In a world in which the front-man for Trump University is an accused fraud running for president, and in a world in which pop-icon Beyoncé lip-synced the U.S anthem at President Obama’s inauguration, what do we all crave? Authenticity.

A tall version of the compact Impreza. The proportions aren't great.

A tall version of the compact Impreza. The proportions aren’t great.

We hunger for real things and experiences because we are so often disappointed by the made-up or contrived. In our media-saturated world, when we come across something proven to be true, we are overjoyed and we become steadfast, unwavering, loyal acolytes for life.

This brings us to Subaru, a car brand that in its realness is the antithesis of Trump and Beyoncé.

Safe? The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives all 2016 Subaru models equipped with EyeSight safety package its Top Safety Pick+ rating.

Resale? ALG says Subaru is No. 1 among mainstream brands.

The infotainment screen is comically small.

The infotainment screen is comically small.

Quality? Subaru is No. 2 behind Audi, says Consumer Reports; 100 per cent of Subaru models are “recommended.”

The Subaru people — the engineers and marketers, the sales types — jealously and zealously guard the authenticity of their brand. They are rewarded with owner loyalty.

Ah, the engineers. They are in charge at Subaru, insisting that the company produce a line of street-legal rally cars like the WRX and WRX STI. These little beasts are proof-points; they demonstrate the brilliance of the nerds.

The marketers? They tie the brand to competitive rallying and Ironman competitions. Racing Subarus through the woods at breakneck speeds illustrates the ways in which good engineering overcomes trying conditions. Sponsoring marathon swim/bike/run events (that would kill most of us) ties the brand to lean, ultra-fit fanatics who are the human embodiment of rally cars.

The authenticity of the Subaru brand is impressive.

The authenticity of the Subaru brand is impressive.

Dealers? I picked up my latest Subaru tester, a compact Crosstrek, at a no-nonsense little North Vancouver dealership where the general manager has been in charge seemingly forever.

The showroom was stuffed with cars parked atop worn linoleum. The coffee maker was not exactly the Rolex of its kind. The washrooms were clean but small. Staffing? Everyone was very nice, very helpful, and completely unassuming. I felt like I was inside a tent at Folk Fest, waiting for the Birds of Chicago to break into song.

The Crosstrek itself is kind of a smaller, rougher version of Subaru’s Forester. Or to put it another way, a tall Impreza. The exterior styling is military-like in its execution.

Big door openings and excellent front buckets.

Big door openings and excellent front buckets.

That is, the proportions are off and here’s why: the nose is too long. Surely the excessive overhang ahead of the front wheels is there for crashworthiness, but it’s not attractive. At the rear, you’ll find barely any overhang at all. The Crosstrek is out of balance.

The designers haven’t dressed up the sheetmetal with extra creases or flourishes, which suggests to me the car was designed by engineers. Big wheels and a somewhat taller ride height are practical for cottage-going and do give this wagon a bit of snarl.

Inside, my tester was all black, with some silver inlays here and they to break up the gloom. The materials covering the dashboard and door panels and such were apparently taken off the shelf at Dollarama. Rugged, not fancy.

No room for Big Gulps.

No room for Big Gulps.

However, I found the seats brilliant; I felt as though I was in a supportive beanbag chair. I was less thrilled by the tiny little screen on the centre of the dash – the one that manages the infotainment system and such.

The rest of the controls: functional. At the rear is a cargo space big enough to hold Ironman gear for two. Get a roof rack for the bikes.

The 148-horsepower four-cylinder engine is more powerful than the numbers suggest, but it’s also noisy. All Crosstreks come with all-wheel drive. My tester had an unexciting but fuel-thrifty $1,300 continuously variable transmission or CVT.

Subaru sells at $24,995 version of the Crosstrek that as of this writing had at least a $2,000 discount on it. So you can have a completely authentic, rough-and-ready wagon for less than $23,000, plus fees and taxes. You’ll want the CVT, so budget for it; the basic five-speed manual behaves like something from the 1990s.

The front overhang is enormous.

The front overhang is enormous.

Subaru is yet again enjoying a banner sales year. The Crosstrek is an example of why. There is nothing phony about this crossover. It is exactly as advertised.

But a warning. Subarus last and last. You are likely to get sick of yours before it wears out. That’s the good/bad truth.


THE LOOK: Let’s call it military-chic. There’s a ruggedness to this out-of-proportion design, with the long front overhangs and short rear ones. Tall stance, big wheels and almost no sheetmetal adornments.

Subaru AWD badge for webTHE DRIVE: The Crosstrek looks like a tall, compact wagon and drives like one. The ride quality is a little stiff, the handling steady but hardly nimble. All-wheel drive is standard; you’ll be able to tackle all sorts of tough terrain. Furthest thing from a sports car, however.

THE NUTS AND BOLTS: The four-cylinder engine is a horizontally opposed boxer design, which puts the engine low down – lowering the centre of gravity. Although in this raised-up Impreza, the benefits of a lower boxer engine are somewhat lost. The available EyeSight driver assist package consists of adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, pre-collision throttle management and lane departure and sway warning – working together to help drivers stay out of trouble. The system has been widely praised by independent testers.

THE CABIN/STORAGE: The cabin has enough space for four adults, but no more. It’s not an overly roomy place, though the front buckets are excellent. The storage area in back is about par for the course among compact wagons.       Crosstrek badge for web

THE BRAND: Subaru is a great brand. It’s authentic based on real, objective factors. Subaru is rightly protective of its brand.

WHY BUYS? The Crosstrek is aimed at active Millennials who put their bike racks or Thule boxes on the roof and go adventuring.

Price range: $$24,995-$29,395 plus fees and taxes.

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder (148 hp/145 lb-ft of torque).

Transmission: five-speed manual or $1,300 continuously variable transmission.

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.2 city/7.7 highway using regular fuel.

Comparable: Mitsubishi RVR, Jeep Renegade, Fiat 500X, Nissan Juke, Mini Countryman, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Buick Encore, Chevrolet Trax.



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