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2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid Review
Good Car, Terrible Hybrid
By Mike Schlee, Photography by Mike Schlee and Subaru, Mar. 12, 2014

Subaru is nearly finished completing its mainstreamification. With the introduction of the company’s first ever hybrid model, a gaping hole in the manufacturer’s product lineup has finally been filled.

FAST FACTS

Engine: A 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is paired to an electric motor to make a total output of 160 hp and 163 lb-ft. of torque.

Transmission: The only transmission available is a continuously variable unit.

Fuel Economy: The XV Crosstrek Hybrid is officially rated at 29 mpg city and 33 mpg highway. We averaged 24.0 mpg during a wintery week of testing.

Price: The XV Crosstrek Hybrid begins at $26,820 after destination charges.

Based on the XV Crosstrek crossover introduced last year, the new hybrid version adds an electric motor for added power and improved fuel economy.

Like all XVs, the hybrid’s gasoline engine remains a 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 148 hp and 145 lb-ft. of torque. Stuffed within the continuously variable transmission (CVT) is the electric motor that produces 13.4 hp and 48 lb-ft. of torque. Combined, these two propulsion units make a total output of 160 hp and 163 lb-ft. of torque. Not exactly earth-shattering increases, but a healthy shot in the arm nonetheless.

The “Mildbrid”

 

The XV Crosstrek is a mild hybrid, or as we call it, a “mildbrid”.  Technically, it’s a two-mode hybrid as it can run on pure electric power unlike GM’s eAssist, Honda’s IMA or Nissan’s Intelligent Dual Clutch Hybrid systems. However, with the ability to only run electrically at speeds up to 25 mph for short distances, the Subaru setup is not as flexible as Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive or Honda’s new hybrid system powering the 2014 Accord hybrid.

2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid 04

Like all hybrids these days, the XV comes equipped with automatic start-stop functionality and the ability to operate the gasoline engine independently or in parallel with its electric motor. Our evaluation period occurred in the middle of winter and the cold affected some of these systems considerably. The start stop would not operate until the car was properly warmed up and on the colder days, with temperatures around -4 F, the start-stop would not operate at all. This is not a malfunction, but a design element meant to keep the vehicle and its occupants warm during frigid weather.

The electric-only mode was also hampered by the cold weather as the vehicle would go to about 12 mph before the gasoline engine would engage. The transition when the gasoline engine takes over isn’t very smooth either.

MPG, Where Art Thou?

 

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The winter wasn’t kind to fuel economy either. Officially rated at 29 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway, the hybrid XV equals the regular XV’s highway rating but improves the city rating by four miles per gallon. Our test vehicle never came close to those numbers. After starting the week at an average of 26.7 mpg, temperatures fell below freezing and the crossover’s mileage tumbled with it. By week’s end we averaged an unimpressive 24 mpg. Last winter during a test of the regular, gasoline powered XV Crosstrek, our observed average was an identical 24 mpg.

See Also: 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Review - Video

2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid 16But it is not just the wintery weather hurting the XV’s mileage. With the hybrid machinery, the Crosstrek gains 276 lbs. over the regular model. Subaru also tuned the CVT to be almost too responsive. The transmission is willing enough to sustain moderate rpms with minimal throttle input that it can actually be a detriment to fuel-efficient driving. Even in more hybrid friendly weather, we doubt the car would live up to its claimed fuel economy.

Not all hybrids are designed to save fuel though, some are meant to increase performance. Is that the XVs true forte? It does receive a power bump and Subaru claims the hybrid model receives quicker-ratio electric power steering and “special chassis tuning for more agile handling.” Plus, with the battery placed beneath the cargo floor, the Crosstrek’s center of gravity has been lowered.

Drives like an XV Crosstrek

 

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In reality, the performance has not improved all that much. Power delivery is very smooth, but the extra output only becomes noticeable at highway speeds. Around the city, the XV hybrid behaves similarly to its gas-only sibling. Handling is still on the sportier side for a small crossover, although it isn’t any more engaging than a standard Crosstrek. Those who like the ruggedness of the XV will be happy to know that the hybrid retains the regular model’s impressive ground clearance, approach and departure angles.

Inside, the hybrid XV Crosstrek receives a few enhancements over the regular model. An automatic climate control system, unique instrument cluster, keyless access and keyless start are all standard in the base hybrid. Subaru interiors have been improving over the past few years and this vehicle is no exception. Certain details like the high end looking black plastic pieces surrounding the center console and the premium HVAC dials look great, but the design is still too simplistic and utilitarian.

See Also: Five-Point Inspection: 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Premium

2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid 18For the most part, interior dimension remain unchanged. Front seat passengers still receive a generous 43.5-inches of legroom while rear seat passengers make do with 35.4 inches. The only real change occurs in the cargo area, which loses a bit of space to the battery, shrinking from 22.3 cubic feet down to 21.5 cubic feet.

Pricing for the XV Crosstrek Hybrid begins at $26,820 after destination charges, which is $3,000 more than a base, gas-only XV equipped with a CVT. That is a pretty steep price increase for a vehicle with such marginal improvements. Things get even worse when the hybrid is compared to the regular XV Crosstrek Limited. For only $600 more, that model comes equipped with leather seats, a touchscreen infotainment unit, GPS and a sunroof. These items can be had in the Crosstrek Hybrid Touring, but that means spending $30,120.

The Verdict

 

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The Subaru XV is a peculiar hybrid. Unsure if it should save fuel or boost power, it meanders in the middle ground and accomplishes neither. Add the fact it comes at a price premium over the regular XV and the Hybrid’s appeal is lost; other than the self-gratifying boast that the vehicle being driven is indeed a hybrid. Subaru is a new comer to the world of hybrids and although this is a valiant effort, the manufacturer has a lot of catching up to do.

LOVE IT
  • Ride comfort
  • Handling
  • Easy to drive
LEAVE IT
  • Not that efficient
  • Not that powerful
  • Expensive