A blast from the past. It’s been ten years since the Crosstrek debuted at the New York Auto Show, and little has changed since then. This compact SUV has always been a highly competent all-weather vehicle, but it’s showing its age in key areas. While rivals have their dashes dominated by tactile touchscreens, base Crosstreks make do with a 6.5-inch unit that’s not going to impress anyone. Higher trims receive an 8.0-inch display, but it’s hard to escape the sense that the deeply-buried USB ports and underwhelming stereo come from a bygone age.

Subaru has been more successful in keeping the Crosstrek’s appearance contemporary, mainly by covering it in plastic cladding. It’s not a thing of beauty, but it’ll shrug off knocks in car parks. Inside and out, everything’s screwed together with that rock-solid Subaru engineering that suggests this car will be running long after contemporary European and American rivals have been scrapped.

Automatic for the people. Another area where the Crosstrek shows its age is safety – particularly on the base $23,570 manual model. Stick versions miss out on modern safety aids like automatic emergency braking and active lane control, which is pretty unforgivable in 2022. However, a key reason for choosing a manual box is to maximize performance, and you absolutely won’t be doing that in this car.

We’ll get to power in a minute, but for safety reasons alone, Subaru’s slick CVT transmission is an essential selection in the dealership. It also returns five MPG more on the combined cycle than the thirsty manual.

The Crosstrek range comprises four models featuring the usual incremental improvements. There’s also a $36,770 Hybrid model, replicating the specs of flagship Limited trim while adding a battery pack that can propel it for 17 miles on electric-only power. This boosts performance, but not as much as you’d think since the Hybrid weighs 500 lb more than its fossil fuel-powered siblings. It’s also on sale in a limited number of states at present, which will rule it out for certain buyers.

Power is nothing without control. With every Crosstrek featuring Subaru’s legendary all-wheel-drive system, it provides more grip than you’ll ever need – especially given its lack of power. The base 152 HP flat-four gas engine is lethargic, the 182 HP 2.5-liter engine powering Sport and Limited models is no firecracker, and the CVT box neuters acceleration even further. It has a habit of kicking up the rev needle without actually doing much, though at least noise and vibrations are more muted than in other Subarus.

Nobody will buy this car for its performance, but then it’s not trying to be the new Impreza WRX, despite its hill descent control and standard AWD. The Crosstrek is a wellies-and-gloves car, one which sticks like glue to the slipperiest of road surfaces. Speaking of gloves, you can wear them while using the climate knobs, which is useful if your day generally starts with an ice scraper in one hand.

This car rides well, even on terrain that would stump less able competitors, thanks to independent suspension with almost nine inches of ground clearance. If you go for a CVT model, safety is strong, though driver assistance technology is lacking by the standards of rivals like the BMW X3 and Audi Q3.

Winning the space race. Space is one area where the five-seater Crosstrek excels. Its substance-over-style design means there’s up to 55.3 cubic feet of storage in the boot and over 36 inches of rear legroom, though shoulder space is less generous. There’s loads of space up front, while the cloth upholstery on base models shrugs off wear as easily as the synthetic fabric fitted to Sport trim – or Limited’s leather. This being a Subaru, you can augment the cabin space with a variety of clamp-on devices like rooftop cargo boxes and pet barriers.

Final thoughts. The Crosstrek is an acquired taste, with fairly limited appeal. The infotainment system is a long way off the pace and so is its performance, especially in the thirsty and sparsely-equipped manual models. This is clearly a 2010s design that’s still being marketed a decade later.

Yet the Crosstrek remains likable, despite its age and lack of wow-factor. It’s fairly spacious and comfortable inside, the ride’s good, standard AWD makes it a go-anywhere companion, and it’s easy to drive with neutral steering and well-judged handling. Plus, like all Subarus, it’ll last for decades. Buy it with your head, but leave your heart outside on the dealership forecourt.

Check prices for the 2022 Subaru Crosstrek »