Subaru has gone its own way for decades, selling all-wheel-drive passenger vehicles when no one else was, courting snow-belt driving enthusiasts and using an engine type — the “flat” or “boxer” configuration — that only one other carmaker, Porsche, has embraced. With the 2016 Subaru Crosstrek, the automaker continues to do its own thing. Unlike other compact crossovers, the Crosstrek is fundamentally a car, an Impreza hatchback, to be specific, with beefed-up suspension components, a higher ride height and tougher-looking styling. As such, it pairs the maneuverability of a small hatchback with genuine off-road talents, and it also offers the unusual option of a gas-electric hybrid powertrain.
As enticing as all that may sound, the Crosstrek isn’t the first pint-sized crossover we’d recommend. For the Edmunds “B” rated non-hybrid Crosstrek, the problems start with the standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Power is underwhelming, and the continuously variable transmission (CVT) makes matters worse with its hair-trigger responses and propensity to keep the engine droning loudly during acceleration. In Edmunds testing, we found the Crosstrek to be one of the slowest vehicles in its class. With a full load of camping gear and companions, it’s bound to be even less inspiring.
As for the Edmunds “C”-rated Crosstrek Hybrid, it gets 12 more horsepower and 18 more pound-feet of torque, so you might expect it to be the better driver. Unfortunately, it weighs almost 300 pounds more than the regular Crosstrek, effectively negating that extra output. You won’t benefit much at the pump either, as the pricier Crosstrek Hybrid provides a mere 2 mpg advantage over the regular Crosstrek with the CVT.
Accordingly, it’s tough for us to fully recommend the Crosstrek if you’re going to be spending most of your time in urban environments. Even Subaru’s own 2016 Forester, while a little more expensive, provides more power and interior space without sacrificing much fuel economy, while the updated 2016 Toyota RAV4 boasts similar strengths and offers a new hybrid variant. If those rigs seem too hefty, the 2016 Jeep Renegade should be a model to check out considering its easy-to-maneuver size and (via the Trailhawk model) impressive off-road ability. We also recommend the versatile 2016 Honda HR-V and sporty 2016 Mazda CX-3. But if you mainly want an inexpensive hatchback/crossover that can easily get you off the beaten path, the 2016 Subaru Crosstrek should satisfy.
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Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2016 Subaru Crosstrek is available in five trim levels: 2.0i, 2.0i Premium, 2.0i Limited, Hybrid and Hybrid Touring.
Standard equipment on the base 2.0i includes 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, roof rails, rear privacy glass, air-conditioning, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with auxiliary audio and phone controls, 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks, Bluetooth connectivity, a rearview camera, a 6.2-inch touchscreen display with smartphone-app integration (including Pandora, Aha, iHeartRadio and Stitcher music services) and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, a USB port and an auxiliary input jack.
The 2.0i Premium adds heated mirrors with body-color housings, heated front seats, an adjustable center armrest, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, interior contrast stitching (on the steering wheel, automatic shift knob and cloth upholstery), a cargo cover, a removable cargo tray and a six-speaker audio system.
The 2.0i Limited adds automatic headlights, an acoustic windshield, a suite of rear vehicle detection technologies (blind-spot monitoring, lane-change assist and rear cross-traffic alert), Subaru’s Starlink safety telematics (optional on 2.0i Premium: includes an SOS button, automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle recovery and a vehicle-monitoring app), ambient interior lighting, upgraded instrumentation, automatic climate control, leather upholstery (with orange stitching), a rear seat fold-down armrest and an upgraded infotainment system with a 7.0-inch touchscreen display, satellite radio, dual USB ports and hands-free text messaging.
The base Hybrid includes most of the 2.0i Limited’s features (with the notable exceptions of the leather upholstery, upgraded infotainment system and Starlink safety telematics) and adds unique 17-inch wheels, keyless entry and ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an LCD display in the gauge cluster, a hybrid-specific energy display and a pedestrian alert system that emits a sound while the vehicle is only using the electric motor to notify pedestrians of its presence.
The Hybrid Touring adds a sunroof as well as the leather upholstery, the upgraded infotainment system (with the 7-inch touchscreen) and a navigation system.
The sunroof is optional on the 2.0i Premium and 2.0i Limited, while the former is also eligible for the 7-inch infotainment upgrade, and the latter can optionally be equipped with keyless entry and ignition and navigation. The 2.0i Limited’s standard advanced safety technologies can be added to the 2.0i Premium. Both the 2.0i Premium and the 2.0i Limited can be equipped with Subaru’s EyeSight safety package, which adds steering-responsive foglights, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and a forward collision mitigation system with automatic braking.
Powertrains and Performance
The standard (non-hybrid) 2016 Subaru Crosstrek features a 2.0-liter horizontally opposed “boxer” four-cylinder engine that produces 148 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on 2.0i and 2.0i Premium, as is an all-wheel-drive system with a 50/50 front/rear power distribution. Optional on the Premium and standard on the Limited is a CVT coupled to a different all-wheel-drive system that typically apportions more power to the front wheels but directs power rearward when front traction is compromised.
The hybrid pairs essentially the same engine with the CVT and its specific AWD system, adding an electric motor that raises output to 160 hp and 163 lb-ft of torque.
In Edmunds testing, a regular Crosstrek with the CVT accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 9.9 seconds, while the hybrid went from zero to 60 in 10.0 seconds. The hybrid’s time is acceptable for a hybrid wagon in this price range, but nearly every compact crossover on the market is quicker than the Crosstrek.
Official EPA estimates for the Crosstrek stand at 29 mpg combined (26 city/34 highway) for the CVT, while the manual transmission reduces those numbers to 26 mpg combined (23/31). The Crosstrek Hybrid is the best of the bunch at 31 mpg combined (30/34).
The 2016 Subaru Crosstrek comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock disc brakes, front side airbags and side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag, a rearview camera and active front head restraints. Hybrid models also come with an audible pedestrian alert system that plays a warning sound through a speaker behind the right headlight when only the electric motor is in use.
Additional safety features like the advanced EyeSight bundle, rear vehicle detection technologies and Starlink telematics are detailed in Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options (above).
In government crash testing, the 2016 Crosstrek received five out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for total frontal-impact and rollover safety and five stars for total side-impact safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has awarded the Crosstrek its highest possible rating of “Good” in its small-overlap and moderate-overlap frontal-offset impact tests. It also earned a “Good” score in the side-impact, roof strength and whiplash protection (seats and head restraints) tests. The optional frontal collision mitigation system earned a “Superior” rating from the IIHS as well.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Crosstrek stopped from 60 mph in 126 feet, which is a few feet longer than average. A Crosstrek Hybrid stopped from 60 mph in 119 feet, shorter than the regular model despite the hybrid’s extra weight.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Subaru Crosstrek follows a template similar to its Impreza counterpart, with a simple interior design that features logically arranged controls. The dashboard and door panels are wrapped in soft-touch trim, and in general the Crosstrek’s cabin materials are nicer than Subaru’s historical norm. With a standard 6.2-inch touchscreen interface and an available 7.0-inch touchscreen that includes enhanced multimedia features, the Crosstrek has one of the better-equipped interiors in this segment from a technological standpoint. Standard audio quality is pretty awful, though, and there’s no premium brand-name upgrade as you’ll find in some rivals.
For drivers and passengers alike, the Crosstrek has plenty of room, even with 6-footers in the mix. With the rear seatbacks in place, the Crosstrek offers 22.3 cubic feet of storage space, expanding to 51.9 cubes with those seatbacks lowered. That’s considerably more than the Nissan Juke, but it trails crossovers like the Ford Escape and Subaru Forester by a healthy margin. At least the flat load floor means you’re able to maximize the space provided. The hybrid rates only slightly less in this regard, as the battery pack located beneath the cargo floor reduces cargo capacity by just 1.7 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded and by 0.8 cubic feet with the seatbacks in place.
Although there’s an available five-speed manual on the non-hybrid base and Premium models, most Crosstreks will come with the CVT. And whether you’re driving around town or on the highway, there’s no hiding the fact that the CVT’s top priority is to minimize fuel consumption. The downside is that acceleration is adequate at best, and you’ll need to plan ahead for passing and merging. We’ve also found that the CVT’s hair-trigger responses to gas pedal inputs can increase engine speed unnecessarily and exacerbate noise from under the hood.
Dynamically, the Crosstrek feels confident and composed on slippery roads, where its standard all-wheel drive and stability control systems make its reactions very predictable. The Crosstrek’s extra ground clearance also helps it glide along snowy streets and dirt trails. While we wouldn’t call it sporty, the Crosstrek can be pretty fun on dry pavement, too, thanks to a nicely tuned suspension. The cabin remains surprisingly well isolated from wind and tire noise on the highway.
The Crosstrek Hybrid is just as capable off-road as the standard model and broadly similar on pavement, but the awkward-feeling regenerative brakes are intrusive, and handling is a little less entertaining because the extra weight dulls handling in quick transitions.