2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
May 4, 2015

The 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek is a small hatchback with an attitude, combining some extra capability with efficient engines and standard all-wheel drive.

It may have the profile of a compact hatchback, but the 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek is really a small utility vehicle that offers the benefits of an all-wheel-drive SUV in a smaller package. It has its roots in the Subaru Impreza five-door hatchback, which has been modified by boosting the ground clearance, beefing up the suspension and other mechanical parts, and adding fender flares and tougher-looking front and rear fascias along with a standard roof rack.

The result is a surprisingly distinct variant on the same sheetmetal that justifies its separate model name (although we wish Subaru would ditch the "XV" and just call it the Crosstrek, as everyone seems to when discussing the Japanese maker's smallest crossover utility vehicle). The Crosstrek arrived for the 2013 model year, with a hybrid version added for 2014 that makes up a small proportion of overall sales.

Those sales, by the way, are surging as U.S. buyers celebrate lower gas prices by loading up on utility vehicles and trucks. The Crosstrek has sold so well, in fact, that Subaru has had to sacrifice some supplies of standard (and less expensive) Imprezas to make room for all the utility versions its customers are snapping up.

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The specs reinforce the Crosstrek's utility credentials. Ground clearance is raised to 8.7 inches, and the Crosstrek has more engine cooling, a larger gas tank, some suspension and structural reinforcements, and good approach and departure angles (18 degrees and nearly 28 degrees, respectively). With Subaru's standard all-wheel drive distributing power among all four wheels, the Impreza-based crossover might be one of the best small vehicles for snowy driveways and dirt, gravel, and rutted roads.

The model range can be considered in the same vein as a good pair of cross-trainer shoes: sufficiently sturdy to handle a variety of different uses, but not specialized to any one particular duty cycle at the expense of any others.

The XV Crosstrek has a ramped-up, rugged appearance that's surprisingly different in stance from its Impreza hatchback base. But with the exception of some extra noise and more vague on-road behavior, it still handles pretty much like a passenger car--and it offers versatile and impressive cargo capacity for ski gear, camping supplies, or just groceries and other everyday cargo. Subaru also notes that the hybrid version's battery pack is stowed under the deck, meaning that its cargo volume is largely unchanged from the conventional version.

The standard XV Crosstrek comes with a 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter flat-four engine paired either with a five-speed manual gearbox or Subaru's Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT). 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.

The Crosstrek Hybrid is Subaru's first gas-electric effort. The system only adds a mile mileage boost--it's a mild-hybrid system that only kicks in at 40 mph or less. But the real allure of the Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid model is a lengthy list of upgrades to its suspension and noise insulation that make it a considerably more pleasant car in which to spend time than the noisy, occasionally wandering conventional Crosstrek. The hybrid operates much like Honda's mild-hybrid system--meaning it's there largely to restart the engine, capture braking energy to recharge the nickel-metal-hydride battery pack, and otherwise add supplementary torque so the gasoline engine doesn't have to work as hard.

There's a lot that's appealing to a wide range of everyday needs here—like a smooth, refined ride that's a step above rival models like the Nissan Juke, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, and MINI Countryman. But we've found that the Crosstrek wanders easily at highway speeds, with numb steering and some susceptibility to crosswinds. It's also astoundingly noisy on certain rough types of pavement. The hybrid model has five upgrades to its front suspension and a dozen improvements to noise and vibration insulation--which together pretty much cure those problems. Non-hybrid models get some, but not all, of these changes for 2015—and we'll revisit this impression as soon as we've spent time in the 2015 XV Crosstrek.

Below 50 mph, handling is surprisingly nimble, and the Crosstrek rides well and soaks up harshness from trails and gravel roads with great competence. It's not particularly quick, with less than 150 hp moving more than 3,200 pounds for a fully-loaded Crosstrek Limited. The five-speed manual feels more agile, against an occasional lag in power delivery with the CVT.

The cabin of the XV Crosstrek is largely the same as the Impreza, with some changes to fabrics, meaning adults can get in and out of all four doors, and four of them will fit fine front and rear. All models include a rubberized cargo tray that's easily removed and hosed off, and the electronic-circuit pattern stamped into the rubber of the hybrid's tray is a nice touch. The roof rack on all models is standard and can carry up to 150 pounds. Crosstrek models come rated to tow up to 1,500 pounds, too. Materials and trims are only average for this price range, though, perhaps fitting Subaru's utilitarian image. Some interfaces for audio and trip-computer displays also feel clunky and outdated.

With a starting price around $22,000, the 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Premium (the lowest trim level) is a strong value. The Hybrid starts around $25,000. Then there's the Limited model, the more upscale trim level. That adds leather upholstery, leather shift-knob and steering-wheel trim, automatic climate control, and a fold-down rear-seat armrest with cupholders. All Crosstreks come with keyless entry, air conditioning, power accessories, and cruise control, as well--of course--as all-wheel drive. They also get a step-up display audio system with 7.0-inch screen, rear camera and HD Radio, and a navigation system with XM NavTraffic, voice control, and text-messaging ability is optional. Adding options and the mandatory delivery fee can push that up toward $28,000, however, which brings the Crosstrek into competition with more traditional compact crossovers, and the top-of-the-line Crosstrek Hybrid just crosses $30,000.

For the 2015 model year, Subaru is offering its EyeSight accident-avoidance technology. It uses cameras to power lane-departure and collision warning systems. Subaru has also updated the infotainment offerings for 2015, with a 6.2-inch touch screen standard and a 7.0-inch screen with multi-touch gestures included on upper trim levels.

Gas mileage is excellent for a crossover (the best in the class, really), at up to 28 mpg combined (25 mpg city, 33 mpg highway) with the CVT. It falls to 26 mpg combined, or 23 mpg city/30 mpg highway, 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.

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2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Styling

The 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek is what it appears to be: a compact hatchback, raised and made a lot more rugged.

The 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek looks considerably different from the Impreza hatchback with which it shares its underpinings and sheetmetal. Subaru raises the suspension, restyles the plastic bumpers, and adds dark gray body cladding to achieve the more macho look of the XV Crosstrek. The looks are a big part of the differentiation between the two, although the Crosstrek does offer some added capability mainly due to its stance and grabbier tires.

Lower-body cladding accentuates the XV's 8.7 inches of ground clearance--almost 4 inches higher than the Impreza--and raises the whole vehicle's profile. It's capped by a tough-looking roof rack that's standard across the board. A palette of brighter colors, including an almost-lime green and a tangerine orange, stand in bright contrast to the silver, white, black, and maroon of the more pedestrian Impreza line.

The interior is largely the same as in the Impreza, though some trim differs and the seats have a more rugged upholstery material. Simple, straight-across lines maximize interior volume, and Subaru's traditional analog instrument cluster and steering-wheel controls keep driver focused on the basics. In general, the dash is sporty but straightforward, a good mix of utilitarian and stylish.

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7

2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Performance

For a variety of tough roads and climates, the 2015 XV Crosstrek is one of the most capable compacts -- although it's a little short on highway performance.

The Subaru XV Crosstrek is essentially an Impreza hatchback that's been raised considerably, given bigger wheels and tires, a larger gas tank, and bigger front brakes--plus assorted reinforcements and strengthening to make it tougher in off-road conditions. It is available with the same 2.0-liter engine as the Impreza, as well as with Subaru's first hybrid system.

Two transmissions are available--a five-speed manual gearbox or Subaru's continuously variable transmission (CVT), which remains one of our favorite of the breed--and the all-wheel-drive hardware varies accordingly. Manual Crosstreks come with a viscous-coupling all-wheel-drive system with locking center differential, while CVT versions come with an electronically managed continuously variable transfer-clutch system. Both send power to the wheels with the most grip, but the manual-gearbox version provides a more direct, connected driving feel.

That said, the Crosstrek isn't particularly fast. Its 2.0-liter flat-four engine produces only 148 horsepower, and it has roughly 3,200 pounds in a loaded Crosstrek Limited. The torque peak of 145 lb-ft isn't reached until 4,200 rpm, so the car is neither sprightly nor fast. The manual version responds more quickly when a burst of power is needed, but the Lineartronic CVT is more fuel-efficient--you decide which is more important.

Under light to medium loads, the CVT delivers nonchalant acceleration, but when you floor it, the powertrain loses its composure for a moment, revving the engine high up into its range, but producing more noise than added thrust. The system's control logic causes the CVT to bog down for a second or two if you floor it, before letting the revs rise, and it remains just as quick if you ease into a full-throttle takeoff. CVT drivers have a workaround, though, in the form of six pre-set ratios built into the steering-wheel paddle-shifters.

The XV Crosstrek Hybrid adds a 10-kilowatt (13.4-hp) electric motor between a specially tuned version of the 2.0-liter engine and the CVT, with its battery pack located under the rear deck floor at a cost of just 1.7 cubic feet of cargo space lost. On the road, the Hybrid switches off its engine at stops, and while the motor is less powerful than those in most other hybrids, its 48 lb-ft of torque can move the car from a stop using all-electric acceleration if the driver has a very gentle foot--and no other cars following. It also provides regenerative braking to recharge the battery, using otherwise wasted energy, at speeds up to 40 mph.

With the added weight of the hybrid system, Subaru has fitted special lightweight 17-inch alloy wheels and automatic grille shutters to the Crosstrek Hybrid, helping it achieve a combined gas-mileage rating of 31 mpg--the highest of any Impreza or XV Crosstrek model. We didn't see a real-world difference between the regular CVT and the Hybrid Imprezas in our tests, which had more highways speeds than around-town stop-and-go traffic.

The Crosstrek is capable of anything from smooth pavement to mild off-roading, and good for any combination of torrential rain, blizzards, muddy tracks, gravel mountain roads, or for that matter, your daily commute. It also has good approach and departure angles (of 18 degrees and nearly 28 degrees, respectively), and with its all-wheel-drive system, which is always sending power to all four wheels, we think it might be one of the best vehicles yet for snowy roads and driveways.

It doesn't handle as well as the lower Impreza, but compared to most all-wheel-drive compact crossovers (except perhaps Subaru's own Forester), it's relatively crisp and athletic in corners. It's taller than the Impreza--with 8.7 inches of ground clearance--but it doesn't feel tippy at all. Subaru's electric power steering is light to use, but crisply weighted, and overall the Crosstrek feels like driving a car, rather than a taller small crossover. Nonetheless, it can tow up to 1,500 pounds, while some competitors--the Mini Cooper Countryman, Nissan Juke, and Jeep Compass, for example--have no rated tow capacity at all.

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2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Comfort & Quality

The 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek has a cabin that's definitely more utilitarian than stylish; but it's comfortable and very useful.

The 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek is skewed toward capability over luxury. Subaru is known for its workmanlike all-wheel-drive cars and crossovers, and if you're okay with utilitarian and not in need of lavish features, the basic Crosstrek will suit you well. In the more expensive models, the Crosstrek does struggle to justifying its price tag.

Interior materials are basic, though hardly unpleasant. They've evolved from those Subaru used 10 years ago, but again, the word utilitarian comes to mind. Subarus are tools for drivers who use their cars for more varied and tougher tasks than your average commuter car, and the finishes and trim reflect that--almost like a Jeep. The dashboard is topped with a soft-touch surface, however, which brings better first impressions--though we find the material almost sticky in hot or humid climates.

Seating is upright and accommodates four adults comfortably. The driver's seat adjusts for height as well as sliding and reclining. The rear seat is well contoured for adults, and a small knob on the outside top corners of the 60/40 split rear seat back make it easy to flip forward from inside the car. Unless the front seats have been moved as far back as they'll go, in fact, you can do it with one arm.

Subaru designed the cargo area not to maximize volume measurements, but to fit actual gear that its buyers use every day. After spending time with the Crosstrek and crawling around the rear, we're inclined to agree. The load bay is pleasantly box-like, with a flat, wide cargo floor without intrusive strut towers. A removable rubber tray in the main cargo area cleans off--or hoses down--easily, and there's a sturdy roof rack that will carry up to 150 pounds in addition. The XV Crosstrek Hybrid model sacrifices less than 2 cubic feet of cargo volume to fit the battery pack under the load floor.

The ride quality of the XV Crosstrek is good on everything from smooth-surface highways to choppy two-lane country roads. There's little pitching or jarring on rocky trails or potholed tracks. Perhaps due to its elevated height, however, there's noticeable nose-dive on hard braking--more than you'll find in almost any other car or crossover--and a noticeable rebound as the car comes to a stop. But with larger-diameter front disc brakes than the Impreza, the Crosstrek stops confidently and offers a reassuringly solid pedal feel.

Because of its loftier height, the Crosstrek is more susceptible to crosswinds than its Impreza hatch cousin. On the highway, it also tends to wander, requiring frequent corrections to maintain a straight path. This is likely due to the off-road-friendlier tires that are fitted, and may also be a result of modified suspension geometry from the lift it receives. On rough highways, interior noise can reach a level where normal conversation is difficult. This again, is likely a result of the knobbier tires, which can be more talkative than smoother street-oriented rubber.

The Hybrid model, which was added for 2014, gets a dozen improvements to suppress noise and vibration, along with five separate upgrades to its front suspension. Together, they make it by far the most pleasant Crosstrek to drive. The high-speed wandering, susceptibility to sidewinds, and general nervousness we noticed in the conventional model is largely gone, though the steering remains somewhat numb. And it's far quieter on rough road surfaces--courtesy of added damping and insulation in eight different areas, new engine mounts, an insulation layer inside the windshield, and even a thicker front floorpan stamping. While Subaru has made changes to the standard Impreza to reduce road noise, the same hasn't been applied to the gas-engine XV Crosstrek, at least not yet.

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9

2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Safety

The Crosstrek has a great set of safety ratings; and with EyeSight active safety available for 2015 it's an even better bet.

The 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek fares very well in safety testing and also benefits from the same good outward visibility and ease of maneuvering as the related Impreza hatchback..

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given the XV Crosstrek four stars for frontal crash and rollover safety, but it earns a full five stars for side impact, and in the Overall rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) deems the XV Crosstrek a Top Safety Pick+, awarding it the top rating of "good" in every test it conducted, including both small- and moderate-overlap front crash, plus side- and rear-impact testing, as well as roof crush.

For the first time, Subaru's EyeSight active-safety suite is offered on the XV Crosstrek. Included in the top Limited model and available in the Premium, EyeSight packages together many impressive active-safety technologies—adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane-departure warning, blind-spot detection, lane-change assist, and rear cross-traffic alert. And with the latest-generation version introduced this year, it has a wider detection range for vehicles and obstacles.

Subaru has added rollover sensors for the side-curtain bags to all Crosstreks; that's a feature the Impreza doesn’t get. Outward visibility from the XV Crosstrek is much better than in most other crossover vehicles, due to its reasonably low beltline, relatively thin pillars front and rear, and enough rear and rear-side glass to give you a wrap-around view. Like in the Impreza, there are small windows in the A-pillars to add some extra line of sight.

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2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Features

Infotainment systems get an upgrade in the 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek, addressing the only former shortcoming of this excellent value.

The 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek is available in three trim levels with two different powertrains.

That base Crosstrek includes standard air conditioning, power accessories, cruise control, keyless entry, and a rear cargo tray that can be removed to hose it off, along with a roof rack that'll hold up to 150 pounds of cargo. The base audio system includes audio streaming and hands-free voice commands, courtesy of Bluetooth, along with iPod connectivity and a USB jack, but its small sizes limits the number of characters visible at any time, so finding the songs you want can be tricky.

Move up to the XV Crosstrek Limited model, and you get automatic climate control; leather upholstery, shift knob, and steering wheel; and a rear-seat armrest that folds down to provide cupholders. On top of that, the audio system gets HD radio and a 4.3-inch display screen, plus a rear-view camera for backing up.

For 2015, Subaru is making its EyeSight accident-avoidance technology available on the Crosstrek in a package on Premium and Limited models. It is packaged with a system that illuminates a fog lamp on either side while turning.

Finally, the top-level XV Crosstrek model is the Hybrid, which starts at $25,995. It adds a color multi-function display that shows the energy flow of the hybrid powertrain. All Crosstrek Hybrids come standard with the All-Weather Package that bundles heated front seats, heated mirrors, and a de-icer for the windshield wipers. The rearview camera is also standard, and the Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid Limited model--to give it its full name--adds the same suite of Limited options as on gasoline models, plus a power moonroof.

Subaru has completely revamped the infotainment options for 2015. The base unit is now a 6.2-inch touch screen that is paired with a rearview camera and smartphone integration through Aha, iHeartRadio, and Pandora. The step-up system, included on Premium with EyeSight and Limited models, uses a 7.0-inch screen with multi-touch gestures and includes satellite radio, voice controls, two USB ports, and six speakers. Navigation is available above that.

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2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Fuel Economy

The Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid offers 31 mpg combined, which is quite impressive for a rugged crossover.

The 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek is available with the same powertrain as the Impreza hatchback or with a hybrid powertrain, Subaru's first.

The non-hybrid Crosstrek has the lower fuel economy, at 28 mpg combined with the CVT and 26 mpg combined with the standard five-speed manual gearbox. The Crosstrek Hybrid is rated at 31 mpg combined (29 mpg city, 33 mpg highway), against the base Impreza's 30 mpg combined (27 mpg city, 36 mpg highway) when fitted with Subaru's continuously variable transmission (CVT), which is the only transmission option in the hybrid.

These are still quite good numbers for five-door vehicles fitted with all-wheel drive, though the Crosstrek doesn't have the storage capacity of a compact crossover like the Subaru Forester. We'd also note that CVT versions of all Subarus get better mileage than the manual in real-world driving; in a limited first drive we saw nearly 30 mpg in mixed conditions. Notably, however, we saw little improvement over the standard model when driving the new Hybrid over several hundred miles, although admittedly our test included a majority of highway speeds during which the hybrid system doesn't play a role.

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May 6, 2016
2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek 5-Door CVT 2.0i Premium

One of the best cars I ever had for price and value.

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Enjoy this car in every way, especially like safety features, eyesight. For the money, worth every penny, would buy another Subaru without hesitation.
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April 14, 2016
2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek 5-Door CVT 2.0i Premium

Noisy but does look sharp

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When driving it sounds like the window is open a bit making the ride sound windy, very annoying, i wish i had returned it.
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November 12, 2015
2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek 5-Door CVT 2.0i Limited

Sorry I waited so long!

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Just bought it yesterday. Had been thinking about purchasing a Subaru for aa couple of years. Love it!!! It rides so nice. Can't wait for some snow!
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September 30, 2015
For 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek

too fragile for off road

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I bought this car because it road like a car and yet had high ground clearance for off road. At first I really liked it. However I was in a parking lot and I bumped into an unseen log as I was almost stopped... + More »
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September 28, 2015
2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek 5-Door CVT 2.0i Limited

Over the road and through the hills. . .

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Great little SUV! While most small SUVs grow larger, this little number fits a couple who love the outdoors and road trips. Fun to drive on trails and comfortable on highways. My wife and I argue over who gets... + More »
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August 27, 2015
For 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Use Caution

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Not a highway car at all not just underpowered but hesitant mannerism,way 2 light in back... A lot are having issues with oil consumption,the pain is paper thin...Great city car and we are luky to have one... + More »
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August 11, 2015
2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek 5-Door CVT 2.0i Limited

Wonderful AWD car with very good MPG w/every feature including "EyeSight" - SAFE!!!

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Great blend of style, economy, room and safety! This is our third Subaru and the best yet. If you don't need 3 rows of seats but want safety(EyeSight), economy and comfort - buy the Crosstrek!
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June 18, 2015
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My New Subaru

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I was going to get a used Subaru SUV, but the price was not much different from the same models of 2013-2014, even with the already mileage of more 20,000. With this new chosen SUV's color and Option 23, I had... + More »
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May 12, 2015
2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek 5-Door CVT 2.0i Premium

Everything I want in a vehicle is in this Subaru!

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I loved the power, it didn't feel like a 2.0 engine. I loved the looks and how everything I want in a vehicle comes stock with Subaru! Best car I've driven out of every other vehicle in every other make! The... + More »
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