DEADWOOD, S.D. — When Subaru of America launched the Crosstrek subcompact crossover in 2012, the segment was not a major component of U.S. vehicle sales. The Nissan Juke was its only rival.
But in 2017, that is no longer the case, and Subaru has redesigned the model to better compete in a field that has ballooned, with more than 10 players and others expected in the coming months.
Subaru believes the Crosstrek's recipe of all-wheel-drive capability, colorful styling and available safety features will allow the model to stand out among the crowd.
Despite its age, the Crosstrek is near the top of the brand's nameplates in U.S. sales. In fact, it just had its best June ever with 7,822 sales, Subaru said. The automaker has sold 43,528 Crosstreks through the first half of the year in the U.S., behind only the venerable Forester and Outback. Subaru of America is on pace for its ninth consecutive year of record U.S. sales.
"It's been a huge part of growing sales during the past couple years," said Todd Hill, Subaru's car line manager, at the media launch here.
New for the 2018 Crosstrek is a six-speed transmission, which replaces a five-speed, and is available on base and Premium trims. Subaru expects 6 to 7 percent of Crosstrek sales to be manuals.
Subaru expects nearly 40 percent of Crosstreks it sells will have the available EyeSight safety system.
The Crosstrek brings in the youngest customers to the brand, Hill said, and is especially appealing to buyers in the 25 to 29 age group.
More importantly, Subaru said, 64 percent of Crosstrek buyers are new to the brand. Getting buyers, especially new ones, into a Subaru at a young age could be a bonanza for the automaker, which hopes to keep them in the fold with the brand's three-row vehicle, the Ascent, which is expected to go on sale in the first quarter of 2018.
Following the redesigned 2017 Impreza, the Crosstrek is the second model to be built on Subaru's Global Platform and mirrors many of the changes found in its sedan and hatchback cousin.
The platform has a lower center of gravity, which improves handling, and a body and chassis that are 70 percent more rigid than the outgoing version.
A more rigid platform, combined with 8.7 inches of ground clearance and awd, will likely be put to use as Subaru noted that nearly one-third of Crosstrek owners take their vehicle off road.
Beefing up the Crosstrek's off-road chops is the addition of X-Mode for 2018 models with a continuously variable transmission.
Previously available only on the Outback and Forester, X-Mode allows for better wheel control on challenging surfaces as well as steep inclines and declines, demonstrated on a drive through a rock quarry here.
In the rear, there's a redesigned cargo area that has a wider loading space and allows for easier access to gear. Up top, there are standard roof rails.
"We are sure that the new Crosstrek will be a good partner in customers' active lifestyles," said Kenichiro Fujieda, product senior manager of the Crosstrek.
The Crosstrek, landing at dealership lots now, starts at $22,710, including shipping.