The Crosstrek has been one of Subaru’s hottest models since its introduction in late 2012. While Subaru initially caught flack from critics for simply lifting an Impreza, it quickly became apparent that customers loved the concept. With a palate of vibrant and fun colors including bright blues, oranges, and greens, the Crosstrek immediately stood out in a crowd. It quickly formed a niche for itself as a fun, affordable, go-anywhere vehicle offering car-like comfort with crossover-like convenience. And now, with the introduction of the new 2018 model, the Crosstrek carries on the same formula with some dramatic improvements in refinement and technology.

Although the basic size and shape are still the same for 2018, the Crosstrek got a thorough once-over by the styling department, with a sharper, more purposeful look that better fits the rugged attitude of the car. It’s a much more handsome, sculpted look as well, trading the jelly bean look of the previous Crosstrek for tactfully designed character lines on the sides of the car with more dramatic charcoal-colored body cladding on the front and rear bumpers. The end result is a more aggressive look that falls more in line with the rest of the Subaru’s lineup. The new wheel options – various takes on the split 5-spoke design – are more dramatic as well, with black-painted spokes and machined silver surfaces to catch the light and contrast beautifully with the Crosstrek’s vibrant array of colors. Honestly, the hardest part of buying a Crosstrek would be deciding which color to get. I love the Sunshine Orange, but the new Cool Kray Khaki and Venetian Red Pearl colors look spectacular as well.

On the road, the Crosstrek drives like a dream. The soft suspension, while prone to leaning over more than I’d like in corners, does a fantastic job of soaking up bumps and rough patches of road. After a few days of driving the Crosstrek, I actually grew to enjoy the extra movement in the suspension. It adds character to the car and actually comes in handy once you leave the pavement and start driving on loose or slippery surfaces. The ride quality is really top-notch here. I also had second thoughts on the CVT transmission. It takes a little getting used to if you’re used to driving a more traditional automatic transmission but it’s incredibly smooth once you’re on the move. The only issue I encountered was that when I stopped on a hill, the Crosstrek would sometimes roll back slightly and then the transmission would catch abruptly before allowing you to go forward. In that regard, hill starts felt like riding with someone who doesn’t know how to use a manual transmission, which is ironic because Subaru has a great hill start function on their Crosstreks with manual transmissions. Once on the move, however, it was smooth sailing with zero fuss or drama. Subaru even programmed in some “shift” points for the transmission to avoid some of the more off-putting traits of CVTs.

Having recently driven a few other Subarus with the company’s revolutionary EyeSight safety system, I already knew how great it was but I was curious if the base 2.0i trim would still offer enough features and technology to keep me interested. Although the Sunshine Orange 2.0i model I found myself driving came equipped with only the CVT transmission and HomeLink mirror as additional extras, I never found myself asking for more given the standard Subaru StarLink touchscreen infotainment system. Even though factory navigation is available with EyeSight on the Limited trim, the standard StarLink system comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay straight out of the box which means you can access navigation from your app of choice on your phone through the 6.5-inch touchscreen in the Crosstrek. Go with the highest Limited trim and you’ll get an 8.0-inch StarLink system instead, but from my experience, the 6.5-inch screen was more than adequate, especially in this price range.

Throughout my time with the Crosstrek, I was really impressed with how competent of a package it was, especially considering the very palatable $24,074 price tag. From behind the wheel, the Crosstrek felt sophisticated and refined, certainly moreso than its price would’ve initially had me believe, and while the 2018 Crosstrek has grown up in a sense, it still feels fun and playful from behind the wheel. It’s a true Swiss Army knife of a car, able to safely, responsibly, and economically get you where you need to go, but it lives for everything outside the normal routine. Whether that’s making trips to the local dog park and garden center, or a 2,000-mile road trip to Redwoods National Forest, the Crosstrek is happy to do it all. So hop in a Crosstrek and chase your dreams!