Road tests

New Subaru Crosstrek 2024 review: XV’s successor fails to impress

The new Subaru Crosstrek is an oddball that sits somewhere between a hatch and small SUV, but it's hard to recommend it over the best in either class

Overall Auto Express Rating

2.5 out of 5

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The Subaru Crosstrek is as much of an oddball as its XV predecessor, and while it’s not a bad car per se, we’d still struggle to recommend one. If you don’t need the all-wheel drive system and raised ride height then you’d be better off with a conventional hatch. And if you do, then there are countless SUVs that are better behaved at speed and more premium on the inside.

In a world where seemingly every new-car niche is already filled, true automotive oddities are becoming fewer and further between. But every now and then, something crops up that is quite unlike anything else on sale.

The new Subaru Crosstrek is one of those cars. It may look fairly conventional on the outside, but under the metal, this jacked-up family hatchback uses a hybrid-powered symmetrical all-wheel drive system designed to take it further off the beaten path than almost any modern-day SUV.

Replacing the ageing XV, the Crosstrek is an updated version of Subaru’s smallest offering. It’s a little bit longer and taller than a Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf, so closer in size to something like the latest Honda Civic. Yet the 315-litre boot (down slightly on the old XV) means it can’t compete when it comes to practicality.

But Subaru hopes the Crosstrek will appeal in other areas. The new car carries over much of the old model’s look, with plenty of black cladding, 220mm of ground clearance, and standard-fit roof rails. The front end is a little sharper to look at, with a wider grille and slimmer headlights.

It’s inside where the biggest changes have taken place. Subaru has swapped out the XV’s landscape screen for an 11.6-inch portrait display, with wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto, plus voice recognition and a plethora of USB ports front and rear. You’ll need to opt for the flashier Touring spec for integrated sat-nav.

The system itself is responsive enough, though the graphics and layout feel more Halfords than Harrods. The analogue instrument panel isn’t exactly cutting edge, either, and while the small TFT display between the speedometer and rev counter is coloured, the layout is busy, with a little too much information on show.

The cabin’s still not what you’d call luxurious, but there’s a reassuring heft to the switchgear and the materials feel built to last. The doors still close with a tinny ‘clang’, but you could reasonably expect the Crosstrek to look as good in three years as it did the day it left the factory. Take that as you will.

On the road, the smallest Subaru remains a bit of a mixed bag. The hybrid system is less powerful than before, but still largely takes a back seat to proceedings. The engine will fire up during a cold start, and you’ll rarely find yourself crawling along on electric power alone. That said, Subaru’s official claim of 36.8mpg seems conservative; going by the trip readout during our test, you’ll probably see closer to 40mpg in mixed driving.

Around town, the ride can feel a bit fidgety, and while it improves at speed, there’s still an inherent stiffness to the Crosstrek that’s hard to shake – a shame, given the potential extra suspension travel gifted by that raised ride height. The trade-off is admirable body control, mated to decent grip from the all-wheel drive system.

Yet this will never be a car you relish driving fast – primarily because it isn’t. It takes over 10 seconds to hit 62mph, and if you want that level of performance, you’ll be at the mercy of Subaru’s stepped CVT transmission. The paddles behind the steering wheel (included on Touring spec) are best left alone, too; in our experience they did little to mimic the effects of a conventional gearbox.

It’s not the most refined car at higher speeds, either. Road noise is noticeable, and the engine seems to hum away in the background more than you might expect; the Crosstrek definitely doesn’t offer the kind of long-distance cruising experience of a Golf, or even a proper SUV rival like the Hyundai Tucson.

Granted, if you plan to regularly use your car off road, then Subaru’s tried and tested all-wheel drive set-up is among the very best in the business. A Focus Active, which comes with a similarly raised ride height but no 4x4 system, wouldn’t see which way the Crosstrek went in a muddy field or on a rutted track. Those living in particularly rural or elevated areas may therefore seek confidence in the Subaru, even if they rarely use the off-road kit included.

Two specs are available at the point of order, with our Crosstrek Touring commanding a premium of £2,000 over the more basic Limited model. Both versions use the same powertrain, so it’s simply a case of figuring out which trim best suits your needs.

Limited gets 17-inch wheels, LED lights, keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, heated cloth seats and that 11.6-inch infotainment screen, plus all of Subaru’s excellent EyeSight safety kit. Touring boosts the kit list with bigger 18-inch wheels, high-beam assist, a sliding sunroof, electrically operated synthetic-leather seats, and extra settings for the X-Mode all-wheel drive system.

But that aforementioned Golf still costs almost £10k less, while even the brand-new Volkswagen Tiguan – which, admittedly, we’ve not yet driven – undercuts the base Crosstrek by a couple of hundred pounds. That car’s likely to be much more practical and easier to live with.

Model:Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i e-Boxer Touring
Engine:2.0-litre 4cyl petrol hybrid
Transmission:Single-speed auto, four-wheel drive
0-62mph:10.8 seconds
Top speed:123mph
Dimensions (L/W/H):4,495/1,800/1,600mm
On sale:Now
Deputy editor

Richard has been part of the our team for over a decade. During this time he has covered a huge amount of news and reviews for Auto Express, as well as being the face of Carbuyer and DrivingElectric on Youtube. In his current role as deputy editor, he is now responsible for keeping our content flowing and managing our team of talented writers.

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The Subaru Crosstrek comes with four-wheel drive and a boxer engine from £34,290