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  • Writer's pictureMarc Gonzalez

The tale of two trims: the Subaru Crosstrek Onyx and Wilderness

Subcompact SUVs such as the Subaru Crosstrek are popular! We've had the opportunity to test drive two versions of the new Crosstrek, one of the most competent vehicles in every type of weather. We drove the Onyx and Wilderness trims, which have unique features. The Subaru Crosstrek Onyx is priced at $33,995, and the Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness is priced at $37,995. Interestingly, the first version is built in Japan at the Ota plant while the latter is assembled in the Lafayette, IN plant.


Subaru Crosstrek Onxy
Photo by Vincent Patenaude

Now in its third generation, the Subaru Crosstrek has been a massive success for Japanese automakers. Its compact size, sensible design, and reliable powertrain have been key to its success, and Subaru wisely chose not to make significant changes to this winning formula. The new Crosstrek shares many elements with the latest Subaru Impreza; our review is here. Design-wise, the changes are subtle; the untrained eye may not even see the difference. 


Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness
Photo by Alain Kuhn Von Kuhnenfeld

In front, the headlights have a more pronounced shape than before with the LED running lights. While the grilles on the Onyx and Wilderness are different, both are larger and somewhat more aggressive. The Wilderness has plastic cladding around the lower part of the bumper, a smaller grille, and fog lights in a different place. The Onyx trim has less cladding, and the yellow fog light surround stands out. The profiles differ depending on the variant since the Wilderness has the badge on each front door and the model's name spelled out on the lower part of the door. The Onyx and the other trims adopt a more subtle approach. You can get 17-in or 18-in wheels on the Crosstrek; the first is matte black, and the latter is black. In the back, subtle changes once again: the tailgate features new taillights and rear bumper. The ensemble freshens up the look of the car; the Wilderness trim adds extra cladding on the bumper, with the Subaru spelled out. Overall, it's not a complete departure from the previous generation; one could argue that all three generations of the Subaru Crosstrek are nearly identical. 



The Subaru Crosstrek's interior remains largely unchanged as it enters its third generation. The gauge cluster, steering wheel, and window switches are just a few examples of elements carried over from the previous generation. The major changes focus on the central infotainment screen, which now features a large 11.6-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This screen also displays the climate settings with primary controls on both sides. Depending on the trim, buyers can opt for the Harman/Kardon sound system, which enhances the musical experience in this subcompact SUV. Notably, the Crosstrek still includes an AUX cord port alongside USB-A and USB-C ports, a feature that is becoming increasingly rare in new vehicles. Additionally, the cabin is quieter than before, which is always appreciated.



On another note, four types of seats are available in the Subaru Crosstrek. We had premium cloth and yellow accents on the Onyx trim. In contrast, the Wilderness had "All-weather soft-touch" material, similar to leather, with the logo embroidered on the driver and front passenger headrests. Both types of seats were comfortable, although we preferred the cloth seats. Size-wise, the Crosstrek's cabin is roomy enough for a subcompact SUV. Otherwise, you can always step up to the larger Forester or Outback. Most adults will fit in front, but the second row is smaller and can accommodate children better. Most teenagers over 5'9 (175cm) will find it snug. You can see the ISOFIX ports quickly on the seat cushions and rear anchors on the back of the seats. The seats can be folded in a 60/40 fashion, providing a near-flat floor and 1,549L of cargo space. 


Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness engine
Photo by Alain Kuhn Von Kuhnenfeld

Under the hood, the Subaru Crosstrek is available in two engine options. The base 2.0L 4-cylinder BOXER engine deploys 152 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque; our test models were equipped with a larger 2.5L 4-cylinder BOXER engine, increasing power to 182 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque. With a 0-100 kph time of around 8 seconds, it won't blow you away, but the acceleration is linear and predictable. Unfortunately, the manual transmission is gone; it was one of the last SUVs to offer it; all trims have a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and Subaru's legendary Symmetrical All-wheel Drive (AWD) system. The Wilderness trim adds off-road enhancements, like a front skid plate, an improved roof-rack system, all-terrain Yokohama Geolandar 17-inch tires, and longer coil springs and shock absorbers to provide ground clearance. In fact, at 235 mm, it offers the highest ground clearance in its category, surpassing even the other Crosstrek models with their 220 mm ground clearance. 



We drove both trims on dry pavement and in the snow, and in both cases, the vehicle was up to the task. The AWD system continues to be a hallmark of the Japanese automaker; the Wilderness provides a confident feeling to the driver on a snowy trail. You can be pretty confident that you will get to work or the cabin without hassle. Daily, the Crosstrek is similar to the last generation; living with and driving comfortably is still effortless. You can put the vehicle in (SI-Mode), which changes the gear ratios in the CVT but doesn't dramatically make the car faster. Steering is more direct than most competitors; otherwise, it still is a subcompact SUV. The suspension is also tuned toward comfort; there is some body roll when taking tight turns, but it doesn't feel unsafe or dangerous. It still drives like a Subaru: quick enough, precise enough, but, most importantly, reliable in the snow. 


Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness front view
Photo by Vincent Patenaude

Subaru has been making the Crosstrek for over a decade, and it's been a big hit. They didn't see any reason to make significant changes for the third generation. Thanks to its legendary all-wheel-drive system and good reliability, these will continue to sell like hotcakes in colder climates. The Subaru Crosstrek is a great vehicle, but we wish the plug-in hybrid version would be offered again, with better electric range and overall fuel efficiency. Regarding the two trims, the Wilderness is more geared toward the outdoors, while the Onyx is the perfect choice for most buyers. It strikes an outstanding balance between equipment and price.


Subaru Crosstrek Onxy
Photo by Vincent Patenaude

Subaru has lent us this vehicle for one week as a press vehicle. We have no affiliation with Subaru Canada. The above reflects our personal opinion of the car referred to above.


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