Jul 9, 2021
Thinking about buying a new or used Subaru Crosstrek? We show you the best and worst years of this popular compact SUV to help find the perfect one.
Since its debut in 2013, the Subaru Crosstrek has become one of the Japanese manufacturer’s most popular and best-selling models. This compact SUV combines all of Subaru’s strengths into one small and versatile package. The Crosstrek recipe was born out of the popular Impreza Sport. The aim of this new product from Subaru was to combine the small size for people who love the Impreza with the utilitarian SUV/wagon nature of the Forester.
The result was a product that continues to scratch the itch of a lot of Subaru lovers and general buyers alike. Like most car models out there, there are model years that are stronger than others. The Crosstrek is no exception.
In this piece, we take you through our recommendations of the best Subaru Crosstrek model years and the ones to avoid. Let’s get going.
Best Year: 2018 Crosstrek Gets Refreshed Design & New Tech Features
The first model year on our list is the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek. This model year saw several key updates. When the Crosstrek first came out, it was based on the Impreza platform and it stayed that way until 2017.
For 2018, the Crosstrek was built on a new platform. Subaru’s next-generation Crosstrek also dawned new, more aggressive styling along with creature comfort improvements including standard Apple Carplay/Android Auto.
The second-generation Crosstrek also came with improved safety, refinement, and driver safety features.
Speaking of refinement, interior refinement had historically been a category where Subaru fell short against its rivals.
With the 2018 Crosstrek, it was a good step in the right direction.
In one area, specifically the folding seats, it shines brighter than its rivals. The 2018 Crosstrek’s seats are flat-folded at an angle that truly optimizes the cargo space better than its rivals.
2018 Crosstrek’s Driving Quality Wows Auto Critics
Another strength of the 2018 Crosstrek is its reliability and overall driving quality. In itslong-term test of the 2018 Crosstrek, Motor Trendpraised the CUV’s surprising merit in a performance setting as well as its comfortability in the city.
“This might sound crazy, but the lifted hatchback can be flogged through corners harder than most small-crossover competitors before the all-season tires raise the white flag,” reports Motor Trend. “Around town, the Crosstrek rides very well, soaking up bumps, dips, and imperfections like a premium vehicle and almost zero rattlings.”
When it comes to reliability, the 2018 Crosstrek is improved compared to some of its previous model years. In their 13 months with the 2018 Crosstrek, Motor Trend put 20,939 miles on their 2.0i Premium in which they visited the dealership three times for scheduled maintenance in 7,500-mile intervals.
Overall, the 2018 Crosstrek is an excellent and worthy entry on our list. It is not only more refined on the inside, but it is more reliable and comfortable than previous model years. On top of that, it has a great resale value which makes your life easier whether you are buying used or new.
Best Year: 2016 Crosstrek Adds Extra Safety Features, Better Reliability
Next on our list is the 2016 Subaru Crosstrek. This model year saw some subtle cosmetic refinements. These include new headlights, a newly designed grille, and some tasteful chrome accents.
The 2016 model year also saw some new safety features, including lane-changing assist. Subaru also updated their Starlink Multimedia system for this model year.
The primary reason that this model year is on our list of the best Subaru Crosstrek years is its reliability.
On J.D. Power’s reliability ratings, it has the highest score of any Crosstrek with the exception of the 2020 car. This score is 84 out of 100, which is a very impressive score and a considerable leap compared to the 2015 car, which scored 77.
Additionally, Edmunds rates the 2016 Crosstrek at a respectable 4.2 out of five stars. Out of their 75 consumer reviews of this vehicle, 51% of those owners rated the 2016 Crosstrek at five stars.
One of these owners who rated this model year five stars said, ” Four years into owning this car and it has been a wonderful car to drive, every day.”
When you combine the aforementioned with a five-star rating from the NHTSA, hybrid powertrain option, as well as manual transmission availability, this is a seriously strong CUV.
Best Year: 2020 Crosstrek Offers Luxury Features as Standard
The final entry on our list of best Subaru Crosstrek years is the 2020 model. This year of Subaru Crosstrek is strapped with even more refinements and added goodies to improve Subaru’s recipe.
One of the key improvements is on the side of reliability and performance. This Crosstrek year scores respectably with J.D. Power with a 77 out of 100 rating. Overall, they gave the compact SUV 81 out of 100.
Another improvement that the 2020 Crosstrek delivers is standard automatic climate control. This was previously a feature that could only be acquired by purchasing a higher trim level.
Not anymore, and on top of that, it comes with a larger tailgate compared to previous years. That means the process of loading cargo will be easier and more efficient.
Critics Laud 2020 Crosstrek’s Combo of Safety, Off-road Ability & AWD
The 2020 Subaru Crosstrek was met with high praise by Kelley Blue Book. It placed second on their list of Best Subcompact SUVs of 2020.
In KBB’s overview of the vehicle, they said “..no other small-crossover SUV offers the Crosstrek’s combination of safety, off-road ability, and standard all-wheel drive.”
To add a cherry on top of this Subaru’s sundae, it is still available in a manual transmission on select trim levels. That is good news if you are an enthusiast.
If you are someone who is looking for the latest tech, safety, off-road abilities, and good fuel economy, this is the Crosstrek for you.
Check out this video below from Subaru themselves as they take you through all the facts and figures of the 2020 model year. Be sure to follow their channel’s additional links to see their overviews on the other Crosstrek trims, including the hybrid and premium, etc.
Worst Year: 2013 Subaru Crosstrek had Reliability Issues & Recalls
Everything good has to start somewhere that isn’t always great. As it happens with a lot of different vehicles, sometimes the first attempt at a good recipe doesn’t always come out perfect. That was the case with the 2013 Subaru Crosstrek.
So, why is the 2013 Crosstrek on our list of model years to avoid? There are two key reasons. The first is recalls. The 2013 model year received two recalls and they were not good.
Engine Stalling Issues & Fob Malfunction
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), these involved a problem with engine stalling and remote engine starter fob malfunction.
To elaborate on the remote fob problem, the NHTSA said, “The engine may inadvertently start and run for up to fifteen minutes. The engine may continue to start and stop until the fob battery is depleted, or until the vehicle runs out of fuel.
If the vehicle is parked in an enclosed area, there is a risk of carbon monoxide build-up which may cause headaches, dizziness or, in extreme cases, unconsciousness and/or asphyxiation.”
As for the engine stalling issue, the NHTSA says that the problem is due to an engine valve spring failure. This is a pretty serious issue that can potentially cause an accident.
2013 Crosstrek Nets Subpar Reliability Ratings
The other key reason is that we do not recommend the 2013 Subaru Crosstrek is the overall reliability. It is simply not up to par with vehicles in its class at the time and against later model years like the 2016 car.
It also crucially scored seven points less than the 2016 car in the J.D. Power reliability rating.
Overall, the 2013 Crosstrek is not a bad car. It started the recipe that would turn into Subaru’s best-selling vehicle. However, you are better off spending some extra money to get the considerably more reliable 2016 model year.
Worst Year: 2017 Subaru Crosstrek Gets Brake Lights Recalled
The 2017 Subaru Crosstrek falls short of being on our list of the best model years for the same reason as the 2013 car: recalls and reliability.
The recall for this model year, according to the NHTSA, involves a serious problem with the brake lights in which they do not illuminate. This can be quite dangerous, as the NHTSA noted in the report: “Brake lights that do not illuminate properly will not alert other drivers that the vehicle is slowing or stopping, increasing the risk of a crash.”
As for the reliability, like the 2013 car, it scores lower in the J.D. Power reliability rating compared to other model years. Specifically, it scored a 75 out of 100 compared to the 2016 model’s 84.
As emphasized before with the 2013 model year, this is not a bad car, but it falls short with reliability compared to the other models we have talked about.
It also needs to be noted that the brake light recall was issued for all first-generation Subaru Crosstrek model years (2013-2017). Regardless, if you factor this combined with the shortcoming in reliability compared to the previous model year, we believe this gives a good indication that this is a model year to avoid.
You will be better off getting a better example of 2016 Crosstrek with lower miles if you are looking to buy used. Or, if you want better technology and safety features, go with one of the second-generation Crosstreks we listed.
Final Thoughts: Subaru Crosstrek is a Great SUV if You Shop Wisely
The Subaru Crosstrek is an excellent compact SUV that is a great choice for all buyers, budgets, and circumstances. As we have discussed, there are a handful of model years that stand out from the rest, and equally, ones that you should avoid if you are in the market.
Whether new or used, manual or CVT, Hybrid or normal gas, base or premium, there are a plethora of options out there for you to choose from to find the right Crosstrek for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Apr 6, 2022
What is bad about the Subaru Crosstrek?
The Subaru Crosstrek is generally considered to be one of the better Subaru vehicles to buy and they do not have as many problems as some of the other models. The most common problem that you will find with the Crosstrek is related to the steering system. It has been reported that the vehicle often pulls to one side while driving and it can be an alignment issue, or a steering rack issue.
The next most common problem with the Crosstrek includes electrical system problems. These cars are relatively complex and have a lot of electronics in them. The most common thing that goes wrong with them involves the stereo and the backup camera system freezing up. This is usually a software problem and an update from Subaru can typically fix it.
The Crosstrek overall is better than many of the older Subaru models. The Crosstrek has only been in production since 2016, but as of 2021 they still seem to be a good car to go with if you want more reliability.
Is the Subaru Crosstrek reliable?
The Subaru Crosstrek is very reliable. There have been engine problems with Subaru vehicles in the past, but there have not been any reported problems with the engine in the Crosstrek. This is a great compact crossover if you are looking for something that is the same size as a compact car with the versatility of a small SUV.
The Crosstrek has scored a 4 out of 5 from JD Power and Associates for being a well-made vehicle. These are also great if you are looking for a safe vehicle since they get an overall 5-star crash test rating.
Overall the Crosstrek is a vehicle that should be able to last you a long time. These are extremely popular in regions that get snow since the all-wheel-drive system is also useful for getting around during that winter weather. Subaru has improved its reliability in recent years.
How many miles will a Crosstrek last?
The Subaru Crosstrek was introduced in 2016 so there are not many high mileage examples out in the world so it can be tricky to judge how long it will last. Based on the wear and tear that has been documented on the engine this should have no problem reaching 200,000 miles and possibly even more if you take care of it.
The most important thing that you can do to get your Crosstrek to be the highest mileage example in the world is to get your regular servicing done. Reducing the wear and tear on the components in your engine is the only way that it will last a long time. Simple things like oil changes do go a long way in helping your car last.
The Crosstrek is an improvement over the Subaru boxer engine problems of the past and since it is marketed as an affordable daily driver they should be able to last quite a long time.
Donna on January 14, 2022
I own a 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek which was purchased brand new from the dealer. It presently has 19,504 miles it is well taken care of. The other day while driving I felt a pulling to the left as I was going straight. I pulled over and when I turned the steering wheel to the right it continued to spin around. It was very weird. End of story it needed a new steering gear and tie rods. $2,000. I won't be buying another Subaru. Im lucky I'm alive
Mike on January 15, 2023
2016 Crosstrek is great
I have a 2016 Subaru Crosstrek which I bought new and overall it’s been great. So far owning it for six years I’ve just done all the basics: changed the tires, oil changes, battery, and air filters. It’s a great car for road trips and I really like the fact it has great ground clearance.
Felix Duppong has specialized experience in the world of motorsports journalism and recently graduated with a Bachelor’s in Communications from Northwest University. He is a staff writer producing high-quality Formula 1 editorial content for the print publication Missed Apex F1 Podcast. Felix has also covered the world-famous 24 Hours of Le Mans, Indy 500, Daytona 500, and the Rolex 24. When he’s not busy contributing to Drive Tribe, in his spare time, Felix is an avid Sim Racing enthusiast. He has competed in multiple seasons of F1-league racing and is currently racing in the iRacing VRS GT Endurance series.
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