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Subaru Crosstrek maximizes shared-platform strategy

Subaru Crosstrek interior

The 2016 Crosstrek offers car-like ride and handling in an off-road-ready package.

No automaker has leveraged the shared-platform strategy better than Subaru.

Subaru knocked the industry tailpipe over teakettle in 1995, when it debuted the Legacy Outback. Built on the same platform as the midsize Legacy, the Outback sported standard all-wheel-drive, a raised suspension and lower-body cladding.

Almost singlehandedly, the Outback kickstarted the crossover craze.

Subaru followed that success with a downsized expression of the same formula. Based on the compact Impreza, the Outback Sport quickly became Subaru’s third best-selling vehicle, and has been rebadged Crosstrek.

Subaru Crosstrek interior

The Crosstrek’s five-passenger cabin sacrifices glitz for functionality.

Like its predecessors, the 2016 Crosstrek ($22,445, including transportation) offers car-like ride and handling in an off-road-ready package. With 8.7 inches of ground clearance, it rides higher than most crossovers and even some SUVs. A pair of AWD systems (they vary according to the transmission chosen) distribute torque.

For 2016, the Crosstrek receives a redesigned black grille with chrome accents, new headlights and new front bumper and fog-light covers.

Interior updates include expanded cloud-based news and information sources, plus the availability of emergency assistance, diagnostic assistance, remote lock-and-unlock and stolen-vehicle location service.

These follow on the heels of last year’s introduction of EyeSight, Subaru’s driver-assistance tech, which brings adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking and vehicle lane-departure warning.

The Crosstrek’s five-passenger cabin sacrifices glitz for functionality. Subaru owners seem immune to the competitions’ near-luxury entreaties and, while interiors have gained ground over the years — soft-touch materials cover most surfaces — the focus is durability and practicality.

The small cabin is littered with casual storage opportunities. Time and temp are displayed in a hooded alcove above the instrument control panel, where they’re shielded from sunlight. The central control panel includes a 6.2-inch (7 inches in upper trims) gesture-control touchscreen.

Crosstrek is available in standard and hybrid ($27,245) versions. The base engine is a 2.0-liter four that makes 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. The five-speed manual transmission that’s standard on lower trims is coupled to an all-wheel-drive system that distributes power evenly between the front and rear axles.

The up-level transmission, a CVT, is paired with an AWD system that under normal conditions sends most torque to the front wheels. This setup delivers an EPA-estimated 29 mpg combined/26 city/34 highway.

The hybrid uses the latter power train and adds an electric motor, boosting total output to 160 hp and 163 lb-ft of torque. At 31/30/34, the hybrid bests the standard model’s mileage by a narrow margin.

The Crosstrek is neither quick nor responsive, though its steering system is well weighted and has good on-center feel. Crosstrek has a lower center of gravity than any other crossover. Consequently, there’s little body lean in the corners.

The all-independent suspension damps out most road-surface irregularities, though certain conditions — highway speeds, an uneven road surface — can set up undulations that momentarily upset its composure.

One of the market’s smallest independent automakers, Subaru relies on a strategy that calls for doing more with less. Shared platforms is key to its future success and, by 2020, all its vehicles will be built on a common platform.

2016 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i Premium
Vehicle base price: $21,595
Trim level base price: $22,395
As tested: $26,240
Options included SiriusXM satellite radio, Traffic and Travel Link; Eyesight Driver-Assist, including pre-collision throttle management and braking, lane-departure and lane-sway warning; blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist; continuously variable transmission (CVT).
EPA ratings: 29 combined/26 city/34 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified

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