It’s not every day that we can to attend a car launch for an all-new model. Then again, just a few weeks ago we went to the Hyundai Ioniq 6 launch and then the Ford Mustang Mach-E launch – both all-new models.

This time around, we’re in Auckland for Subaru’s Crosstrek. Okay, maybe not 100% an all-new model, since it’s replacing the much-loved-by-New-Zealanders XV, but still – a new name on the scene. DriveLife went along to check the new car out.

Subaru New Zealand and EVs

Subaru New Zealand’s Managing Director, Wal Dumper, says that speed of moving to EVs is rapid, with sales of EVs in New Zealand now at third – thanks to government intervention. He suggested this actually limits customer choice, when buyers are almost forced into a specific type of car.

He also suggests that “the future of the automotive industry in New Zealand looks very different from today”. So, what about Subaru’s own all-wheel drive Solterra, an EV they developed in conjunction with Toyota, and that DriveLife went to the launch of last year? This car was scheduled to arrive in March 2023, but that month has well gone. “We’ve got Solterra coming, but we needed it yesterday,” he says. The latest update on the Solterra is that it will be here in December – they hope. They’ve already taken 50 deposits on the model, so that’s the first (eventual) shipment sold out, and will be opening up the website to take more deposits once they confirm a delivery date.

While the Solterra was developed with Toyota, Subaru is investing $250B yen for electrification, and 2025 onwards will see more hybrid-electric vehicles coming, and 2026 will see in-house BEV production kicking off. By 2028, Subaru fully expects that their Oizumi plant will be at full capacity, producing 200,000 units a year.

By the end of 2026, we’ll see four fully electric Subaru SUV models.

New Subaru Crosstrek

2023 Subaru Crosstrek

Apparently, 87% of Subaru’s New Zealand (SNZ) customers identify as “keeping fit” being a priority, and even more impressive is that 69% of Subaru owners here are also dog owners. Didn’t see that coming.

How does that relate to the XV replacement, the Crosstrek? It’s just the right size suggests Subaru, and with 7,000 new XVs sold in New Zealand since the model’s launch, they might just be right.

The tagline for the Crosstrek is “Have it All-Wheel Drive” and I must admit, the television promo for the car makes me want to go and buy one. It’s impressive with its beat, speed, and scenery, and not a single tarmac road is seen in the video – everything is off-road. Even the static images we saw of the Crosstrek show it offroad. Subaru knows their buyers, and so is targeting them perfectly.

According to SNZ, “your sense of adventure should never be limited by the car you drive” and they are really pushing this home with all the media we were shown. The Crosstrek is intended to make waves in the small SUV market, with pictures showing a Crosstrek driving through a valley with the statement “Valley Parking” instead of Valet Parking. Five star hotel? Subaru suggests you camp out in your Crosstrek, for a million-star view.

SNZ says the XV was launched in 2012 and “pioneered the small SUV category”. It has been the signature model of the Subaru range,  but Subaru felt that the Crosstrek name better “embodies what this vehicles does, and is”.

The Crosstrek represents the entry into the Subaru SUV range, and they are adamant that we realise it’s an SUV, and not just a jacked-up small car.

There are two hybrids and one non-hybrid for sale in New Zealand, with the non-hybrid having an “8-speed” Linetronic transmission. This is essentially a constantly variable transmission  (CVT) with some stepped modes built in. The hybrid models have a 7-speed Linetronic transmission.

As usual for Subaru, the AWD system has “X Mode” drive select for the muddy, snowy, or sandy stuff. Compared to the previous XV, there’s a 10% increase in torsional rigidity. The chassis on the Crosstrek is essentially the same as the XV, but with some upgrades that weren’t discussed.

Safety features include Eyesight Driver Assist, with double the field of version compared with the previous camera. There are now 21 safety features, including the all-new lane centering and traffic sign recognition and the system now has pedestrian and cyclist detection. The Crosstrek also has a driver monitoring system like the Outback. Still on the safety front, there are now 9 airbags, and new side airbags – a first for Subaru.

The exterior includes a complete redesign at the front, now with LED headlights. The plastic wheel arches have been redesigned, and at the front is a new hexagonal grille.

Inside the car, the most dominating feature has to be the big 11.6” centre screen, 11.6” standard across the Crosstrek range.

Apparently, Subaru took a “human-centered design approach” for the interior, and so this means redesigned front seats, and the seat rails now mounted directly to the chassis to reduce head sway on bumpy roads.

Qi wireless phone charging is available in the Premium models, with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard in all models. The Premium models get a 360-degree camera, a first for Subaru on this platform.

2023 Subaru Crosstrek: Models and Pricing

In New Zealand, we get to choose from three models;

  • Crosstrek e-Boxer Hybrid: $46,990
  • Crosstrek Premium: $48,990
  • Crosstrek e-Boxer Hybrid Premium: $51,990

All models share the same 2.0-litre, boxer four that was in the previous XV. This motor has an output of 115kW (110kW in the hybrid models) and 196Nm of torque. For the hybrid models, Subaru is calling them a “mild hybrid” and we agree. There is a 12.3kW/66Nm electric motor to assist the car in the hybrid models. Buying the hybrid version will save just 0.7L/100km of fuel, with the non-hybrid rated at 7.2L/100km and the hybrids at 6.5L/100km.

The EV battery is a 118-volt unit, placed under the rear cargo floor.

For those who do enjoy a bit of offroading, the Crosstrek has the same 220mm of ground clearance as the XV. The base hybrid model is fitted with 17” alloy wheels.

Premium models of the Crosstrek Dual X Mode, a 360-degree camera, a leather interior, heated front seats, a 10-speaker audio system, 18” alloy wheels, a sunroof, and SatNav.

Up until the end of June, all three models are fee-neutral under the Clean Car Scheme but from July 1, the hybrid will attract a $1,380 fee and the non-hybrid a $2,870 fee.

2023 Subaru Crosstrek: First Drive

Since no hybrid cars were available to drive, we only had the top-spec non-hybrid Premium model to drive. The interior feels very similar to the XV, except for that big screen and a change of materials used. It does feel a bit premium on the inside, with a nice choice and mix of fabrics and plastics.

The ride feels slightly jiggly over some bumps, but on the whole it’s ok. Performance seems the same as before, although the Linetronic transmission does behave far better than that in the XV. The engine is smooth enough, but like the XV it can get a little noisy at high revs.

Our test drive went for around 90 minutes, over a mixture of country roads with different surfaces. While the Crosstrek isn’t designed to handle well, it does just fine with some nice steering and plenty of grip from the AWD system. It’s an easy car to drive and seems to sit well on the road.

2023 Subaru Crosstrek – Final Say

Lurking in the background is the older but still great-value Subaru Impreza, all-wheel-drive, with slightly less ground clearance and priced at $35,990. Yes, it’s a station wagon instead of a small SUV, but at $11K cheaper than the base Crosstrek this still could be the Crosstrek’s greatest competition, just as it was for the XV.

Only a full test of the Crosstrek will show what it’s really like, but initial impressions are it’s like an XV, but better. That can’t be a bad thing.

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Fred Alvrez
How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm a driving instructor and an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.


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