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2023 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0R review (video)

Subaru’s small SUV offering has been renewed with an all-new model and name – the Crosstrek. It replaces the XV nameplate. VFACTS sales figures for the Crosstrek are already indicating a boost to seven per cent market share in the SUVs under $45k category for October 2023, compared with 5.6 per cent during the same month in 2022. This puts the Crosstrek in fifth place behind the MG ZS, Mazda CX-30, Hyundai Kona, and Mitsubishi ASX.

The Subaru brand itself has seen some changes to focus areas in recent years; building a reputation for safety over performance, and continuing with its strengths off the bitumen. Here, we’re going to examine whether the Crosstrek aligns with these traits, or creates its own road.

2023 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0R-length

2023 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0R: Specifications

Engine: 2.0-litre flat four-cylinder
Output: 115kW@6000rpm / 196Nm@4000rpm
Gearbox: CVT auto
Drive type: All-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 18×7.0, 225/55
ANCAP: Five stars
Tare weight: 1493kg
Power-to-weight: 12.98:1 (kg:kW)
Official consumption: 7.2L/100km
Our consumption: 7.8L/100km
Fuel tank/Fuel type: 63L/91 RON
Power efficiency: 15.97kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 5.57 seconds*
0-100km/h: 11.55 seconds*
60-110km/h: 7.97 seconds*
1/4 mile: 18.24 seconds at 130.4km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.540g*
100-0km/h braking: 43.90m in 3.44 seconds*
Max deceleration: -1.001g*
Decibel at idle: 41*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 80*
Starting price: $38,490

*Figures as tested by Driving Enthusiast on the day. Manufacturers’ claims may be different

2023 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0R: How much does it cost?

There are five variants on offer in order of price; the 2.0L, 2.0R, Hybrid L, 2.0S, and Hybrid S. Pricing kicks off from $34,990 and spans to $45,090 (excluding on-road costs).

The base model’s price is undercut by between $3k and $11k among those four top-selling competitors. But none of those base model equivalents come with all-wheel drive as standard.

Of course, all variants get Subaru’s famous symmetrical all-wheel drive that connects to two different powertrains. A 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, horizontally-opposed engine for the ‘2.0’ labelled variants, or the combination of the same petrol engine and electric power for the Hybrid variants. Both options connect to a constantly variable auto gearbox (CVT).

We’re testing out the all-petrol engine in the 2.0R trim. It retails from $38,490 (excluding on-road costs).

2023 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0R-interior

2023 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0R: Interior & packaging

To emphasise its orientation towards off-road abilities, the Crosstrek’s external appearance nails it with a rugged theme. Black cladding, flared wheel arches, an aluminium front fender, prominent roof rails and jagged shapes all make the Japanese-built Crosstrek look tough.

Inside, the interior presents as strong and practical more than prestigious, appealing perfectly to the market it seeks. There are still a few pointy contours in the design, but an improvement on the busy and cluttered feel of the XV. Surface materials used don’t have a lot of style about them. You get hard plastics, carbon fibre-look patterns, and a peculiar covered fabric area on the door skins that looks like an afterthought.

Compared with the previous model XV, the Crosstrek has grown in length by 10mm, and height and wheelbase by 5mm. This could contribute to an interior that feels more spacious. The front and rear seat positions offer a decent amount of wriggle room for four adults.

2023 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0R-boot

It was often commented that the XV’s boot space was smaller than the competition. Inopportunely, it has not changed significantly in the Crosstrek. With the rear seats up, volume has decreased from 310 litres to 291 litres. But when the 60:40 split-fold rear seats are folded down, volume has increased from 765 litres to 883 litres. And cargo opening width has increased slightly by 3mm. When the rear seats are in place, the Crosstrek’s boot capacity is smaller than the cargo areas in the Mitsubishi ASX, MG ZS, Mazda CX-30, Kia Seltos and the Hyundai Kona.

Dominating the dash is Subaru’s fourth-generation infotainment system with an 11.6-inch portrait touch-screen. The menu layout is more organised and easier to grasp over previous models. We admire how air-con controls are always present at the bottom of the screen for quick access. All models except the base 2.0L score a 360-degree view image from four cameras, including a 3D top view.

2023 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0R-touchscreen

The infotainment system is also equipped with full wireless Apple CarPlay, wired or wireless Android Auto, a wireless phone charger, a USB-A port and a USB-C port. There is also an additional of each port in the rear.

It seems Subaru is now the new Volvo when it comes to safety fitments. The manufacturer has boosted its commitment to safety in recent years. In fact, it sets out to achieve zero fatal road accidents in a Subaru by 2030.

2023 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0R-rear seats

Every variant of the Crosstrek comes standard with a huge list of tech, including adaptive cruise, lane-keep assist, lane centring, lane-departure prevention, lane-departure warning, lane-sway warning, lead vehicle start alert, pre-collision braking and throttle management, brake light recognition, speed sign recognition, blind-spot monitor, driver’s EyeSight monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, front-side radar, rear parking sensors, and reverse automatic braking.

Some of these features will seem intrusive to some. Especially the EyeSight driving monitor that alerts you when you look down at the touch-screen.

The Crosstrek is backed by a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, and servicing is required at 15,000km or 12 months. Servicing costs are capped at $346.25, $473.47, $420.60, $771.74, and $361.13 for the first five services if completed at a Subaru dealer.

2023 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0R-safety systems

2023 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0R: Powertrain & handling

Keeping to the unique horizontally-opposed 2.0-litre petrol engine with no turbo, you cannot yield much thrill from it. It gets by with 115kW and just 196Nm of torque, placing it in the lower quadrant in performance among competitors. The 0-100km/h sprint is officially achieved in a sluggish 10.5 seconds, and our tests with a Vbox returned a best of 11.55 seconds.

2023 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0R-Vbox testing

Behind the wheel, it feels terribly handicapped. If you need to get up to speed hastily the engine will pant high in the rev range with little follow through. Steep hills also cause the engine to spin high for more torque, but to no avail. It really needs to do better here.

Matters are made worse by the CVT auto gearbox that only exaggerates the engine’s breathlessness with a droned-out buzz. Though, the 80 per cent redesigned “Lineartronic” gearbox now has eight artificial steps in the gearing kick in when driven hard. But they are nothing like the sound and feeling of progress you get from real gear ratios.

2023 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0R-console

We’d be willing to cut the engine some slack if it were economical to run. But it’s fairly average in this area, too. Official fuel economy is rated at 7.2L/100km. Our test over 550km with roughly half city and half highway driving returned an average of 7.8L/100km. It’s a sneaky way to coerce you to look into the hybrid powertrain, which rates slightly better, at 6.5L/100km. Thankfully, with the price of petrol these days, it can run on cheaper 91 RON fuel.

Among the small SUV market some choices are more suited to dirt than others. The Crosstrek is one of them. Thanks to a class-leading 220mm of ground clearance, the suspension has longer travel than others to spring over bigger bumps and ditches. MacPherson struts and a stabiliser bar are fitted to the front, and double wishbones, coil-over struts and a stabiliser bar are at the back.

2023 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0R-headlights

Dampers are on the softer side to help unsealed roads feel smoother. And Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive is always applying some level of power to all four wheels. Many small SUVs are only offered in front-wheel drive, or four-wheel drive on-demand only.

Advancing the Crosstrek’s off road capabilities further is the ‘X-Mode’ driving mode. When activated it optimises engine output, gearbox settings, and the all-wheel drive system to deliver better stability and traction on slippery terrains. Subaru explains that ‘X-mode’ operates below 40km/h and has two modes; ‘deep snow/mud’ turns off traction control and enables quick generation of maximum torque when accelerating, causing the wheels to spin and slip.

2023 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0R-wheel flex

This is good for when tyres need to escape out of deep snow, sand or mud. Then ‘snow/dirt’ mode turns on traction control to inhibit sudden engine power that creates wheel slip. This mode is most suited to slippery snow-covered roads, black ice, and loose surfaces. X-Mode turns off above 40km/h, and automatically reactivates below 35 km/h when the mode is selected.

On the tarmac, you get a smooth and comfortable ride. Strong levels of grip enhance cornering confidence. And Subaru states that chassis torsional rigidity has been increased by 10 per cent over the XV. But that softer suspension means there are other small SUVs that will out-corner it. It’s a decent steer, though. The steering also feels very light, which makes navigating hairy bends a bit too free for high performance manoeuvres. Though, that translates to a very easy vehicle to operate around town.

2023 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0R-dirt

2023 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0R: Key attractions/reasons to buy

  • Safety tech: Extensive suite of advanced features. Some, like ‘EyeSight’ driver monitoring, are not yet offered in some competitors.
  • Decent off-road capability: If you actually intend on veering off the bitumen regularly, the Crosstrek is one of the top performers in its class.
  • Rugged design: Looks match the off-road capability.
  • AWD value: The Crosstrek’s price is reasonable compared with other AWD models
  • Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay: To us, these services are now a must for any new car

2023 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0R-rear suspension

2023 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0R: Key considerations before you buy

  • Poor powertrain performance: Many competitors boost performance with a turbo, which the Crosstrek could desperately do with.
  • Fuel consumption isn’t great: Given the lack of power, we’d expect to see better fuel economy. In the Crosstrek’s defence, powering all four wheels constantly uses more juice.
  • Boot space: It is the smallest among the five other most popular small SUVs. If boot size is high in importance, there are more suitable options out there.
  • Some over-sensitive safety systems: Some of the safety features offered will come across as too intrusive, or over-nannying to some.

2023 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0R: Video

How does it rate against its rivals?
  • Price
  • Quality look & feel
  • Interior tech
  • Powertrain performance
  • Ride & handling
  • X-factor (does it stand out in its class?)

Final word

The Subaru Crosstrek is an attractive advance forward from the XV it replaces. We see improvements to in-car multimedia, external design, off-road performance, and even more safety added. But it trips up on a lacklustre powertrain.

Mark Davis

Mark's fascination with cars originated long before he was allowed to get behind the wheel himself. To him, cars are more than just a mode of transport; especially the ones that adopt purposeful innovations while preserving the joy of driving. With a master's degree in IT, he brings a tech-savvy perspective to our car reviews, particularly as the automotive industry embraces digital advancements. Mark joins Driving Enthusiast as a road tester after more than a decade at PerformanceDrive.

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