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Subaru Crosstrek engines, drive and performance

2023 onwards (change model)
Performance rating: 2 out of 52.0

Written by Luke Wilkinson Published: 5 March 2024 Updated: 12 March 2024

Petrol engines

The Crosstrek’s engine matches its misfit personality. It’s a 2.0-litre four-cylinder boxer unit. That means its pistons have been split into two banks that are laid on their side where the move left to right rather than up and down.

Subaru is one of just two manufacturers clinging to the horizontally opposed engine – the other being Porsche. They have a lower centre of gravity than a conventional engine which makes the car they’re bolted to a little more planted in the corners. But boxers are rare for a reason. They’re simply not as efficient as a normal engine. More on that in the next section, though.

For now, we’ll focus our attention to performance. Sadly, the Crosstrek also falters here because it only produces 136hp and 182Nm of torque. For all you spec sheet anoraks out there, that’s 14hp and 12Nm less than you got in the old XV and, crucially, far less than you get in the Crosstrek’s biggest rivals.

Subaru Crosstrek review (2024): front three quarter cornering, wide shot, grey paint, British country road
The Crosstrek is both slower and less efficient than its biggest rivals.

The Ford Kuga Hybrid produces 190hp – and even the most basic non-electrically assisted 1.5-litre Kuga has the Subaru licked with an output of 150hp and 240Nm. As you’d expect, that means the Crosstrek’s acceleration isn’t exactly sparkling. It lopes from 0–62mph in a rather pedestrian 10.8 seconds, which is a full second slower than the 1.5-litre Kuga and nearly two seconds slower than the Kuga Hybrid.

The Crosstrek’s acceleration from 30–50mph and 50–70mph is equally flat and, because the engine is hitched to a CVT, the engine is very noisy. Flex your big toe and the CVT will spike the revs into the engine’s powerband and leave them there until you ease off the throttle. It’s a long way behind the hybrid systems from Honda and Toyota.

What’s it like to drive?

  • Reasonably firm ride
  • Quick and accurate steering
  • Strong off-road credentials

The Crosstrek redeems itself slightly here. It’s composed in the corners, thanks in equal measure to its four-wheel drive system, firm suspension, and low centre of gravity. We couldn’t call it fun, but it’s certainly safe and it inspires confidence in all conditions.

The steering is a quick and direct, if not little too light for our taste. You can firm it up by shifting the car into sport mode, but it doesn’t make a huge difference. Subaru’s sport mode does have a useful feature, though – it adjusts the throttle to deliver more performance sooner in the rev range, which is useful when joining motorway slip roads or overtaking.

Subaru Crosstrek review (2024): rear three quarter cornering, showing body roll, grey paint, British country road
It handles well, but it’s not exactly what you’d call fun.

If you want an SUV that can make you smile on your way home from the school run, though, we think you’d better served by the Crosstrek’s rivals. It’s nowhere near as engaging as Ford and SEAT’s offerings.

However, the Crosstrek is more rugged than your average family SUV. Its four-wheel drive system is teamed with a clever traction control system and a hill descent control, which means it’s a little more adept at tackling a muddy field or a light greenlane.