The 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid probably isn’t going to win over typical hybrid shoppers; but it’s going to charm the traditional Subaru crowd—as well as some shoppers who realize that this small hatchback strikes out a lot of the compromises that have traditionally come with all-wheel drive, and tough-terrain tractability.
A decade ago, so-called mild hybrids were supposed to be the next big thing. The idea behind such models, using a relatively weak electric motor and small battery pack to help out the engine when accelerating, then recover energy when coasting and braking, was that you could boost fuel economy by 20 percent or more, without the complicated planetary gearsets and large battery packs of models like the Toyota Prius.
But mild hybrids never quite caught on. GM’s repeated attempts to recast its simple belt-alternator-starter (BAS) hybrid system could never yield the mileage figures the company had hoped for, and Honda, perhaps the best-seller of mild hybrids with its Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system, couldn’t quite meet expectations on a number of fronts. And they lacked the ‘wow’ factor of being able to start off on electric power only.
More than ‘mild hybrid’ hardware
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid - Quick Drive, July 2014Enlarge Photo
And perhaps more importantly, it’s not a mild hybrid system. This one’s technically a full hybrid system, and if you drive as if there’s an egg under your right foot (with the A/C switched off), yes, you can indeed start off silently, only with electricity; you can even maintain it up past 20 mph at times. And at higher speeds, if you ease off the accelerator, the gasoline engine will sometimes shut off completely, letting you glide without much drag.