2016 Subaru XV Crosstrek Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
June 29, 2016

If you thought about an SUV but really just want a maneuverable small car with good gas mileage and all-wheel drive, the 2016 Subaru Crosstrek is all you need and nothing you don't.

The 2016 Subaru Crosstrek has the profile of a small, sporty hatchback, yet the stockier stance of a utility vehicle. If you look at its ability set, it outdoes some SUVs with far more rugged pretenses—all in typically modest, utilitarian Subaru style.

The Crosstrek (Subaru dropped the "XV" for 2016) is based on the Subaru Impreza five-door hatchback, but its boosted ground clearance, beefed-up suspension, and added protection, fender flares, front and rear fascias, and roof rack add up to a different look. It's surprisingly distinct, even though it essentially keeps the same sheet metal. 

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. It's been a surprise hit at Subaru, with shoppers are choosing it over a wide range of small crossover models. 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 Crosstrek is offered with a manual or a continuously variable transmission (CVT) in standard setups, while there's also a 2016 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid model that essentially provides the same level of perkiness, but bumps the EPA combined figure to 31 mpg. The Crosstrek comes with a 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter flat-4 paired either with a 5-speed manual gearbox or Subaru's CVT. In either case, acceleration is just adequate. The new hybrid powertrain inserts a small 10-kw (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.

Otherwise, the Crosstrek has a set of specs that reinforce its utility credentials. Ground clearance is raised to 8.7 inches, and the Crosstrek good approach and departure angles (18 degrees and nearly 28 degrees, respectively), more engine cooling, a larger gas tank, some suspension and structural reinforcements, and good approach and departure angles. 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. Meanwhile, below 50 mph or so, the Crosstrek feels relatively nimble—although on the highway the steering is relatively numb and it's susceptible to crosswinds.

With the exception of some extra road noise and somewhat less precise handling, the Crosstrek still pretty much drives like a passenger car—offering versatile and impressive cargo capacity for ski gear, camping supplies, or just groceries and other everyday cargo. As for the Hybrid version, its battery pack is stowed under the deck, meaning that its cargo volume is largely unchanged.

The Crosstrek has a smooth, refined ride, albeit a very noisy one. Hybrid models are more hushed, as they include upgrades to its front suspension and a dozen improvements to noise and vibration insulation. Some of those changes have been given to non-hybrid models, but we haven't revisited this model since them.

The cabin of the 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.

Subaru's EyeSight suite of active-safety features is widely available in the Crosstrek—on all but the base model—and Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert are added to it for 2016. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are now standard on Limited and Hybrid Touring models.

Subaru upgraded its infotainment systems in the Crosstrek just last year, to offer a 6.2-inch touchscreen standard and include a 7.0-inch screen with multi-touch gestures on upper trim levels. Middle-of-the-range Premium models now include heated front seats, heated side mirrors, and a windshield de-icer, while the top-level Limited model gets leather upholstery, leather shift-knob and steering-wheel trim, automatic climate control, and a fold-down rear-seat armrest with cupholders. For 2016, Premium and Limited models can be equipped with Starlink services allowing things like automatic collision notification, roadside assistance, diagnostic alerts, and remote locking/unlocking.

The gasoline Crosstrek gets 26 mpg city, 34 highway, 28 mpg combined with the CVT, and 23/31/26 mpg with the standard 5-speed manual gearbox. Step up to the Crosstrek Hybrid and you get an EPA rating of 29/33/31 mpg.

7

2016 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Styling

The 2016 Subaru Crosstrek is a sporty hatchback in profile, buffed up (and raised up) to be something a good deal more rugged.

The 2016 Subaru XV Crosstrek borrows plenty—all the sheet metal, really—from the Subaru Impreza compact, yet with a raised suspension, restyled bumpers, plenty of body cladding, it achieves a more macho look. That's a big part of the differentiation between the two, although the Crosstrek offers some added capability from its tires and stance.

A brighter color palette hints that there's more adventure in the Crosstrek lineup, but it's the lower-body cladding that accentuates the XV's 8.7 inches of ground clearance—almost 4 inches higher than the Impreza—and raises the whole vehicle's profile. Meanwhile a tough-looking roof rack completes the effect.

For 2016, the XV Crosstrek lineup gets a new grille, fascia, bumper and headlight design, altogether giving it a somewhat more precise look. Hybrid models get a gloss-black finish for the grille, while the other models get new wheels.

In general, the Crosstrek includes a good mix of utilitarian and stylish. The dash is sporty but straightforward, with a version of Subaru's traditional analog instrument cluster and steering-wheel controls, and the interior is fundamentally 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 for a no-nonsense aesthetic inside.

Separately, with the light refresh for 2016, the cabin gets some additional gloss-black and silver dash trim, plus new orange stitching for the armrests, shift lever handles, steering wheel, and center console. And all models get nighttime LED illumination for the center-console area under the radio.

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7

2016 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Performance

The 2016 Subaru Crosstrek is a little short on highway performance, although it deals well with a wide range of conditions and climates.

The 2016 Subaru Crosstrek drives like what it is—an Impreza hatchback that's been raised considerably, given bigger wheels and tires, a larger gas tank, and bigger front brakes. And thankfully it gets a host of reinforcements and strengthening measures to match that and allow it to be surprisingly tough and capable. 

The Crosstrek is available with the same 2.0-liter flat-4 engine as the Impreza, as well as with Subaru's first hybrid system. Non-hybrid models are offered with a 5-speed manual gearbox or Subaru's continuously variable transmission (CVT). With the manual, Crosstrek models 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. In both models, power is sent to the wheels with the most grip, but the manual version provides a more direct, connected driving feel.

But the Crosstrek doesn't feel all that quick or responsive. Its engine makes 148 horsepower, for roughly 3,200 pounds of vehicle and its torque peak of 145 pound-feet isn't reached until 4,200 rpm. The manual version responds better when a burst of power is needed, but the CVT is more fuel-efficient.

The Crosstrek Hybrid adds a 10-kw (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.

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 rival models can't at all).

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.

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8

2016 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Comfort & Quality

The Crosstrek is definitely more utilitarian than stylish, but it meets pretty much every functional need.

"Utilitarian" is definitely the operative word for the interior layout and amenities of the 2016 Subaru Crosstrek. Subaru is known for outdoorsy all-wheel-drive cars and crossovers, and if you're okay with a lack of some of the most lavish features and trims, the basic Crosstrek will suit you well. Meanwhile, in its more expensive, well-equipped models, the Crosstrek has a little more trouble justifying the price (and, perhaps, meeting expectations).

Seating is upright and accommodates four adults comfortably. The driver's seat adjusts for height as well as sliding and reclining, but it's a little short and flat for long-distance comfort, especially for taller folks. 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, you can do it with one arm.

Subaru designed the cargo area to fit actual gear that its buyers use every day. And 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 wide, flat cargo floor that doesn't have 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 Crosstrek Hybrid model sacrifices less than 2 cubic feet of cargo volume to fit the battery pack under the load floor; but it's essentially the same with the seats up in place.

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.

The ride quality of the 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. 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. Hybrid models get various 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.

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9

2016 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Safety

Available EyeSight active safety makes the 2016 Crosstrek one of the most affordable ways to get top-notch tech.

The 2016 Subaru Crosstrek earns some impressive safety ratings, it benefits not just from good occupant protection, but from some great active-safety features that aren't usually in a vehicle with such a low price. Good outward visibility is another plus.

Subaru's EyeSight active-safety suite is one thing that gives the Crosstrek quite an advantage over competing models. Included in the top Limited model and available in the Premium, EyeSight packages together many impressive active-safety technologies—adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, blind-spot detection, and rear cross-traffic alert. Rear cross-traffic alert was added for 2016. Additionally, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alerts are now standard on Crosstrek Limited and Hybrid Touring models. 

Subaru has added rollover sensors for the side-curtain bags to all Crosstreks; that's a feature the Impreza doesn’t get. Outward visibility is pretty good here, too—much better than in most other crossover vehicles, due to its reasonably low window line, relatively thin pillars front and rear, and enough rear and rear-side glass to give you a wrap-around view.

Federal regulators have given the 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 IIHS deems the 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 strength test.

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9

2016 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Features

With infotainment systems upgraded, and an excellent feature set, the 2016 Subaru Crosstrek is an excellent value.

There are three different trim levels for the 2016 Subaru Crosstrek—base, Premium, and Limited—and while the Limited models do add a lot more equipment, it's probably the mid-range Premium model that best straddles the line between appreciated extra conveniences and this model's utilitarian mantra.

At the base level, the Crosstrek includes air conditioning, power accessories, cruise control, keyless entry, and a rear cargo tray that can be hosed off. There's also a roof rack that will hold up to 150 pounds.

Move up to the 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.

The base audio system includes audio streaming and hands-free voice commands, courtesy of Bluetooth, along with iPod connectivity and a USB jack.

Subaru's EyeSight active-safety system is offered on the 2016 Crosstrek in a package on Premium and Limited models.

The Crosstrek Hybrid 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 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 revamped infotainment options this past year. The base unit is now a 6.2-inch touchscreen 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 touchscreen with multi-touch gestures and includes satellite radio, voice controls, two USB ports, and six speakers. Navigation is available above that.

And for 2016, Premium and Limited models can be equipped with telematic services allowing things like automatic collision notification, roadside assistance, diagnostic alerts, and remote locking/unlocking.

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8

2016 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Fuel Economy

The Crosstrek Hybrid is quite fuel-efficient for rugged crossover—more so than many taller SUVs.

The Subaru Crosstrek lineup is quite fuel-efficient—especially if you compare it to taller, heavier sport-utility vehicles. In Hybrid form, it does even better.

The gasoline Crosstrek gets 26 mpg city, 34 highway, 29 mpg combined with the continuously variable transmission (CVT), and 23/31/26 mpg with the standard 5-speed manual. Step up to the Crosstrek Hybrid and you get an EPA rating of 30/34/31 mpg.

It's worth considering that the lower, less rugged (but nearly identically packaged) Impreza hatchback gets 28/37/31 mpg when fitted with the CVT.

CVT versions of all Subarus tend to get better mileage than the manual in real-world driving. In a limited first drive we saw nearly 30 mpg in mixed conditions.

Although while we've seen somewhat better mileage in Crosstrek Hybrid models in mostly city driving (in the range of 2-3 mpg better), we saw little improvement in the Hybrid over a longer highway trip.

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December 23, 2015
For 2016 Subaru XV Crosstrek

2016 Crosstrek HYBRID

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We bought the 2016 Crosstrek Hybrid with the Touring package about 6 weeks ago. (I hope I am writing this review in the right spot for hybrids). Here is what I like: - The interior of the touring model feels... + More »
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December 10, 2015
2016 Subaru XV Crosstrek Base

Love this little Subie

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Just bought the new 2016 Limited with nav\moonroof\keyless entry. So far, I love it! it is small on the outside, but roomy on the inside (I have 2 small kids and they fit in the back seats no problem). I... + More »
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