In just its second year of sales, Subaru’s XV Crosstrek has become the company’s third most-popular vehicle.
It trails only Forester and Outback in the sibling sales race and easily outsells the compact Impreza it’s based on.
Following the trail blazed in 1994 by the original Outback, the XV Crosstrek plays off the company’s outdoor-friendly image. Its 8.7-inch ground height bests that of many crossovers and even an SUV or two. Lower body cladding fends off the nicks and scratches that accompany off-roading. Standard all-wheel-drive boosts its year-round utility and off-road chops.
This year, the Crosstrek, already one of the more fuel-efficient crossovers, gets a hybrid variant The hybrid inherits most features of the up-level Limited trim and offers a modest fuel-efficiency bump.
Regular trims are powered by a four-cylinder engine that makes 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque. It can be paired with a five-speed manual gearbox or a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
The same engine powers the hybrid, with the addition of an electric motor that adds 13 horsepower and 48 lb-ft. It is available only with the CVT.
EPA estimates for CVT-equipped Crosstreks are 28 mpg combined (25 city/33 highway). The manual drops those numbers to 26 mpg combined (23/30).
The Crosstrek Hybrid registers 31 mpg combined (29/33).
The gas-only Crosstrek is available in 2.0i Premium ($22,820, including transportation) and 2.0i Limited ($25,320) trims. The Hybrid can be had in Limited ($26,820) and Touring ($30,120) trims.
Standard equipment on all Crosstreks includes heated mirrors, a windshield wiper de-icer, air-conditioning, full power accessories, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated front seats, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The Limited adds automatic headlights, automatic climate control, leather upholstery and a rearview camera.
The Hybrid gets all the features of the Limited, less the leather upholstery, and adds keyless entry and ignition, chrome door handles, quick-ratio electric power steering, wind-cheating active grille shutters and foldable side mirrors.
The Hybrid Touring trim adds sunroof, leather upholstery, a 6.1-inch touchscreen, voice-activated navigation, smartphone integration (featuring Aha radio), high-definition radio and satellite radio.
The low-key Crosstrek cabin emphasizes utility at the expense of luxury. Soft-touch materials cover the dash and door panels and switchgear has a sturdy feel. Understated trim bits add visual variety but minimal flash.
Even with such techie updates as voice-activation, iTunes tagging and SMS text-messaging, the Crosstrek’s cabin electronics fail to impress. Its audio systems are subpar and the navigation display is cramped and challenging.
The Crosstrek Hybrid suffers from lackluster performance and from the CVT’s distinctive elastic-feeling characteristics. Ride quality and handling are average for the class, though the Crosstrek’s unique drivetrain architecture minimizes body lean.
Subaru’s reputation for quality and its appeal to practical, no-nonsense buyers practically guarantees a market for the hybrid. And the tendency of Subaru owners to extract every last mile from their cars may enhance the hybrid’s cost-to-benefits outlook. However, a close look may tip the scales toward the conventional model.
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer. Contact him at email@example.com.
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid
Vehicle base price: $20,876
Trim level base price: $29,295
As tested: $30,120
Optional equipment: The XV Crosstrek is a fully equipped trim; our tester came with no options.
EPA ratings: 29 city/33 highway/31 combined
Regular unleaded fuel specified