Compact, flexible, maneuverable, and decent on fuel, the Subaru Crosstrek hit the market in 2012 as the smallest Subaru utility vehicle in its lineup.
Before long, the XV Crosstrek became a popular pick for active couples and families who wanted do-anything traction and just-right sizing from a versatile and compact ute without an enormous footprint.
Key reasons to consider a used Crosstrek include fuel mileage, flexibility, the available multitude of accessories, Subaru’s reputation for safety and high resale values, and the blessed combination of all-wheel drive (AWD) and an available five-speed manual transmission. Later models dropped the “XV” part of the name, but added Subaru’s Eye-Sight safety and hazard-detection system as an option, while high-output headlights, Bluetooth, heated seats, automatic climate control, and a full multimedia interface were all on offer.
ALSO SEE: 2018 Subaru Crosstrek Review
All units ran Subaru’s Symmetrical AWD and came powered by a flat-four engine with 148 horsepower. The available automatic transmission is Subaru’s Lineartronic continually variable transmission or CVT.
Cross-shopping exercises should include Crosstrek competitors like the Jeep Renegade, Nissan Juke, Honda HR-V, and Chevrolet Trax. The Crosstrek stands out for many shoppers with its capable looks, proven AWD technology, and a solid and confident driving experience in any weather.
#1: Check On The Maintenance
As there’s a good chance that the Crosstrek model you’re considering is still covered by some portion of the factory warranty, you’ll want to confirm that all maintenance routines and fluid changes (including oil changes) have been carried out, and that none have been skipped or are outstanding. Keeping on top of all scheduled maintenance, especially oil changes, is vital to maintaining the Crosstrek’s warranty in good standing. Cross-reference the service schedule in the back of the owner’s manual against any service records the seller is able to provide. If they don’t have records on hand, they may be able to obtain them from the dealer or shop that performed the work.
Can’t tell where the Crosstrek you’re considering sits within its servicing schedule? Budget a few extra bucks for a full check-up, tune-up, and fluid change for maximum confidence.
#2: Validate the CVT transmission’s past or upcoming fluid changes
Confirm that any past transmission fluid changes to models with the CVT transmission have been carried out at a Subaru dealer, as the drain and fill procedure, and the fluid itself, are fairly specific. Improperly changing the fluid in this type of transmission or refilling it with the incorrect type of transmission fluid can cause problems and void your warranty. Note that the Crosstrek’s transmission fluid change intervals shorten when the vehicle is used in severe conditions like stop and go driving, extreme cold, or for towing. Stay on top of fluid changes to the CVT, and consider changing the fluid early and often, for maximum long-term durability.
ALSO SEE: 9 Things to Check Before Buying a Used Family Hauler
#3: Check the Features
Though problems are reported sporadically, test drivers are advised to check their used Crosstrek candidate for proper operation of the Bluetooth interface, all steering-wheel mounted controls, the climate control system and air conditioner, and the seat heaters. If any of these features aren’t working properly, you’ll want to know about it before you fork over your hard-earned cash. Note that non-functional steering-wheel controls may reveal the need for a new clock-spring, which creates an electrical connection between the steering wheel and the rest of the vehicle, and that a clogged cabin air filter is a common cause of AC non-functionality.
#4: Beware Wonky Sensors
Like many vehicles, even a small problem with a single sensor in the engine or driveline can cascade into problems with other systems, causing problems galore. If the cluster in the Crosstrek you’re considering is lit up like a Christmas tree with multiple warning lights, don’t panic: it could be as simple as a bad throttle position or camshaft position sensor, or even a broken brake pedal switch. None of these is a big issue to remedy, though they can cause multiple issues elsewhere in the vehicle. The least stressful way to deal with multiple warning lights and non-functional systems like the Cruise Control and Traction Control is to have the vehicle inspected by a Subaru technician, who can track the problem down in quick order.
#5: Got Eye-Sight? Check the Windshield
Subaru’s high-tech Eye-Sight safety system relies on two cameras mounted inside of the vehicle having a clear view of the road ahead, through the windshield. As such, be sure to scrutinize the condition of the windshield, noting that even small cracks and chips can turn into big cracks with little warning, possibly affecting the operation of the Eye-Sight system. For future reference, remember that replacing a windshield on an Eye-Sight equipped Subaru may also require full system recalibration at the dealer.
#6: Beware Excessive Oil Consumption
Some units of the 2.0-liter flat-four engine found in the Crosstrek (and other Subaru applications) were affected by a well-documented issue with oil consumption, where engine oil is consumed at a higher-than-acceptable rate. Subaru made good by reimbursing some affected owners oil, engine repair, and more. The warranty on affected engines was extended, in come cases, too.
The cause of the disappearing engine oil seemed to be faulty piston rings. Note that this issue does not affect every single unit, or even most of them, but it’s worth being aware of. Do some digging on the internet, and talk to your local Subaru service advisor if you have any concerns. On your test drive, be sure to check the oil level and condition, and during ownership, while still under warranty, be sure to report any oil consumption concerns to your dealer service department, having them documented as early as possible. This can help speed any warranty-related repairs if required. Note that from 2014 and on, it seems like Subaru corrected this issue at the factory.
Your Best Bet?: Though the potential oil-consumption issue dulls the appeal of the Crosstrek slightly as a used buy, other commonly reported issues are all fairly minor and should be easy to detect and address. For maximum peace of mind, a 2014 or newer unit with remaining warranty, all service records, and a clean bill of health after a Pre Purchase Inspection (PPI) at a Subaru dealer is advised.
Good To Know
NHTSA 5/5 Stars Overall
IIHS: Top Safety Pick