New & Used Subaru XV Crosstrek: In Depth
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The Subaru XV Crosstrek is a crossover that joined the Japanese automaker's lineup for the 2013 model year. Similar to the previous Impreza Outback and Outback Sport, the XV Crosstrek is the foundation for Subaru's first hybrid, which was introduced for 2014.
The Crosstrek name (the "XV" stands, Subaru says, for crossover vehicle) is a new label for a model that's significantly different, both visually and functionally, from the compact hatchback Impreza it's based on. It competes with vehicles like the Jeep Patriot and Compass, the MINI Countryman, and the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.
MORE: Read our 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek reviewThe XV Crosstrek rides almost 4 inches higher than the standard Impreza hatch, and adds entirely different front and rear styling, lower body cladding, a roof rack that can carry up to 150 pounds of gear, and some mechanical changes. Those 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. 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.
On the road--and off it too--the Crosstrek is essentially a compact hatchback on steroids, with wide-ranging abilities. It's far from the most powerful car in the class, with a 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine that's smaller than many competitors' engines. 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, we found the CVT can be surprisingly slow to respond.
With the same Subaru all-wheel-drive system used in all its cars, the Crosstrek scrambles ably along particularly challenging muddy or rocky trails—including through deep snow, aided by a whopping 8.7 inches of ground clearance—just as well as many utility vehicles based on trucks. 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.