The 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek is a compact crossover utility vehicle (CUV) based on the Subaru Impreza, a car held in high regard by those who appreciate value, build quality and driving fun. Rather than make this vehicle part of the Impreza family, though, Subaru has created a new nameplate. While many may view the Crosstrek as little more than a hopped-up Impreza with brighter paint and fancier wheels, there is more to this little CUV than meets the eye.

The many changes made from the Impreza platform, such as a reinforced chassis and tougher brakes, create a very different type of car. The higher ride height, plastic cladding and roof rails also help to consolidate the XV Crosstrek's distinct identity. More versatile than the Impreza hatchback but not as bulky or top heavy as a Forester or Outback, the XV Crosstrek is the affordable compact car that can easily go where most other small cars can't.

What's New for 2014?

A hybrid model will join the lineup midway through 2014. It promises slightly better acceleration and fuel economy without a significant price increase. Also new for 2014, the Aha infotainment app is standard on all models with the available navigation radio.

What We Like

Cool styling; lots of ground clearance for when the snow gets deep; good fuel economy; well-equipped base models; available with a manual transmission

What We Don't

Not much power under the hood; high noise levels at highway speeds; poor Bluetooth functionality; limited availability for satellite radio 

How Much?

$22,820-$30,200

Fuel Economy

The XV Crosstrek is powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder boxer engine. (Instead of pistons moving up and down inside an engine, flip that image 90 degrees and imagine them moving side to side.) This engine develops 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque. When equipped with the standard 5-speed manual, Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy ratings stand at 23 miles per gallon city/30 mpg hwy. The CVT automatic ups those figures considerably to 25 mpg city/33 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek comes in two trims: Premium and Limited.

The Premium ($22,820) includes a 5-speed manual transmission, power function for the windows, door locks and mirrors, heated front seats, heated mirrors, windshield deicer, fog lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, AM/FM/CD stereo, cruise control, air conditioning, Bluetooth and a tilt/telescoping steering column. 

The Limited ($25,320) adds the CVT automatic, leather seating, automatic climate control, upgraded audio with 4.3-in display screen and HD radio, auto on/off headlights and a rear backup camera. 

Options for both trims include a navigation radio upgrade with Sirius satellite radio and a power moonroof. Dealer-installed options are numerous and include 115-volt outlet, remote start (automatic only) and a number of roof rack attachments, body trim pieces and protective moldings.

With the rear seats in place, cargo volume for the XV Crosstrek is 22.3 cu ft, big enough to accommodate three golf bags. It's a simple operation to fold them down -- they split 60/40 and form a flat load floor. Cargo space then expands to 51.9 cu ft.

Safety

The XV Crosstrek comes standard with ABS, electronic traction and stability control and electronic brake assist. Although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not yet crash-tested the Crosstrek, it gives the Impreza -- the car on which the XV Crosstrek is based -- an overall 5-star rating. The XV Crosstrek also ranks at the top of its class in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests and was chosen as a Top Safety Pick.

Behind the Wheel

Since power goes to all four wheels all the time, there's a stability to the XV Crosstrek that rivals the Swiss currency. Admittedly, the engine never taxes it, but the chassis has a talent that can deal with canyon roads, dirt tracks and grumpy relatives. It's controlled, composed and still fairly comfortable.

Ground clearance is 8.7 inches, which is pretty good and comes into its own when mud and ruts replace paved roads. Yet, because of that flat 4-cylinder engine, the XV Crosstrek's center of gravity is still the best in its class. A low center of gravity helps with that feeling of stability and brings a liveliness to the ride.

Mention the letters CVT to a driving enthusiast and expect a tirade about slow responses and drivetrain drone. Put that same enthusiast in the business seat of an XV Crosstrek and watch those words being eaten. There is no advantage to having the manual transmission. Even if there's an itch to select the occasional gear oneself, this setup includes steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles for clicking through six preprogrammed virtual ratios.

The drive isn't without its negatives, though. As well as the aforementioned lack of oomph, there's a sense of detachment to the controls -- numb steering (though nicely weighted) and a numb accelerator pedal -- plus some road noise coming into the cabin. 

Other Cars to Consider 

Kia Sportage -- This latest generation of Sportage is already a hit, thanks to smart styling, generous equipment levels and decent pricing. There's also a turbo version.

Mitsubishi Outlander Sport -- Somewhat underappreciated, the Outlander Sport sports clean lines, better audio and navigation systems, and comparable standard equipment to the XV Crosstrek.

Nissan Juke -- Exhibiting a singular aesthetic sense mixed with fine on-road manners, the Juke takes a predominantly paved route rather than a wooded trail.

AutoTrader's Advice 

Go for any CVT-equipped model -- it will ultimately have better resale value. The entry-level model starts under $23,000 including destination charges, so checking the box marked CVT is probably within a potential customer's budget. We'd also recommend going for a nice aftermarket navigation radio over the Subaru unit. It will cost about the same or less, and give you better features and better sound.

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