SERIOUSLY REDESIGNED: With the all-new 2018 Crosstrek, Subaru delivers a much-improved CUV that’s easy to love

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Subaru takes its customers seriously.

As its sales soar, it’s clear more shoppers are taking the little Japanese automaker seriously as well.

Subaru practically invented the now wildly popular crossover utility vehicle segment with its Outback, an all-wheel-drive station wagon with raised and retuned suspension based on the Legacy station wagon. Released for the 1995 model year, this compact was the progenitor of the basic template for nearly every CUV that followed.

The latest Subaru iteration on this theme is the compact Crosstrek, a small hatchback given the Outback treatment to elevate, literally, the Impreza model into CUV territory.

This second generation, released as a 2018 model, is bound to expand beyond the popularity of the first generation. Restyled with a more edgy look and fractionally larger size, Subaru has addressed virtually every shortcoming in the earlier model.

Where the first version transmitted excessive road, wind and drivetrain noise into the cabin, now the Crosstrek is impressively quiet.

Rather than the previous somewhat low-grade interior materials, now pleasing fabrics, trim designs and soft-touch surfaces abound, with attractive styling and utility of dash, gauges, and infotainment controls. Contrasting stitch work around the cabin adds a touch of class.

Re-formed seats now provide long-distance comfort, particularly in the rear with generous space for passengers. Outward visibility, a longtime Subaru trait, gives all occupants an expansive view.

Built on a new chassis design, the little hatch is tick-tight, with ne’ery a squeak nor rattle in contrast with some earlier Subarus. Handling too is much improved, as is steering and braking feel.

Subaru has refined its continuously variable automatic transmission to the point where it is among the best on the market. Too bad the highly revised “boxer” engine still delivers merely adequate power; it’s a trade-off for excellent fuel mileage.

With its excellent standard all-wheel drive, generous 8.7-inch ground clearance, surprising off-pavement capabilities and the company’s steadfast focus on safety, the Crosstrek is bound to retain its current devotees, while creating new legions of adherents to the marque.

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