Cars > Driven

Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i-S EyeSight: Still a traditional Subie at heart

When you just gotta have AWD

We have to admit the Crosstrek does look fetching despite all that plastic. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

While everybody else in the industry has gone with the “bigger is better” approach—loading their crossovers with every conceivable safety and luxury feature while jettisoning traditional features like four-wheel drive—Subaru has stayed the course.

The Crosstrek remains all-wheel-drive, an increasingly rare feature these days. It uses a fairly unstressed 2.0-liter flat-four engine, non-aspirated, making a modest 154hp and 196Nm.

That’s not a lot in this day and age, and it’s paired with a Lineartronic CVT with an eight-speed manual mode with paddle shifters.

ADAS features like pre-collision braking help prevent you from cracking this front end. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

The Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system has been around for many years now, and it’s still as good as ever. With no buttons or levers to work with, the system continually apportions torque between the front and the rear wheels as the situation requires.

Combined with the quality underpinnings, driving the car is a treat and a stark reminder of the Subaru engineers’ priorities. It’s not about overwhelming you with the tech toys or making you “ooh” and “aah” with a Zen-like cabin, but about the simple pleasure of driving a car that feels wired to your brain.

The flat-four is slightly underpowered compared to today's breed of turbo crossovers. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Acceleration from the flat-four is brisk but not inspiring. Between the car’s portly weight (1,519kg) and the inherent drivetrain losses brought about by the AWD, the car eventually does the 0-100km/h dash in 10.5 seconds.

Ah, but the trick there is that it can theoretically out-accelerate higher-powered cars if (A) the surface is slippery, and (B) they don’t have AWD like this Subaru. Top speed is quoted as 198km/h, although that’s largely academic these days.

Manual shifting is encouraged with the responsive CVT. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

It gets better. While I’m in the camp that believes torque converter-equipped automatics are still better than CVTs, the one in the Crosstrek does a fair job of transferring power to the wheels as needed. Left in D, there’s very minimal delay from the time you prod the accelerator to the time the transmission actually adjusts the ratio to hasten your acceleration.

The computer is also quick to pick up on individual driving style. A leisurely step-on (and off) as you would do in stop-and-go traffic results in smooth and unhurried acceleration. Deeper and more frequent stabs of the go-pedal result in acceleration that matches this urgency, making the most of the car’s limited power.

If you need more control, slotting the shifter into the manual gate and tapping the paddles let you access the eight preset ratios. It’s fairly aggressive, too, letting you run each “gear” nearly up to the redline and hold it there like you would in the middle of a turn.

Ground clearance is okay for light off-roading, but you'd be crazy to try anything gnarlier. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

All of this would be a moot point if the rest of the hardware weren’t up to snuff. Fortunately, it is. Sporting expensive double wishbones at all four corners—as well as beefy ventilated disc brakes and 55-series, 18-inch Falken Ziex all-season performance tires—the car is genuinely fun to drive in the twisties. Turn-in is crisp and body roll is modest, also helped in no small part by the lower center of gravity of that boxer engine.

And with the added traction of AWD, the car becomes more engaging as the turns get tighter while the road surface gets looser. Instead of the usual chore of managing understeer as in a front-wheel-drive car, you can be more aggressive mid-turn, pouring on the gas as the AWD transfers more torque to the rear to help you rotate.

It's a rare car that still uses expensive double wishbone suspension at all four corners these days. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Helped by fairly quick steering, it’s especially entertaining in the dirt, horsing it around without much trouble of getting in over your head because it’s not exactly bursting with power.

On a more serious note, this added traction gives you more peace of mind if you frequently drive on mountainous roads where the surface quality can wildly vary. The front seats (power-adjustable for the driver) have decent bolstering to keep you in place when you’re feeling frisky, as well as good lumbar support.

For more sedate tasks like crawling over mounds or crossing shallow rivers, it has a usable 220mm of ground clearance. The approach, departure, and break-over angles are still basically those of a car, so get a Suzuki Jimny or a real truck if you plan on going anything gnarlier than a dirt path.

All that plastic is meant to protect the sheet metal from scratches on a trail. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Even driven conservatively, the Crosstrek fairly chugalugs premium unleaded at the rate of around 6-8km/L in the city.

It gets better if you mostly drive long slogs on the highway, but it will never be hyper-efficient like a lighter, front-wheel-drive car. So, take a moment to decide if you really want AWD with all its pros and cons.

Measuring 4,480mm long, 1,800mm wide, and 1,600mm tall, the Crosstrek is actually longer than a Honda HR-V by 100mm, and also a tad wider and taller. It’s likewise slightly bigger than the newly launched Toyota Corolla Cross, which might not be as exciting to drive but has the benefit of a hybrid drivetrain as well as being cheaper.

In total, there is 291L of volume behind, and 1,261L with the seat backs down. PHOTOS BY ANDY LEUTERIO

That being said, the Subaru makes good use of its dimensions by offering good headroom and legroom for five adults.

Even with the moonroof eating up some of the ceiling space, anybody who isn’t a PBA player will find the Crosstrek cabin to be roomy. There’s also 291L of cargo volume behind the rear seats. Fold them down and you get a very usable 1,261L.

The front bucket seat is comfortable and supportive for enthusiastic driving.
Back-seat space is not bad for three adults. PHOTOS BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Equipped with the EyeSight safety suite, the Crosstrek has an impressive battery of active driving aids, including lane departure and lane center assist, steering responsive headlights with High Beam Assist, brake assist and override (including reverse), LED cornering lamps, and active torque vectoring.

All very useful in this era of distracted driving, and you can disable some of these if you like.

The EyeSight housing could be a central sun visor. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Inside, Subaru has taken pains to make it look trendy with a huge 11.1-inch touchscreen display. It generally works most of the time, but occasionally hangs when using Apple CarPlay. It’s also an embarrassing dust magnet, so you’ll want to keep a piece of cloth for wiping the dash all the time.

The touchscreen is easy to read and use, but gathers dust like crazy. PHOTOS BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Thankfully, they’ve spared the instrument panel from further digitalization, opting for an elegant and analog tachometer and speedometer.

As with the WRX, the EyeSight system is housed in a chunky enclosure at the top of the windshield that’s so big it’s almost like a sun visor. It’s not a bad thing in our infernal sunshine, actually. And just like with most of the Subaru lineup, the cabin is quite plasticky and utilitarian in look and feel.

An AWD crossover that loves to be driven hard is a rare thing now. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

At P2,018,000 for this 2.0i-S, it is by no means a bargain. You can get more power in an HR-V for several hundred thousand pesos less, or you can also benefit from hybrid fuel efficiency in a Corolla Cross, which tops out at P1,922,000 for the Emotional Red version (assuming there are stocks available, of course).

If you compare it to the bigger CR-V and the RAV4, the Crosstrek costs less. But the real ace in its favor is its all-wheel drive system, a mature technology that—combined with excellent underpinnings—truly makes it an involving machine.


Engine2.0-liter flat-four gasoline
Power154hp @ 6,000rpm
Torque196Nm @ 4,000rpm
Dimensions4,480mm x 1,800mm x 1,600mm
Drive layoutAWD
UpsideExciting driving dynamics. Potentially life-saving ADAS tech. Butch styling.
DownsidePlasticky interior. Thirsty (and slightly underpowered) engine.

Andy Leuterio

Andy is both an avid cyclist and a car enthusiast who has finally made the shift to motorcycles. You've probably seen him on his bicycle or motorbike overtaking your crawling car. He is our motorcycle editor and the author of the ‘Quickshift’ column.