SAN ONOFRE, California — Carrying a nine-foot-plus longboard with anything other than a van or a long-bed pickup truck can be tricky, especially if the vehicle isn’t fitted with roof racks, which is the case for most testers that we get. (Soft racks are a viable alternative, but are a bit of a pain and sometimes you just don’t want to bother.) Most smaller vehicles won’t fit a plank of these proportions at all, including most compact crossovers. Even many larger ones require rearranging the seats in a way that convert a three-row, seven-seat hauler into single-occupancy conveyance. And then there’s the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek.
The packaging of the second-generation Crosstrek compact crossover makes it immediately clear why Subaru has such a dedicated following among the active lifestyle crowd. For starters, the “40” of the 60/40 split rear bench is on the driver’s side instead of the passenger side, which means you can carry a second person should you need to fold both the front and rear passenger seats to fit something oversize. Second, that front passenger seat folds nearly flat once its headrest is removed along with the headrest from the folded rear seat. Thus, despite being only 175.8 inches in length, the Crosstrek can swallow up a log while leaving somewhere for a second occupant, be they your significant other, one of your surf buddies, or just a random guy you’re paying with beer to take pictures of you surfing. By contrast, my 9’4” (112-inch) board refused to fit inside our Four Seasons Mazda CX-5 regardless of what I did with the seats.
For those planning on carrying more conventional loadouts, cargo volume measures in at 20.8 cubic feet with the rear seats up and grows to 55.3 cubic feet with them folded down. Maximum load floor length, a big part of the Crosstrek’s ability to swallow long objects, measures at 32.3 inches with the rear seats up and 64.2 inches with the seats down.
While it’s long on longitudinal space, the 2018 Crosstrek is a bit short on power. Its naturally aspirated 2.0-liter flat-four makes just 152 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque and as a result, the 3,230-lb crossover needs 10.3 seconds to hit 60 mph. However, it doesn’t feel that slow while on the road except in passing situations thanks in part to its smooth and well-engineered continuously variable transmission, which does a solid job of keeping the engine near its torque peak. A six-speed manual is standard on base and Premium Crosstreks for those willing to sacrifice creature comforts for a third pedal. And if you are badly in need of more power, Subaru will be more than happy to sell you an Outback for a few grand more.
One plus of the power shortage is that it won’t hurt so much when it’s time to fill your Crosstrek’s gas tank. The 2.0-liter boxer engine only needs regular-grade fuel and makes a gallon last for 27 miles in the city and 33 miles on the highway when equipped with the CVT. Opting for the manual drops fuel economy considerably to 23 mpg city and 29 mpg highway.
Lack of power aside, the 2018 Crosstrek offers a relatively smooth, quiet, and compliant ride for its class. Steering is fairly quick and feels almost sporty, while the brakes do the job that’s asked of them without complaint or excessive bite. In theory, you could take it into the canyons for a fun run, but there’s not much reason to bother due to the aforementioned power shortage, unless you’ve got a trailhead to access.
The new Crosstrek also delivers when it comes to infotainment thanks to Subaru’s adoption of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which come standard on all trims. The 2018 Crosstrek Limited comes standard with an 8.0-inch screen with the automaker’s STARLINK interface (base and Premium models make do with a 6.5-inch screen), which isn’t wonky as before, and six audio speakers. Our tester was fitted with a $3,445 package that adds Subaru’s EyeSight active safety suite, a moonroof, navigation, and an eight-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system, but unless frequent ventures into lands without cell service are in your future, you can save $900 by opting for the $2,095 option package that only adds the active safety systems and the moonroof and adding the Harman/Kardon audio separately for another $499. You certainly won’t need the factory nav as backup for your phone if your mountain biking trips don’t go beyond LA’s Runyon Canyon.
Other standard goodies on the 2018 Crosstrek Limited include a power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, leather upholstery, and shift paddles for the CVT. While these are nice to have, the truly active will likely be better served by stepping down to the Crosstrek Premium and its cloth upholstery, which can also be equipped with the EyeSight suite and accompanying blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert systems—but without the moonroof. You’d be able to shift your own gears, too.
You’d also save a few bucks, not that the Crosstrek is prohibitively expensive when loaded. Our tester rang in at $30,655 including destination, which makes it a good value even in fancy leather-trimmed and tech-filled garb. If you’re looking for a versatile hauler that doesn’t need much parking space and is easy on the wallet, the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek is a good choice—provided you don’t need to be anywhere in a hurry.
2018 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i Limited Specifications
|PRICE||$27,210/30,655 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||2.0L DOHC 16-valve flat-4/152 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 145 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|EPA MILEAGE||27/33 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||175.8 x 71.0 x 63.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||10.3 sec|