2019 Subaru Crosstrek Review
Does the world need yet another subcompact crossover SUV? There are more than enough of these tiny vehicles that look sporty and useful but so often, with their limited off-roading capability, weak engines, and flaccid suspensions, can’t deliver on any aspect of the ‘sport’ part of a sport/utility vehicle.
Enter the 2019 Subaru Crosstrek, especially in plug-in hybrid form. It’s not only fairly capable in places where few crossovers dare to go, its frugality with fuel shores up Subaru’s ecologically conscious image.
Subaru dipped its toes in these waters before, offering a Crosstrek Hybrid that was only sold for two years. Now, the all-new 2019 Crosstrek Hybrid makes a bigger splash with plug-in hybrid (PHEV) capability. Plug this puppy in to a standard 120-volt household outlet for 5 hours and you’ll go from a depleted battery to a fully charged one. Upgrade to a 240-volt Level 2 charger and it will only take 2 hours, according to Subaru.
There is a catch, though. That full battery only provides an estimated 17 miles of electric range. Mindful of this, Subaru allows drivers to save that charge for specific driving situations, and the gas engine can recharge the battery on the fly, giving Crosstrek Hybrid owners flexibility.
For this review, we evaluated a 2019 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid equipped with a power sunroof, Harman Kardon premium sound system, and a navigation system. The price came to $38,470, including the $975 destination charge. The Crosstrek Hybrid is eligible for a federal income tax credit of $4,500, and various states offer additional incentives to buy a PHEV. For example, if you live in California, you’re eligible for a state rebate of $1,500.
What Owners Say
Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the 2019 Subaru Crosstrek, it’s helpful to understand who buys this small SUV and what they like most and least about it.
Among small SUV buyers, the Crosstrek appeals more to men. Buyers are split 48% male and 52% female, compared with 43% male and 57% female for the entire segment. Crosstrek buyers are slightly younger, with a median age of 51 (vs. 53), and they enjoy a greater median annual household income of $97,250 (vs. $81,709).
Crosstrek purchasers are mainly self-proclaimed price buyers (41%), followed by practical buyers (28%). Just over a third claim they prefer to buy a vehicle from a domestic company (34%). At the segment level, more than half (52%) make the same claim.
Compared with all small SUV buyers, Crosstrekkers align in terms of their sentiments about vehicles, with the following exceptions: Crosstrek buyers are more likely to agree that they will pay extra for a vehicle that is environmentally friendly (69% vs. 58%); are more likely to agree that they will pay extra to ensure their vehicle has the latest safety features (82% vs. 77%); and are more likely to agree that they need a versatile vehicle to accommodate a busy lifestyle (89% vs. 84%).
At the same time, Crosstrek buyers are less likely to agree that they like a vehicle that stands out from the crowd (65% vs. 69%).
Buyers say their favorite things about the Crosstrek are (in descending order) the driving dynamics, exterior styling, visibility and safety, interior design, and seats. Buyers indicate their least favorite things about the Crosstrek are (in descending order) the storage and space, infotainment system, climate system, engine/transmission, and fuel economy.
What Our Expert Says
In the sections that follow, our expert provides her own assessment of how the 2019 Subaru Crosstrek performs in each of the 10 categories that comprise the J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.SM
“Is that a special paint job?” asked one of the congregants at my church. “No, it’s a factory color,” I replied. The response to that: “I…like it…I think?”
My test vehicle came dressed in a Blue Lagoon Pearl paint job, one of four colors that you can get for the Crosstrek Hybrid, a bright hue that may or may not have fans, but certainly turned heads and started conversations, like this one in my church parking lot.
Based on the Subaru Impreza hatchback, the Crosstrek adds SUV styling cues to go along with its increased ride height and 8.7 ins. of ground clearance. To this, the Hybrid adds unique silver accents up front, blue headlight projector rings, and a black roof spoiler and roof rails. The 18-in. wheels are also unique to this model: black with a machined finish.
Overall, the Subaru Crosstrek is a spunky little trooper with a rough-and-tumble persona. Good thing it’s got the capability to back up the looks.
Subaru uses decent quality materials to decorate the Crosstrek’s cabin, and they’re assembled with care as the test vehicle exhibited no build-quality issues.
The Crosstrek PHEV sports a small 4.2-in. color monitor on the top of the dashboard from which you can monitor the goings on with the battery and fuel economy. Hybrid-only blue trim pieces charmed me, too, nicely underscoring this efficient crossover’s reason for being. Special gray and navy leather upholstery with blue contrast stitching also lent the Crosstrek Hybrid’s cabin visual interest.
Deeply bolstered and providing plenty of thigh support, the Crosstrek Hybrid’s driver’s seat offers 6-way power adjustment, good enough to find a comfortable driving position. The front passenger’s seat, however, lacked seat-height adjustment. Both seats were heated, as was the steering wheel.
As for passengers in the back, they will find tight accommodations with limited legroom and shoulder space. Forget about putting three adults back there. This, however, is true of most entry-level crossover SUVs.
Climate Control System
It’s been awhile since I evaluated a car with single-zone automatic climate control, and the Crosstrek Hybrid forced my hot-running husband and me to compromise on a cabin temperature. At least we had air vents, though. Our kids were not so lucky.
Simplicity begets simplicity, though, and the Crosstrek’s climate system is really easy to use thanks to three knobs with embedded and related buttons within them.
Subaru offers a comprehensive infotainment system in the Crosstrek Hybrid. An 8-in. touch screen serves as the command center, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity is standard, and my test vehicle had the optional navigation system with voice-control technology that was simple to use. The Harman Kardon premium audio system sounded terrific, too.
Subaru’s Starlink connected services is also included with this system. For the Crosstrek Hybrid, the related smartphone app allows you to check battery-charging status remotely, and you can start the climate control system without starting the engine in order to heat or cool the interior prior to driving. Starlink also offers subscription access to a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot.
Storage and Space
Because the Crosstrek Hybrid’s battery pack is located underneath the cargo floor, this version offers less cargo capacity compared to a regular Crosstrek. Plus, the cargo floor is raised several inches, hampering load height.
With the rear seats occupied with, say, your children, the Crosstrek Hybrid supplies 15.9 cu. ft. of space (down from 20.8 cu. ft. in a standard Crosstrek). Folding the rear seats will net you 43.1 cu. ft. (vs. 55.3 cu. ft.). That’s a big sacrifice, and aside from purchase price is easily the best reason to skip the plug-in hybrid powertrain.
Around the cabin, Subaru provides just enough useful storage areas that you won’t feel like you need more.
Visibility and Safety
With slender roof pillars all around, it’s quite easy to see out of the Subaru Crosstrek. This gives the driver a sense of confidence, and because the car is also small it proves easy to park.
Pedestrians can also sense the Crosstrek Hybrid’s presence. Most electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles emit an artificial sound at low speeds to warn people that an otherwise silent electric vehicle is operating nearby. The sound emitted by the Crosstrek Hybrid, however, was a rather high-pitched whine that fooled me a couple of times into thinking that an emergency vehicle was approaching.
Every Crosstrek Hybrid comes standard with an impressive list of active safety features. They include a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist; automatic emergency braking with reverse automatic braking; and an adaptive cruise control system that reacts smoothly to changing traffic conditions.
As with almost every vehicle in the Subaru lineup, the Crosstrek is a veritable rock star when it comes to crash testing. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) deems the 2019 Crosstrek a “Top Safety Pick+,” while the federal government gives this Subaru a highest-possible 5-star overall rating. Note that these ratings may not apply to the hybrid version of the car as it was not tested.
Combined the Crosstrek Hybrid’s gasoline, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with its electric motor and combined output measures 148 horsepower. Thanks to the instant torque from the electric motor, it feels lively around town, but you do need a bit of patience to get this vehicle up to speed while merging onto a freeway.
The Crosstrek Hybrid actually uses two electric motors. One starts the engine, while the other propels the vehicle in electric mode and assists with propulsion in hybrid mode. Both act as a generator to recharge the 8.8-kWh lithium-ion battery, both during braking/coasting or by harnessing energy from the engine in charge mode.
In any case, you can count on about 17 miles of driving exclusively in electric mode, which works at speeds up to 65 mph. There is a “save” mode that allows a driver to preserve battery charge and use it under specific conditions. In the United States, that would be in heavy traffic situations. In Europe, electric-only congestion zones dictate use of save mode.
The great thing about plug-in hybrids is that you get the benefit of electric driving (if you choose to use it), but if your plans change and you need to drive farther than expected, it’s no big deal. That’s peace of mind that pure electric cars still can’t provide.
Subaru says that in addition to 17 miles of pure electric driving the total range for the Crosstrek Hybrid is 480 miles. On electricity, it gets an EPA rating of 90 MPGe. Used as a hybrid, the EPA estimate is 35 mpg in combined driving.
During my week behind the wheel, regularly charging the car and using the electric driving range as much as possible, the Crosstrek Hybrid returned 37.2 mpg. That’s pretty terrific.
Despite its higher ride height, with the Crosstrek Hybrid’s horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engine over the front wheels and the lithium-ion battery pack over the rear wheels, the center of gravity is relatively low and weight is better distributed than a standard Crosstrek. As such, there was little in the way of wallowing when tossed around corners.
Driving on the imperfect streets of Hollywood, Calif., I felt quite a bit of impact harshness, but that’s to be expected. What I didn’t expect was the amount of shudder coming through the suspension and into the cabin. The steering is direct, if a bit devoid of road feel, and the brakes are predictable, although like most regenerative braking systems they tend to lack smoothness when stepping on the pedal.
One of Subaru’s main calling cards is standard all-wheel drive combined with generous ground clearance. At 8.7 ins., and with the capability of Subaru’s X-Mode off-road traction system, the Crosstrek Hybrid allows you to travel over the rougher terrain that makes other CUVs cower in fear.
Still, nobody’s gonna be inspired to head to Moab with it.
At the time of this writing, the feds will give you a $4,500 tax credit if you purchase a plug-in hybrid, and some states offer an additional incentive (like California with its offer of $1,500).
That means the Crosstrek Hybrid, which costs $7,800 more than a regular Crosstrek 2.0i Limited, actually requires a premium of just $1,800. And Subaru says that you should expect to see about $350 in savings every year in fuel costs. That makes for a pretty compelling value equation—after five years of ownership.
Depending on your driving habits, you might not save money right away, but the 2019 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid nevertheless strikes me as a useful and amusing tool that inspires low-consumption adventures. Just don’t plan on bringing much gear.