crosstrek is an all-new model for 2018.

“There’s almost nothing that carries over from the previous generation,” said Todd Hill, car line planning manager for the Crosstrek.

The new Crosstrek is the second Subaru vehicle to be built on the company’s new global platform that uses new framework and highly stiffened joints to significantly enhance stability, agility and ride comfort. Subaru says the structure of the new Crosstrek structure is 70 percent more rigid than the previous model.

Subaru invited the automotive press to a campsite in the Black Hills of South Dakota to get an early look at the 2018 Crosstrek. “Camp Crosstrek” was our base for the new Crosstrek during a full day in mostly light to moderate off-road conditions.

I found the Crosstrek to be a tough, off-road-capable utility vehicle with a standard roof rack and a can-do attitude. It’s not going to climb Rubicon trail boulders, but it will happily take owners on moderate off-road journeys. The Crosstrek delivers excellent all-around visibility, high ground clearance (8.7 inches), 17-inch alloy wheels and class-leading interior volume.

Starting at $21,795, the 2018 Crosstrek is offered in base, Premium and Limited trim levels. All three trims get a 2.0-liter Boxer (horizontally opposed) engine that delivers 152 horsepower and 145 lb.-ft. of torque.

The engine is slightly more powerful than the previous model, and it does provide impressive fuel economy. EPA estimates say the Crosstrek will take you 23 city miles and 33 highway miles down the road on a single gallon of gasoline. And keep in mind, those figures are for a vehicle with AWD. With its 16.6-gallon fuel tank, the Crosstrek has a bladder-busting range of 547 miles.

The transmission is continuously variable, with a seven-speed manual mode function and paddle shifters. A manual transmission is also offered. On the road, my test Crosstrek was sure-footed and remained flat in aggressive cornering. Steering was linear and on center.

Inside the roomy cabin, the 2018 Crosstrek has significantly reduced NVH for a quieter ride. Lower grades have durable fabric seats, and the Limited trim features black or high-contrast gray leather with orange stitching on the seats, armrests and instrument panel. The six-way power driver’s seat is a first for the Crosstrek, as is the harman/kardon premium audio system. White-faced gauges are a nice touch. The company’s STARLINK Multimedia system features Bluetooth, smartphone integration that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and available navigation.

The outgoing Crosstrek won a Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for six straight years, so look for the new model to do the same, thanks in part to the company’s Eyesight System.

Eyesight is a comprehensive suite of safety technologies designed to help prevent crashes. Included are adaptive cruise control, automatic pre-collision braking, lane departure and sway warning, blind spot detection with lane change assist, and rear cross traffic alert. The 2018 Crosstrek also has a reverse automatic braking system that can apply the brakes if an obstacle is detected while backing up.