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2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Review - Video
A new segment, but a familiar Subaru
By Richard Cazeau, Photography by Subaru. Video by Adam Wood, Nov. 12, 2012

Decades ago, in the white space between the sedan and the SUV, the crossover was born. Now Subaru believes there’s room to dig further, with a new segment between the car and the crossover, and they’re filling it with a new model named the XV Crosstrek.

FAST FACTS

1. Based on the 5-door Impreza, the XV Crosstrek is powered by a 148-horsepower 2.0-liter Boxer engine and incorporates Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive.

2. Billed as the most fuel-efficient AWD crossover on the market, it gets 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway, for a 28 mpg combined rating.

3. While more of a lifted car than a true crossover, it offers better ground clearance than many rivals at 8.7-inches.

4. Pricing starts at $21,995 and the Limited trim begins at $24,495.

In many ways a hopped-up Impreza, it certainly stands out thanks to its segment-busting look – not to mention the available Tangerine Orange paint.

Seemingly a niche segment machine, based on what it offers, not to mention the strong Subaru brand association, it could be a much bigger success.

Billed as a crossover by Subaru, based on the Impreza, it’s very much a car and rides like it, though with an impressive 8.7-inch ground clearance. As a result, it’s a more nimble city-going package, while still offering plenty of cottage-road capability.

LOW ON POWER, HIGH ON GRIP

Under the hood of the XV Crosstrek is the very same 2.0-liter Boxer 4-cylinder engine found in the Impreza, making 148 hp and 145 lb-ft torque. Transmission options are a standard 5-speed manual or the optional Continuous Valve Transmission (CVT) automatic, which is standard on the Limited trim.

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Of note, Subaru continues to promote its symmetrical AWD, though each transmission option comes with a unique version. Models equipped with the 5-speed manual transmission get a true 50/50 power split front to rear thanks to a viscous-coupling center limited slip differential, while CVT-equipped cars get an electronically controlled multi-plate transfer clutch which varies power based on acceleration and tire slip, though defaults to be a front-biased 60/40 setup. Naturally smooth, the CVT comes equipped with paddle shifters and six pre-set gears for those who prefer a more engaging ride.

As a result, fuel economy is favored with the automatic with a 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway rating, or 28 mpg combined. This rating gives the Crosstrek the best fuel economy ranking for any AWD crossover – if you buy the VX as a crossover. Manual equipped cars get a less impressive 23/30 mpg rating or 26 mpg combined.

Helping improve those numbers further is an Eco gauge that assists the driver in operating the XV as economically as possible.

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CITY SIZE, OFF-ROAD STYLE

 

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Looking suitably tough on the open road or tackling tough terrain, the Crosstrek seems out of place in the city – despite it’s more urban-friendly size.

The understated Impreza body is accentuated with black body cladding along the sides and the wheel arches, with unique front and rear bumpers, plus a rear spoiler and oversized foglights. The hawk-eye headlights, a design that fades in with the rest of the package on the standard Impreza, also seem to have more of a presence on this more dramatic body. Final style points go to the unique, chunky, black and silver 17-inch wheels.

Helping accentuate the look are custom earth-like tone paint choices like as Desert Khaki, Ice Silver Metallic or the marquee Tangerine Orange. As a package, the VX has a strong tone that cannot be ignored.

MORE HATCHBACK THAN CROSSOVER

 

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A spacious cabin with plenty of leg, head and storage room, whether finished in cloth or leather (depending on the trim) its minimalistic yet elegant with a sturdy feel. Everything feels in the right place with solid ergonomics.

Well equipped in the base Premium trim with cruise control, Bluetooth and an iPod interface, Limited models gain automatic climate control, a 4.3-inch LCD screen, back-up camera and leather interior.

Subaru XV Crosstrek 40As for the trunk, it’s spacious with 22.3 cu-ft of cargo room, which is easily enough to accommodate sports equipment, large luggage and more. Drop the rear seats and that number expands to 51.9 cu-ft.

If there is a drawback, it’s the in-car tech, which is rather simplistic. Even in the Limited trim, the interface looks rudimentary and outdated.

READY TO TAKE ON ANY ROAD?

 

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A calm highway drive, this “crossover” is less than dramatic on twisty roads, even though its light 3,100 lb curb weight should make it rather tossable. Hit the dirt roads, however, and the XV comes to life. Where a little body roll isn’t an issue, the car’s suspension soaks up road imperfections while delivering plenty of grip, inspiring back-road confidence in putting down what power it has.

With 8.7-inches of ground clearance it’s not ready for any real off-roading, though does offer more ground-clearance than competitors like the Mazda CX-5, Jeep Compass and Ford Escape.

THE VERDICT

 

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An enjoyable and unique alternative to the typical crossover, the largest hurdle to the Subaru XV Crosstrek is that it’s not conventional.

While an ideal product for many consumers, they might not consider it because it doesn’t look the part of the Honda CR-V or Mazda CX-5. In fact, with its rugged style and city-car underpinnings, this juxtaposition might not attract anyone who isn’t already enamored with the Subaru brand.

LOVE IT
  • Rough road handling
  • Fuel economy
  • Plenty of interior, cargo room
LEAVE IT
  • Low output engine
  • In-car tech just passable
  • Design feels backcountry specific