All new for 2013, the Subaru XV Crosstrek picks up where the Impreza left off, mixing the success of the ﬁve-door hatchback with a little more ground clearance and 1,500 pounds of towing capacity. It’s wedging itself into a compact SUV segment crowded with entries from Jeep, Nissan, and Mitsubishi.
Subaru has been immensely successful, especially here in New England, with the formula it originally applied to the Outback wagon: Fit an ordinary all-wheeldrive wagon with larger wheels and tires, a bit of a lift, and some rugged plastic fascias, and suddenly, you’re taking money from other brands who have nothing but truck-based SUVs. But in the years since the Outback was introduced, everybody seems to have gotten into the act, offering compact SUVs on a car-based chassis, providing the utility of a small SUV but with the fuel economy of a ﬁve-door hatchback.
You can look at it cynically and say that the Crosstrek XV is really just an economy car raised off the ground a bit, but there’s more to it than that. You won’t climb Colorado’s Cinnamon Pass with an XV Crosstrek, but in the muddy “ﬁfth season” back roads of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Western Massachusetts this time of year, four more inches of ground clearance is a godsend.
Power comes from a 2.0-liter, horizontally opposed, four cylinder engine that provides 148 horsepower. In a vehicle that weighs around 3,100 pounds, 148 hp isn’t going to win you any stoplight drag racing trophies. But it does help to address one of the criticisms of the previous generation of the Impreza: atrocious fuel economy. Despite what the EPA estimated, the previous generation Impreza rang up fuel numbers like a full-size 2WD pickup truck. The new version of that car, and the XV Crosstrek it lends its driveline and suspension to, does a lot better, with EPA estimates of 25 in the city and 33 on the highway. Observed numbers hover in the 26 to 27 mile per gallon range. The 2.0-liter engine is the only engine available in the XV Crosstrek to date. No word if a turbocharged version is in the works.
The engine also allows the XV Crosstrek to tow up to 1,500 pounds. That may not seem like a lot, but it’s more than some of the vehicles in this class that aren’t rated to tow at all. Fifteen hundred pounds is plenty of capacity to towasmall boat, a tent trailer, orautility trailer, which is all you’d want to have behind a vehicle this size anyway.
In the XV Crosstrek Premium trim you have the choice of two transmissions: a ﬁve-speed manual with hill-start assist functionality (something that Subarus have featured for decades that seems to be more popular even with automatic transmissions today), and a Lineartronic CVT, continuously variable, automatic transmission. I’m not a big fan of CVT transmissions. They do offer better fuel economy than their traditionally geared counterparts, but they’re often weird to drive as the engine continuously hunts for the optimal speed. But of those I’ve driven the last year, this one isn’t as annoying.
Most appreciated is the space inside the cabin. Subaru offers the XV Crosstrek in a super-light tan material that helps brighten the cabin and makes it seems larger inside. With my four-year-old son buckled in the booster seat behind me, we both had room to stretch out without him kicking me in the back the entire trip.
My biggest complaint is with the interface for the audio system. Controls to change radio bands and stations are located on a touch screen, and they’re as small as any I’ve seen in recent years, reminiscent of the very ﬁrst touch screens available in cars in the mid-2000s. Finding the right button without any tactile feedback is maddening. It would surprise me if this wasn’t the biggest piece of negative feedback when Subaru sent the car to focus group testing before launch.
With that one bit of criticism, and the understanding that the XV Crosstrek isn’t exactly quick off the line, its all-wheeldrive and hatchback utility is something a lot of New Englanders are going to ﬁnd useful, especially in the winter and early spring we’re experiencing this year.
The XV Crosstrek starts at $21,995 for the 2.0i Premium with a ﬁve-speed manual; add $1,000 for the Lineartronic CVT. The price climbs to $24,495 for a fully equipped 2.0i Limited, which features leather interior, a six-speaker audio system with HD radio, and the CVT as standard equipment.Craig Fitzgerald is a freelance writer.You can email him at vespaﬁtz@gmail.com.