The 2020 Subaru Crosstrek comes standard with those defining Subaru traits: all-wheel drive, an 8.7-inch ground clearance, and a flat-4 engine. This go-anywhere attitude earns a point, which is then deducted for its sluggish around-town performance. The small crossover earns a 5 out of 10.
The 2020 Subaru Crosstrek is powered by a 152-horsepower 2.0-liter flat-4 that makes 145 pound-feet of torque. Standard all-wheel drive weighs down the smallest Subaru crossover compared to the competition, so a heavy foot will be needed to get the heavy 3,100-pound car moving.
The 2020 Crosstrek comes with a 6-speed manual in base and Premium trims. Spending $1,350 will get you the CVT that comes standard on the Limited trim. The unremarkable manual gives you more control and a greater sense of power, as well as increased odds of beating fuel economy estimates if you so choose, but the active safety features that come with the CVT is the preferred option.
Around town, the CVT is responsive enough to quick stabs of the pedal, and this iteration of the CVT offers a stepped feel that approximates the shift points you’d expect on an automatic transmission. This satisfies the biggest complaint of earlier CVTs, which tended to drone on and on the higher it climbed in rpm. But at highway speeds above 55 mph or so, when you might be tempted to pass that cow trailer, requires a huge gap because there just isn’t much power on demand at those speeds.
Yet the Crosstrek handles well, with a relatively low roofline offsetting the higher ground clearance. There’s not as much roll as taller subcompacts such as the Chevy Trax and Honda HR-V, and the active torque vectoring provides sharper handling with precise steering. Independent suspension soaks up the road, but there is a bit more road noise at higher speeds.
The Crosstrek is more off-road capable than its peers, but don’t mistake it for a Jeep Wrangler.
CVT models feature an X-Mode button that reduces wheelspin on slipping tires for added control in weather and off-road surfaces, and also engages hill descent control to limit speed going downhill.
CVT models also come with SI-Drive, which lets the driver choose between more efficient “Intelligent” mode or the more responsive “Sport” mode. On all but the base model, there are paddle shifters to pretend like you’re shifting within eight pre-set gear ratios.
In short, get the CVT is you like the help offered by Subaru’s suite of safety technology helpers.
Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid
The plug-in hybrid uses the same flat-4 engine but with a few changes to make 137 hp and 134 lb-ft of torque. The 118-hp motor supplements the gas engine, or provides 17 miles of all-electric range. It’s about one second quicker than the gas model, and feels more refined and premium than the standard Crosstrek.
The all-wheel-drive system is borrowed from Toyota’s front-drive hybrids but with a propshaft to the rear wheels that can split front- and rear-drive power. It weighs nearly 500 pounds more, but doesn’t ride any heavier due to suspension modifications.
Review continues below