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Review: The 2022 Subaru Crosstrek Sport Boosts Power For Brand's Off-Road Friendly Crossover SUV

Every compact SUV has a sweet spot in the line-up, a model that mixes the features most people want without adding unwanted extras that drive up the bottom line. For the 2022 Subaru Crosstrek, it's the Sport trim that serves as the most compelling choice for buyers seeking to take advantage of the crossover's all-terrain capabilities while still snagging enough niceties to keep the daily drive pleasant and comfortable.

2022 Subaru Crosstrek Sport front 3/4

The Crosstrek Sport looks the part, subtly standing apart from other members of its tribe in terms of design, but most important for those who seek to explore the great outdoors is its additional trail-tackling technologies and the worthwhile engine upgrade it brings with it as standard equipment. The eldest member of the ruggedized small SUV set, the Crosstrek is up against an increasingly crowded class of competitors that suggest casual off-roading is well within the reach of drivers who aren't willing to put up with the compromises introduced by larger, more truck-like haulers.

Oldie But Goodie

The current-generation Crosstrek has been kicking around since the 2018 model year, it by now it provides a familiar package of Subaru attributes to those seeking a small, but practical automobile. The vehicle packs 8.7 inches of ground clearance (similar to several Jeep models) to go with its standard all-wheel drive system. Only one other same-size SUV, the Ford Bronco Sport, makes sure to include four-wheel traction free of charge across the board.

2022 Subaru Crosstrek Sport plywood in cargo compartment

It's tempting to think of the Crosstrek as a lifted version of the Subaru Impreza hatchback, and taking a peek at their interior dimensions and cabin furnishings strongly suggested their shared bloodline. In most ways this is a blessing, as the Crosstrek benefits from up to 55 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded, in a space long enough for me to haul a stack of six-foot wood planks by hovering them just over the center console. With the seats up it's a bit tighter back there at just a hair over 20 cubes, but it's still quite usable.

2022 Subaru Crosstrek Sport dashboard

Where the Crosstrek bemoans its Impreza roots is the somewhat basic presentation of its interior. While the infotainment screen and gauge cluster are easy to use and configure, and each of the vehicle's controls felt well-placed, some might find the Subaru's setup more than a little plain. Still, I was grateful for a number of the vehicle's old school details, including console-mounted rocker switches for the heated seats that make them easy to use while wearing winter gloves.

Finally, More Power

How can you tell the Subaru Crosstrek Sport apart in the showroom? The brand has outfitted the outdoorsiest of Crosstreks with a unique grille as well as thicker fender flares and a stylish set of 17-inch wheels, which you'll pretty much only spot if you know what you're looking for.

2022 Subaru Crosstrek Sport front view

The more important difference between the Sport and its kin is discovered from behind the wheel. Unlike most other Crosstreks, the Sport benefits from a new-for-last-year 2.5L four-cylinder engine that's rated at 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque. These numbers might not set the world on fire now that turbo fours are common across the compact SUV scene, but they are a substantial upgrade over its weak 2.0L unit, which is down 30 ponies and 32 lb-ft. The Sport's punched-out four is matched with a continuously-variable automatic transmission (a manual is offered only with the 2.0L), and it returns acceleration and performance that match the class average.

2022 Subaru Crosstrek Sport rear view

Some might lament the lack of Subaru's turbocharged 2.4L engine on the Crosstrek's option sheet, and while it would be fun for STI to get their hands on the smallest Subaru SUV, there's still a lot to like about the Sport's existing setup. The CVT doesn't drone as much as Subaru gearboxes of old, and remains largely transparent unless you floor the gas and peg the revs while merging onto the highway. Fuel consumption is modest, with an EPA rating of 29-mpg combined.

2022 Subaru Crosstrek Sport side view

The relatively light Crosstrek also leverages its Impreza underpinnings to provide respectable handling, which occasionally bounces over big bumps but remains controlled and comfortable in most situations. The Sport's X-Mode system, which handles how power is distributed by its all-wheel drive system, gains a few extra settings to better handle Deep Snow/Mud and Snow/Dirt as compared to other versions of the vehicle.

2022 Subaru Crosstrek Sport cargo area

Essentially, the Crosstrek Sport makes a high tech promise you'll get stuck farther from the trailhead than the base model crossover, but when equipped with the right set of A/T tires it’s more than capable of getting you and the kayaks you've strapped to the roof rack to any isolated lakeside launch point or low spot on the river bank.

Subaru Crosstrek on Nitto Nomad Grappler all-terrain tires

Think of it as an adventure-extender rather than a rock-climber, and you've got a decent idea of what the Crosstrek is capable of.

Solid Starting Point

Priced at just under $28,000, the 2022 Subaru Crosstrek Sport represents a $4,000 or so step-up from the base model. The 2.5L engine is well worth the extra cost of admission, but for anyone who's looking to build a mild overlanding rig that won't shake the teeth out of your jaw as you transition back to asphalt on Monday mornings, the Sport is the best starting point among Subaru's small crossovers.

2022 Subaru Crosstrek Sport rear 3/4

Favored by the aftermarket, and with a strong and supportive community of off-road fans who've latched on to the Crosstrek's potential, it presents an affordable foundation for those who are curious about pushing past the pavement.

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