2019 Subaru Crosstrek: Ah, post-snowstorm, when Mr. Driver's Seat's fancy turns to Subarus.
Price: A barebones 2.0i starts at $21,895 and a top-of-the-line Limited at $27,195.
Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver liked the "adventurous appearance, confident handling, accessible tech options" but not the "lackluster engine, drab interior, so-so cargo hauling."
Marketer's pitch: "Love is out there. Find it in a 2019 Crosstrek."
Reality: Some new features prove love means compromises.
What's new: Like American cars today — and especially like Subarus — the Crosstrek has grown up. Redesigned for the 2018 model year, it's more spacious than the previous model and also benefits from a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with four, count 'em, four more horses.
For the 2019 model year, the Crosstrek makes EyeSight available in the base model, and some other minor changes. (I tested a 2018.)
Up to speed: The 152-horsepower four-cylinder engine motivates the Crosstrek somewhat. Car and Driver says 0-60 takes 9.2 seconds, slow among current rides.
Shiftless: But more so than in many other Subarus, the CVT works against the motivation. I could feel the difference when I controlled the "shifts" myself with the steering wheel paddles; everything seemed more brisk and ready to go. (And no one is more surprised than Mr. Driver's Seat that he's becoming much more satisfied with just leaving cars in automatic mode if there's no real difference.)
A six-speed manual is now the standard choice, adding one gear over the 2017 manual. The Crosstrek is part of a shrinking group of vehicles offering sticks in the States. I'd love to try one out because a previous Impreza stick shift left me far happier.
Stay in lane: I'm not a big fan of lane-departure warning. I'm really good about staying in my lane, and most often the warning chime alerts me to road seams and potholes.
I left the warning on in the Subaru because I could never figure out how to turn it off, even after an Internet search. But we learned to live with each other, and eventually I adapted. (It's turned off via a button near the rear-view mirror, a Subaru representative tells me.)
On the road: The Crosstrek also came with lane-keeping assist and will politely scoot you back to center if it notices that you're slipping. (The system comes as part of EyeSight, along with precollision braking and throttle management and adaptive cruise control, all of which I endorse.)
Having lane-keeping on, though, seems to turn the handling from somewhat crisp to really vague. Subarus have usually not been fun to drive, but there's always a sense of surefootedness, as in I can tell exactly where the car is going to aim. But the Crosstrek lost this feeling with that system turned on.
The previous incarnation of the Crosstrek offered some of the most surefooted handling of them all. I've noticed this dilemma in systems from other automakers as well.
Driver's Seat: Though the Subaru Crosstrek comes with power controls for the seatback and the seat bottom, I found no control for lumbar support. The lumbar support was not set badly, fortunately, but why not let me set it myself?
Friends and stuff: Despite its growth, the Crosstrek remains a small vehicle overall, and the rear seat is really quite tight. Foot room is good thanks to the raised front seat, but legroom is fair and headroom is really tight. The seat itself offers little in the way of comfort and the bottom is short.
Cargo space is 55.3 cubic feet with the second row folded, which is up from 51.9 in the 2017.
Play some tunes: The stereo sound is awesome, almost an A. The rich tones don't follow into quieter volumes, though, so the stereo has to be really cranked up to enjoy it.
Controlling the settings is also as easy as pressing the tuning knob. Volume and tuning are handled via knobs. Source change is handled by a few buttons as well.
Night shift: Nope, don't do it, don't turn the interior light on. Drivers just won't be able to see the road at all. The headlights shine brightly and where you want them, though.
Fuel economy: I averaged 29 mpg in the usual Mr. Driver's Seat service area.
Where it's built: Gunma, Japan
How it's built: Consumer Reports predicts the Crosstrek's reliability to be a 5 out of 5 for 2019, the same as the previous three years.