The distinctive Sunshine Orange exterior on the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i makes its visible in even the busiest of parking lots.The 2017 Fiat 500 Abarth is a scrappy little beast with an exceptional exhaust note.

Subaru Crosstrek comes armed with new equipment more high-strength steel

We’ve been longtime fans of Subaru crossovers/SUVs and the recent test of the 2018 Crosstrek 2.0i Premium (middle of three 2.0i trim levels) confirmed our support for the brand. With a loyal customer base that continues to purchase its models, IHS Markit U.S. data said 98 percent of Subarus sold in the past 10 years are still on the road.

There is a substantial list of new equipment on the 2018 2.0i models, including a totally redesigned Subaru Global Platform that uses more high-strength steel to provide 70 percent more rigidity, plus creates a quieter and smoother ride.

With new exterior and interior design attributes, our likes for new features on the 2.0i models include Active Torque Vectoring (part of the Vehicle Dynamics Control system) that provides added stability and handling; a new X-Mode with Hill Descent Control; a raised suspension with Stablex dampers that allows for 8.7 inches of ground clearance, a plus for off-roading; and a new Subaru Starlink Multimedia system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Pandora Integration, navigation, and other connectivity; plus an available Tire Pressure Monitoring System with individual wheel pressure display.

There is also a revised 2.0-L Boxer engine with direct fuel injection mated to a new six-speed manual transmission that is standard (a seven-speed Lineartronic CVT with paddle shifters is available). Mileage on the Crosstrek can be up to 33 MPG/highway and 27/city. The six-speed manual is a dream to shift and provided us with a pleasurable driving experience.

Standard on the 2.0i Premium and Limited models is the Subaru STARLINK Safety & Security system that includes several cool features from automatic collision notification to stolen vehicle recovery. Those two models also have Blind-Spot Detection and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert systems, as well as the Eye-Sight Driver Assist Technology (pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control and Lane Keep Assist, new to Crosstrek for 2018). All models have rear view cameras. Crosstrek received the 2017 IIHS Top Safety Pick+ designation.

Another feature we really like is the wider rear gate and larger cargo area on the 2018 Crosstrek with its 60/40 split rear seats. When folded down, the cargo capacity is an exceptional 55.3 cubic feet (20.8 cubic feet with seats up).

Perhaps our favorite feature in the Crosstrek is the Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive system that is designed to optimize traction, stability, and wheel balance in all weather or road conditions. We’ve tested this system (standard on all Subaru models except BRZ) on- and off-road in snow, ice, and mud conditions and the AWD performed as well as any system we have ever tested. It reacts quickly to variable surfaces and provides peace of mind that the vehicle will remain stable and supply traction.

Overall, we loved our test of the Crosstrek. It provided comfortable seating, stable ride and handling characteristics, plus plentiful passenger and cargo space. Base prices range from just under $22,000 to just over $30,000 depending on the model selected.


Zesty Abarth is a fun small car to drive

Aside from the 2017 Fiat 500 Abarth Hatchback being a cute FWD car, it feels like driving a hot rod with its 1.4-L turbocharged engine and its throaty sounding exhaust that exudes power and thrust. Shifting the five-speed manual transmission is like driving a much beefier muscle car.

The 16-valve, SOHC, MultiAir, inline four-cylinder engine produces 160 HP and 170 lb.-ft. of torque with the manual, but it feels like more.

Our tester had plenty of creature and safety comforts that ranged from Hill Start Assist and Rear Park Assist, a three-mode electronic stability control system to performance brakes, plus owners can participate in the Abarth Track Experience, high-performance track time at the Bob Bondurant School in Phoenix, Ariz.

The Abarth also offers a performance suspension, performance spoiler, red brake calipers, power heated mirrors, fog lamps, leather-wrapped shift knob, aluminum pedal covers, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and more to add to the sportiness of this small but comfortable car.

Instrumentation and controls using the Fiat Uconnect 5.0 were easy to use and provided complete audio and navigation on a seven-inch screen.

While the Abarth we tested offered generous standard equipment for a price of $19,995, we did have three options that enhanced the overall experience. An $895 package added heated front seats, SiriusXM for a year, and an upgraded climate control system. There was also an $495 Abarth Red Roof Package that included two-tone paint, red roof, colored mirrors, black seats, and more, as well as GPS Navigation for $595. All together it tallied just under $22,000, an alluring price for a genuinely performance-oriented coupe that was delightful to drive.


Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.