The Subaru Crosstrek looks like it knows no boundaries. Chunky black hexagons spill out of the center of its grille, and matte plastic clads all the sharp body lines on the tiny SUV. Inside, the five-seater easily becomes a two-seater, with the rear seatbacks flipping down to welcome most of the popular adventure props. All your canoes and tents that don't fit in the back can go up top. If it could speak, the Crosstrek would say, "Go forth boldly, fear no bears or rock chips!" Its confidence is charming, if ambitious.
For 2024, the Crosstrek hasn't gone for radical changes so much as small but needed improvements. For the first time, it offers wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The newest version of EyeSight's driver-assist safety suite has a wider field of view, to sooner warn of bicyclists or cross traffic. The respectable fuel economy (an EPA-rated 26-27 mpg city/33-34 highway/29 combined) remains, and the $26,290 starting point is unchanged. The Premium version we drove, with a power sunroof, blind-spot detection, and the All-Weather package still came in under $30,000, which is a lot of good vibes for the money.
Subaru has been perfecting its car-dressed-up-as-a-rugged-SUV ever since it first put two-tone paint on the Impreza in 1996. The 2024 Crosstrek drapes new sheetmetal over a stiffened chassis, adds some padding to its seats, and quiets down the cabin so you can better hear the REI podcast on your way to work. The manual transmission has been dropped, but there are otherwise no major powertrain changes, as the Crosstrek's base and Premium trims come with the same 2.0-liter flat-four as before, while the Sport and Limited get a 2.5-liter version with an extra 30 horsepower. Our first drive sat us behind the wheel of a Crosstrek Premium in Offshore Blue Metallic—picture the navy-tinted gray of a lake under an overcast sky—and sent us on a day-long meander through California's Joshua Tree National Park and out onto some nearby backcountry OHV trails.
On the road, the Crosstrek rolls into the corners and takes a second to power out of them. The 2.0-liter has never been a performance star, and with no change in horsepower and a slight bump in weight, it's unlikely the new Crosstrek will improve much on the 9.2-second 60-mph time we recorded with a 2018 model.
The new Crosstrek will, however, get there with much less cacophony than before. We've previously lamented the drone of the Crosstrek's CVT and the howl of the overworked boxer engine. The improvement for 2024 is noticeable. The faux shifts of the CVT are softer, both physically and aurally, and while the engine still uses all of its 152 horses and 145 pound-feet of torque to reach freeway speed, it's now possible to have a conversation inside while this is happening. Joshua Tree is notoriously windy—we once saw a raven suspended midair, wings a-flapping with no forward motion—but none of the desert maelstrom made its way into the cabin. And the broken, gravelly pavement was more apparent through the windshield than through the seats.
The softer ride comes from several changes. First, the seats themselves. Subaru added more bolstering and support to both the seat bottom and back, and the resulting chairs are plump and pleasant. Underneath the Crosstrek's new seats, you'll find the Subaru Global Platform. The new chassis uses more structural adhesive and additional weld points to increase crash safety and ride quality. Making the car's structure stiffer means the suspension can be softened to better absorb bumps. The result is a mixed bag for the Subie. The Crosstrek rides wonderfully on pavement and cushions vibration on dirt, but it's easy to reach full compression with an enthusiastic approach to even a small rise or pothole, resulting in the uninspiring thud and scrape of a tire at the top of a wheel well.
That's not to say it's asphalt-only, though. The Crosstrek offers 8.7 inches of ground clearance, more than competitors such as the Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3. All-wheel drive comes standard, and the 50/50 split that used to be the car's baseline power delivery between front and rear has been electronically "loosened" to make for smoother turns and faster reactions to a loss of traction. X-Mode is an easy tap on the center touchscreen and includes hill-descent control and hill-start hold. At slow speeds, the Crosstrek is happy to climb sandy hills and straddle small ravines. The Crosstrek gets the electronically assisted steering rack from the WRX, bigger brakes, and an electronic brake booster, so steering and brake feel are better on any surface.
Subaru's interiors are rarely stunners, tending toward muted fabrics and black plastic. The Crosstrek is serviceable, with the occasional fun design Easter egg, like the mountain peaks at the bottom of the cupholders or the stylized river running across the cargo floor. The tall gear selector takes up most of the center console, leaving room for an optional inductive phone charging pad in front and a wallet-and-keys-sized storage compartment behind. Door pockets are generous, as befits a car that promises room for 35 cups worth of thermal water bottles. The rear seats offer good legroom, although the sloped roof cuts into head space.
The rear hatch opens wide, making it easy to load the cargo hold. The rubber-floored space provides 20 cubic feet with the rear seats up, 55 with them lowered. It's also a nice height to sit on while eating a sandwich and watching rock climbers brave dizzying perches. Even if you're not into tailgating, your dog will appreciate the short leap up.
Having a Crosstrek in your driveway is like keeping a fishing pole in the living room or a mountain bike in your kitchen. You may not be about to run out the door and into the wilds, but it tells people that you'd like to. The 2024 Crosstrek 2.0-liter is still a slow and mostly road-bound commuter, but it's a friendly, and now quieter, way to get to work, and one that could easily take you out of the city on weekends. Keep a pair of hiking boots in the trunk if you need to go deeper into the woods.
2024 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0-liter
Vehicle Type: front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
Base: $26,290; Premium, $27,440
DOHC 16-valve flat-4, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 122 in3, 1995 cm3
Power: 152 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 145 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
continuously variable automatic
Wheelbase: 105.1 in
Length: 176.4 in
Width: 70.9 in
Height: 63.6 in
Passenger Volume, F/R: 55–56/44 ft3
Cargo Volume, Behind F/R: 55/20 ft3
Curb Weight (C/D est): 3400 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
60 mph: 9.3 sec
1/4-Mile: 17.4 sec
Top Speed: 120 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 29/27/34 mpg
Like a sleeper agent activated late in the game, Elana Scherr didn’t know her calling at a young age. Like many girls, she planned to be a vet-astronaut-artist, and came closest to that last one by attending UCLA art school. She painted images of cars, but did not own one. Elana reluctantly got a driver’s license at age 21 and discovered that she not only loved cars and wanted to drive them, but that other people loved cars and wanted to read about them, which meant somebody had to write about them. Since receiving activation codes, Elana has written for numerous car magazines and websites, covering classics, car culture, technology, motorsports, and new-car reviews.