It isn’t often media are given the chance to drive a newly designed car on the actual proving grounds where it was initially designed, developed and put through its paces.
But that’s exactly what Subaru Canada did with a select group of Canadian auto journalists to introduce the all-new 2018 Crosstrek.
Not only were we given unprecedented access to their top-secret proving grounds at Sano, Tochigi, Japan – a two and a half hour drive north of Tokyo – we were also granted, the normally unheard of, permission to photograph and film within the facility.
This is normally a big no-no in an area that is usually shrouded in secrecy.
This is so rare that we were the first international media group to be granted such a privilege. As I was to find out there was no better place to put the brand new Crosstrek through its paces than on the actual test track that it was brought to life on.
The 2018 Crosstrek has been completely redesigned from the tires up.
Now built on Subaru’s global platform that combines a new framework with stiffened joints that improves straight-line stability, agility, ride comfort and has increased body rigidity by more than 70 per cent. The new framework has also contributed to a 10 per cent decrease in noise, vibration and harshness.
While the ground clearance has been raised to 220 mm, it still maintains a lower centre of gravity.
The double-wishbone independent rear suspension has now mounted the rear stabilizer bar directly to the body, significantly improving body control while reducing body roll by an impressive 50 per cent.
There are now four trim levels with the introduction of the new Convenience entry-level package as well as adding a couple of fresh new colours; Sunshine Orange & Cool Grey Khaki. Interior colours come in either black or grey cloth with the Limited trim being offered in leather.
Under the hood the new 2.0-litre direct-injection four-cylinder Boxer engine now pushes out 152 hp, up four hp from the previous engine, and 145 lb/ft torque.
The Convenience, Touring, and Sport trims come standard with a new six-speed manual transmission. The CVT is optional on the Convenience, Touring, and Sport trims, and is standard on the Limited trim.
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All trim levels are still equipped with Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive (AWD) system and X-Mode with hill descent control is standard with the optional CVT transmission.
The steering ratio has been reduced on all trims and Active Torque Vectoring is standard across the board.
Externally the sharp new design has a more sculpted body with prominent wheel arches and flowing lines.
Black cladding now skirts the full length of the Crosstrek running up and around the wheel arches and along the rocker panels adding to its tough and ready look.
The wheelbase has been extended by 30 mm while the overall length has only grown by 15 mm. The Sport and Limited trim levels now include steering responsive LED headlights
The cabin has been totally reworked and has added passenger space throughout with extra head and legroom for the rear passengers being most notable.
The dash is lively and functional with drivers instrumentation easily read.
The Convenience and Touring trim comes with the centrally mounted 6.5-inch infotainment system with the Sport and Limited trims getting the upgraded eight-inch screen that includes the navigation package.
Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, STARLINK smartphone integration are standard across all trim levels. Subaru’s innovative Eyesight technology is available on the Sport and Limited trims but has been upgraded to include Reverse Automatic Braking, Lane Keep Assist and High Beam Assist.
Seating is comfortable and supportive especially with the added shoulder room, with both Sport and Limited trims having power driver’s seat as standard.
The trunk opening has been made larger with the opening along the base being increased by 100 mm, making loading and unloading of equipment all the easier.
On the test drive we covered a multitude of surfaces and real world scenarios – there was even part of the high-speed track that contained typical Canadian road surfaces.
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The Crosstrek had no issues with anything that was thrown at it, acceleration on the high-speed banked oval was smooth and unhindered reaching highway speeds was easy and smooth with little increase in cabin noise.
Steering was crisp and precise especially when pushing it into the high-speed corners. The newly reduced body roll was evident with the Crosstrek handling more like a sedan than a crossover.
On loose gravely surfaces the Crosstrek came into its own. The symmetrical all-wheel drive handled the loose surface with ease, encouraging me to push it that little bit harder.
Going into a couple of corners just a tad too hard saw the torque vectoring system doing its bit by eliminating any under steer even on a loose surface.
The New Crosstrek has matured into a far more refined vehicle than its predecessor. Driving it has become quieter, more stable and a whole lot more fun.
The new sporty and rugged looks are sure to impress when it arrives in Canadian showrooms in July.
2018 Subaru Crosstrek
Five-door compact crossover.
Front-engine, six-speed Manual Transmission (6MT) or optional Lineartronic CVT with Subaru symmetrical full-time all-wheel-drive
2.0-litre “Boxer”, four cylinder, direct injection (152 hp, 145 lb/ft of torque)
(Regular) Manual, 10.5/8.1L/100 km city/highway; CVT, 8.8/7.2L/100 km
588 litres (rear seats upright) 1,565 litres (rear seats folded)
Convenience $23,695 (Man) $24,995 (CVT), Touring $25,295 (Man) $26,595 (CVT), Sport $23,695 (Man) $24,995 (CVT), Sport $27,795 (Man) $29,095 (CVT),
Limited $31,695 (CVT)