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My 2020 Subaru Crosstrek Limited What I like and don't like about the car

I've owned my 2020 Subaru Crosstrek Limited for a bit over six months. It took a lot of pondering to decide what car I wanted to get after deciding to part ways with my 2017 VW GTI Autobahn, a tremendously enjoyable car to drive. But it had some drawbacks, such as being a bit small and not having all-wheel-drive. (We live in rural south Salem, Oregon, with a steep driveway and where our local road isn't plowed when it snows.)

Given the COVID crisis and the lack of places to go, the Crosstrek only has 2,734 miles on it at the moment. However, I know enough about the car to be able to confidently describe some of the many things I like about it, along with a few things that I don't like.

On the whole, I'm convinced that I made the right choice in buying the Crosstrek from Capitol Subaru here in Salem. Having had a Mini Cooper S prior to the GTI, this shows that I like small sporty cars. I was worried that the Crosstrek would be horribly underpowered compared to the Mini Cooper and GTI. Instead, I've found that the power is fine, though certainly not in the same league as those other cars.

That said, the Crosstrek drives much better than I thought it would. We live about six miles from the Salem city limits, with a curvy, hilly two lane road taking us into town. There isn't nearly as much difference between how the Crosstrek handles compared to the GTI as I expected. The car goes where you aim it with good cornering ability. And my wife calls the car "stiff," which is just what she said about the GTI, one of the world's best handling everyday-driving cars. So that's a compliment to the Crosstrek.

The visibility is excellent. Before my wife decided to get a 2019 Toyota RAV4, she considered a Subaru Forester. When we test drove it, I recall noting how expansive the windows were, like you were looking out through picture windows. The Crosstrek has a similar airy and open feel, which I like a lot. I can easily see all around me, including to the sides and rear.

One of my favorite things about the Crosstrek is the many safety features. I factory-ordered the Crosstrek with every available option. It's nice, though, that Subaru puts most, if not all, of the safety features on every Crosstrek trim level.

The orange light in the photo above is the blind spot warning. It is vastly more visible than the hard-to-see light my GTI had, which was in the mirror itself rather than the mirror housing. Subaru outshines VW in this regard. All I have to do is quickly glance at a mirror to see if a vehicle is in the adjacent lane. With the GTI I often had to peer at the mirror to tell if the blind spot warning was illuminated, especially in bright sun.

I'm glad that I got a Crosstrek model with the SI (Subaru Intelligent Drive) system. It isn't hugely intelligent, but it does switch between Sport and Normal modes. You can see by the green graph that the car upshifts at a higher RPM in Sport (S) mode. That indeed makes it feel more sporty, so I almost always drive in this mode.

It's somewhat irritating, though, that there is no way to keep the Crosstrek in Sport mode. My GTI remembered what mode it is in. So every time I turn the Crosstrek on, I have to press a button on the steering wheel to put it in Sport mode. I also have to press a button to the left of the steering wheel to turn off the auto start-stop feature, which I don't like.

After leaving it on for a few weeks after I got the car, I decided that I didn't enjoy the feeling of the Crosstrek engine stopping, then starting again when I pressed the gas pedal. Too jarring. There's no way to disable that feature, aside from doing some rewiring that I have no interest in.

Cup holders are something most of us use every time we get in a car. I certainly do. Pleasingly, the Crosstrek cup holders are Goldilocks-sized: not too big and not too small. This 12-ounce metal bottle fits perfectly. So does a 16 ounce Starbucks latte paper cup.

Aside from a dirty/dusty screen, which I can't blame on Subaru but on my failure to clean the inside of the car very often, I like the main infotainment display a lot. The Sirius XM screen shows the station logo and the names of the stations, whereas my wife's 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid just shows channel numbers, which is crazy. Subaru's infotainment system is clear, crisp, and intuitive, whereas Toyota's isn't.

The steering wheel controls also are a delight. I have no trouble finding the oft-used volume and channel-changing buttons on the left side. The adaptive cruise control buttons are equally easy to find and use. And the adaptive cruise control works really well at maintaining the correct speed and distance in either light or heavy freeway traffic, which is the only place I use it.

Another favorite feature is having the speed limit from the Navigation system right next to the digital speedometer. The speed limit numbers are easy to read. Every car should have this feature.

I haven't tried the X-Mode option for the all-wheel-drive system yet, since it hasn't snowed since I got the car in late January. It's nice to know that this option is available, though, since videos I've seen show that it improves traction on slippery surfaces like mud, snow, and ice.

My Crosstrek has an extra display above the main touchscreen. I use it quite frequently, mainly to check on the average mileage since the last fill-up and the distance to empty. The car is rated at 30 mpg combined city/highway, but I've been getting about what the display showed when I took this photo, around 26 mph.

Part of that could be me driving in Sport mode. An even smaller part could be not using the engine start-stop feature, though this seemed to be saving a very small amount of gas, like less than a tenth of a gallon between fill-ups. The automatic climate control system works great. The car heats up very quickly and the air conditioning is powerful.

The backup camera works fine when it isn't raining and you can see what is behind you. (See below.) I don't think the Reverse Automatic Braking System has activated yet, but I've gotten frequent warnings about cars or people approaching when I'm about to back up. My wife's RAV4 has a similar system and it has saved her from an accident when it braked automatically as a car was speeding by in a parking lot. This is a great feature.

The Crosstrek's backup camera is the main design flaw I've noted in the car. It is very minimally protected from rain. So when it rains, which is common in Oregon other than during the summer months, often all I can see is a moist blur in the back up camera display.

By contrast, the VW GTI back up camera was under the VW logo, which swung aside when the car was put in reverse. This is a much better system than what the Crosstrek has. Doesn't it rain in Japan? I have no idea why Subaru, which is safety-conscious, designed the Crosstrek to have a basically unusable back-up camera when it rains. All I can think of to do is carry a towel in the rear compartment and wipe off the camera before I put the car in reverse after stopping at a store, or wherever.

The Eyesight safety features are excellent. This display shows what Eyesight is up to when the car is moving, which it wasn't when I took the photo. Subaru excels when it comes to standard safety features. I considered getting a BMW X1, another small SUV, but was shocked when I saw that blindspot detection wasn't available on any X1 model, not at any price. This is so dumb of BMW, it borders on negligence. I suppose some people just want a BMW, regardless of the lack of important safety features.

The Crosstrek seats aren't quite as bolstered and firm as the GTIs, but they are comfortable and nicely supportive. No lumbar support, but this isn't a big deal for me. I like the orange stitching, which comes with the Limited trim level.

The Cool Gray Khaki color that I ordered looks great and gets compliments. Sure, it isn't gray or khaki, but what's in a name? I like the look of the wheels. I'm trying to decide whether to get winter tires for the Crosstrek, which I'm leaning toward. If I do, I might have them put on an extra set of factory wheels, since they are so attractive.

I ordered LED lights for the interior. Good choice. Much more crisp than the usual incandescent bulbs.

Even the error messages in the Crosstrek appeal to me. (The rear hatch is ajar in this message.) The whole design of the instrument display is nicely done. Along that line, I've considered getting a Tesla, but I don't like the idea of controlling just about everything via a touchscreen display. I like having an actual volume knob on the sound system, for example.

The Crosstrek, if I recall correctly, is only about six inches longer than the GTI. But this translates into quite a bit more space in the rear compartment. Even with safety equipment, dog towels/bowl, and such in the back, I can easily fit six grocery bags there, which I couldn't with the GTI.

All in all, I've very pleased with my Crosstrek Limited purchase, which had a total list price of $32,103. I kept the sticker for my 2017 Golf GTI Autobahn: $36,415. More powerful engine with the GTI, and a sportier car, but less safety features. I think the Crosstrek is a good value. And I've read that the 2021 model, I think it is, will have a larger engine. Good news. That will make the Crosstrek even more fun to drive.

Oh, almost forgot another "don't like." My Mini Cooper and GTI had rain-sensing wipers. This is such a great feature, not having to fiddle with the wipers when it starts and stops raining, or rains less and more, I vowed I'd never buy another car that didn't have rain-sensing wipers. I broke that vow with the Crosstrek. But I still wish the car had them.

To end on a positive note, I'd never had a car with high beam assist and auto dimming mirrors. Now I do, and I really like not having to fiddle with switching between low and high headlight beams, or being blinded by high beams in my rear or side mirrors.

Created By
Brian Hines
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