We’ll start with the elephant in the room.
Over the years since the first model launched in 2012, tens of thousands of Australians have come to know Subaru’s baby SUV as the XV, short for ‘Crossover Vehicle’.
Well, perhaps the biggest change to the all-new model is that it’s now called what it’s always called in the US – the ‘Crosstrek’.
So yes, it’s still the same model that traces its roots back to a Subaru Impreza with raised suspension.
However, prices are up by more than $1800 over the former XV, now starting at $34,990 for the base model, and in the case of the top-of-the-range AWD 2.0S I’ve borrowed from the Subaru Canberra dealership, $41,490 plus driveaway costs.
Subaru puts this down to extra features that also mean the Crosstrek “is not a jacked-up small car”.
“It’s capable of tackling almost any driving adventure you please with utter confidence, comfort and capability,” Subaru Australia managing director Blair Read said.
It certainly looks like it means business, similar to how your neighbour’s chihuahua would if it donned a spikey collar and growled at the postie. Except in the new XV’s – sorry, Crosstrek’s – case, this takes the form of black plastic cladding and meaty roof racks.
Subarus of yore gained a reputation for their aesthetic similarity to sneakers, and not the boring ones bought from Rivers by dads. The Crosstrek picks up on this. It looks fun.
Inside, this continues with a blend of grey and black leather trim and an enormous six-inch infotainment touchscreen. Even the virtual buttons for the air-conditioning controls are pleasingly chunky.
Here, we come to the first instance of the Crosstrek not just looking good but working well too.
Normally, I accept the offer of a quick technical briefing from the dealership staff when picking up a test car, but not this time. And there were no regrets – the system is a breeze to navigate, even for someone who has just had the soul frightened out of him by the volume of the speed-camera alert (a really loud beep sounded every time I approached a speed camera on the Tuggeranong Parkway). I had it down to normal hearing levels in a jiffy.
On the road, you’re hard-pressed to realise it isn’t a jacked-up small car. The Crosstrek is refined and quiet at speed and sharp through corners. At least until you pull up alongside a Toyota Prado and realise you can see inside his cup holders. It is 1.6 metres high, after all.
In fact, the only real fly in the ointment is the engine.
A new hybrid option adds an electric motor and 5 kW of power in return for about $4000 extra and 0.7 litres less fuel drunk per 100 km.
But the one under my bonnet is unchanged from what we’ve come to expect from Subaru – two litres with four pistons arranged in ‘boxer’ formation. Put it under pressure and close your eyes, and there could as well be a trailer behind you with ‘Linfox’ written on it. It’s very gruff.
On the other hand, it’s a bit like if your chihuahua suddenly started barking like Morgan Freeman talks. Strange, yes. Impressive, also yes.
But is the Crosstrek truly as tough as it might present? There’s one way to find out – tackle the fire trails near the Cotter, and try not to get stuck …
2023 Subaru Crosstrek AWD 2.0S
- $41,490 (plus driveaway costs)
- 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, 115 kW / 196 Nm
- Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), All-Wheel Drive (AWD)
- 7.2 litres/100 km combined fuel usage
- Not yet tested for safety.
Visit Subaru Canberra for more information.