New & Used Subaru XV Crosstrek: In Depth
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The Subaru XV Crosstrek is a small crossover that joined the Japanese automaker's lineup for the 2013 model year. Similar in concept to the previous Impreza Outback and Outback Sport models, it is based on the Impreza hatchback and offers a little more of an off-road bent. The XV Crosstrek is also the foundation for Subaru's first hybrid, which was introduced for 2014.
The Crosstrek name is a new label for a model that's significantly different, both visually and functionally, from the compact hatchback Impreza it's based on. Subaru says the "XV" simply stands for crossover vehicle. It competes with vehicles like the Jeep Patriot and Compass, the MINI Countryman, and the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. New, slightly smaller rivals are on the horizon, in the form of the Jeep Renegade, Fiat 500X, Chevy Trax, Mazda CX-3, and Honda HR-V.
MORE: Read our 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek review
The XV Crosstrek rides almost 4 inches higher than the standard Impreza hatch. It gets entirely different front and rear fascia styling, unique lower body cladding, and a roof rack that can carry up to 150 pounds of gear. Mechanical changes include a beefed-up suspension, larger wheels and tires, structural reinforcements, bigger brakes, and a larger fuel tank. The Crosstrek is also one of very few vehicles in the compact crossover class that's rated for towing—up to 1,500 pounds.
The Crosstrek's interior is largely carried over from the Impreza hatchback, though it gets more rugged upholstery, along with a removable, rubberized cargo tray that can be easily hosed off. Just as in the Impreza, seating is well-placed to make the most of the interior, with room for four adults and a backseat that's a bit tight in legroom but not lacking in headroom. While there are soft-touch materials on the dash, some of the interior trims and details look no better than what you'd expect for the Crosstrek's $21,995 base price. Improvements were made to interior materials in the Impreza for 2015, and we wouldn't be surprised if they were to migrate to the Crosstrek in the near future.
On the road--and off it too--the Crosstrek is essentially a compact hatchback on steroids, giving it more wide-ranging abilities. Its 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine means it's far from the most powerful model in the class. It feels reasonably perky with the five-speed manual gearbox, and the XV Crosstrek accelerates well enough with the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). But when a quick burst of power is needed, the CVT can be slow to respond.
With the same all-wheel-drive systems used in all Subaru's cars—they're actually different for CVT and manual models—the Crosstrek scrambles ably along particularly challenging muddy or rocky trails as well as through deep snow. It's aided by a whopping 8.7 inches of ground clearance, and that combined with its small size lets it get through trails and situations like many truck-based utility vehicles. It rides well, and its compact dimensions and precise steering make tight maneuvers easy whether on-road or off.
The 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid is the first-ever hybrid from the brand, and while it doesn't produce soaring fuel-efficiency ratings, it will likely find an eager audience among the brand's often eco-aware buyers. The new hybrid powertrain inserts a small 10-kilowatt (13.4-hp) electric motor between the engine and CVT, though it's there largely to assist the engine and can propel the vehicle from a stop on electricity alone only if you're willing to accelerate very, very gently--and there's no one behind you.
In the real world, the hybrid pack has a pretty minimal impact on fuel economy--it's a mild-hybrid system that only kicks in at 40 mph or less. The real allure of the 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid model is a lengthy list of upgrades to its suspension and noise insulation that make the hybrid a considerably more pleasant car in which to spend time than the noisy, occasionally wandery conventional Crosstrek.
Gas mileage is a strong selling point for the Crosstrek—and a real reason to choose it over one of the taller or larger crossovers. Its EPA ratings range up to 25 mpg city, 33 highway with the CVT, or 23/30 with the manual. The hybrid improves on that a bit, at a combined 31 mpg rating (28 mpg city, 34 mpg highway)--not as much as hybrid buyers may expect--although we failed to see any real-world improvement over the CVT-equipped Crosstrek in a road test of almost 500 miles.
The Crosstrek is a strong value for the money, with keyless entry, air conditioning, cruise control, and Bluetooth connectivity all included on the base Premium--which may be the best pick for buyers who'll use the car off road to haul sporting gear and athletic people. The Limited model adds automatic climate control, leather upholstery, and a fold-down rear armrest. An available combination navigation and audio system brings voice commands, test-massaging ability, and XM NavTraffic.
The IIHS calls the Crosstrek a Top Safety Pick; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given the XV Crosstrek four stars for frontal crash and rollover safety, on the other hand, but it earns five stars (the highest rating) for side impact, and in the overall rating.
For 2015, Subaru has made changes to available technology. The infotainment setups have been completely updated, with touch screens standard on all models; the entry-level system uses a 6.2-inch display, while the pricier trim levels get a 7.0-inch screen with support for multi-touch gestures. Subaru's camera-based EyeSight safety tech is also available on higher trims, bringing features like lane-departure warning and collision warning to the little crossover hatch.
Subaru has also announced that it will sell a Crosstrek Special Edition model for 2015. The Special Edition will be limited to a run of 1,000 cars, each painted in very bright Sunrise Yellow paint that is otherwise unavailable on the model. The SE uses the Premium 2.0i model as its basis and adds several extras, including a power moonroof, unique darkened headlight units, and Subaru's new 7.0-inch touch-screen infotainment system.