2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek Review

Sleeping Around in a Subaru

Subaru reviews are boring, right?

A typical road test of a Subie can be summed up in 14 words: standard all-wheel drive, high safety rating, boring interior, boxer engine, CVT and rugged lifestyle.

Rarely are these adventurist lifestyle automobiles tested the way the brand portrays them in commercials. Not many automotive reviewers take a Subaru through the uncharted backwoods to wrestle bears, scale vertical cliffs or skinny dip in the Arctic Circle.

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And I’m just as guilty. I am not that hardcore – not in the slightest. But I do enjoy exploring the great outdoors and have always enjoyed camping. This seemed like a fitting activity to properly evaluate a Subaru, so I loaded up a 2015 XV Crosstrek for an overnight excursion into the wilderness.


Hard to Pigeon-Hole

The XV Crosstrek is a peculiar vehicle. It’s too big to be considered a subcompact crossover, but too small to be a compact crossover. It’s sort of stuck in the grey area between the two.

Pricing, though, is definitely closer to that of subcompacts. Starting at $22,445 after destination charges, the all-wheel-drive XV is competitive with similarly equipped versions of the Jeep Renegade, Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V. The 2.0i Premium model seen here is just $25,385 and that includes adaptive cruise control.


Ready to Leave the Pavement

What makes the XV unique is that it’s essentially a jacked-up compact car. With 8.7 inches of ground clearance, the Crosstrek can crawl over taller objects than any of the subcompact crew can, aside from the Renegade Trailhawk version and even then, it only matches the XV’s ground clearance.

And unlike a lot of little crossovers, the XV sends 40 percent of its engine power to the rear wheels under normal driving, which is better suited for off-road conditions then a lot of other manufacturer’s slip-and-grip systems.

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Based on the Impreza, the XV does include some unique parts aside from just the body cladding, most of which are found in the rear suspension geometry.


Could Use a Power Bump

The weakest part of the XV Crosstrek is its engine. With only 148 hp, the XV is class competitive, but nothing in this class is exactly quick. At least the Crosstrek weighs less than 3,200 lbs, allowing for fuel economy ratings of 26 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. Still, I want more power. I’ve pestered pretty much everyone at Subaru North America to drop the Forester XT’s turbo engine into this vehicle and create the XT Crosstrek.

Efficient, affordable and somewhat off-road ready, the XV is great for those active lifestyle types. But what’s it like to live in?


The Tent Car

On this trip, I brought a secret weapon: the Napier Sportz SUV Tent Model 84000. Designed to attach to a hatchback vehicle, whether it is a car, van or SUV, the Napier creates a large, protected living space that’s part conventional tent and part automobile.

Costing $379.99, the Sportz SUV Tent Model 84000 features two doors, two skylights and three screens. The main room is 10 feet by 10 feet and features a canopy protecting the main entrance. To the side is a secondary entrance that leads to a screened-in, floor-less sunroom that is ideal for eating in a bug-free environment.

Napier claims setting up this tent is “faster than burning a marshmallow,” but that isn’t quite true unless it’s a marshmallow in a slow cooker set to the warm setting. Still, it wasn’t that hard to put up and the massive tent and attached to the rugged looking Crosstrek, the entire package looks at home in the wilderness.


Life on the Inside

When converted into tent mode, the XV becomes an airy, two-tiered bug-free resting place. Officially, two people are supposed to sleep in the back of the vehicle and upwards of six more on the ground. This all seems a bit excessive, as the Subaru only holds five people. Plus, if two people are going to sleep in the cargo area, they better be more than friends, as space is intimate.

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I would recommend the back of the XV be used more as a shelf to hold clothes and other items than a sleeping area. Although 52 cubic feet of crap can be stuffed back here with the seats folded down, the floor length is only 5 foot, 3 inches which proved to be a problem for my six-foot frame. Still, I toughed out a night back there and woke up in the morning no worse for wear.


The Downside of the Tent Car

But there is an issue with a tent car. As any experienced camper will tell you, food and garbage needs to be locked away at night so no unexpected visits from raccoons, skunks or bears occur. But since the car has become part of the tent, there’s nowhere to lock it away.

The Crosstrek’s hatch can be closed from inside the tent at any time, making an animal-proof seal. But that somewhat defeats the purpose of a tent car, except now there is indoor storage that doesn’t require a trip outside of the tent for a midnight snack.


The Verdict: 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek Review

Having a tent car is pretty cool, if not a bit gimmicky. With the XV Crosstrek, it doesn’t seem out of place. The little Subaru isn’t a poser crossover, but one that’s ready for adventures off the beaten path. Having a tent attached to a car way out in the wilderness can come in handy, as a large, dry space is a big deal. Plus, having the option to sleep up off the ground is always a nice bonus. Or, this tent and crossover combination is perfect for going to a local campground like I did and pretending to be a hardcore outdoors person.

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