Car Review

2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek: First Drive

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Colin Ryan July 2012

The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek is a completely new nameplate on a familiar platform. Above the reinforced and raised suspension, below the standard-issue roof rails and behind the new steel skin lie the underpinnings of the well-respected Subaru Impreza. However, to bring this compact crossover utility vehicle under the Impreza range's umbrella would be to do it a disservice. As well as special styling, there are sufficient changes to the chassis and cabin to merit a name of its own.

Subaru has been looking at rides like the Mini Countryman, the Nissan Juke and the Kia Sportage, wanting a slice of that action. But nothing in its portfolio hit the right spot until now. With the XV Crosstrek, the company says it has taken a new direction, but it's also what they are good at: all-wheel drive, practicality, dependability and decent value.

Looks Do Matter

Looking outward, that is. While most manufacturers are making ever-wider A-pillars (those parts of the body on either side of the windshield) and then adding blind spot monitoring systems (usually at extra cost), Subaru makes a virtue of thinner A-pillars. In tandem with the raised driving position, good old-fashioned visibility is something the XV driver has plenty of-with no tradeoff against safety.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requirement is that, in the event of a rollover accident, the roof should be able to take three times the vehicle's weight. Subaru claims the XV can handle four times; the company is expecting the XV to get a full five-star NHTSA rating along with being named a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

But let's just touch on appearances for a moment. Yes, eye of the beholder and all that, yet it might seem to many that previous Subaru models almost went for an anti-design approach-a much different aesthetic than, say, Audi. The XV Crosstrek, in contrast, could easily appeal to those for whom the visual aspect is important. Its subtle plastic cladding sends an SUV-like message, while various lines and proportions give the impression of muscle without being too chunky.

And then there are a couple of brave choices from the palette of eight exterior colors. The XV-exclusive Tangerine Orange Pearl is quite arresting. No one should ever have trouble picking it out from the shopping mall's parking lot. Meanwhile, Desert Khaki can take on a greenish hue under bright blue skies.

It's Key-Turning Time

Chances are that not many passengers will display a similar greenness. The XV Crosstrek handles without a hint of motion-sickness-inducing wallow while still remaining comfortable-on tarmac or mud. It mixes a ground clearance of 8.7 inches with permanent all-wheel drive (power goes to every wheel all the time, although exactly how much differs from moment to moment and grip level to grip level), which is a sweet recipe for tackling dirt roads where conventional cars would fear to tread. It's also a boon in snowier regions.

A five-speed manual transmission is standard in the entry-level model, but most people will spring for the continuously variable automatic transmission. Not many CVT setups receive praise from driving enthusiasts. This one might. Some have a laggy feel, like they're spooling up before allowing the drivetrain to get to work. It's this disconnect between pressing the throttle pedal and the subsequent response that can lead to irritation-that, and the drone.

The Crosstrek's CVT exhibits neither lag nor noise. It just gets on with the job. There are six pre-programmed ratios (the "continuously" in CVT means one long forward ratio), selectable by paddles mounted under the steering wheel, as a mild offering to thrill seekers. Or it can be set to D and left alone. The manual has no real advantage over the CVT in this instance. It returns lower fuel economy, and the spacing between first and second seems unusually large.

No doubt that's to help keep economy and emissions in check. The XV Crosstrek is classified as a Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV), while Subaru claims superior highway fuel consumption against the XV's all-wheel-drive rivals: 25 mpg in town and 33 mpg on the highway with the CVT.

Here's where the downside kicks in. Maximum torque, a fairly modest 145 lb-ft, is found at 4,500 rpm. Trying to get a move on from low revs can sometimes be frustrating. And at the other end of the spectrum-looking for some extra punch to overtake on the highway, for example-a harder prod of the throttle brings virtually nothing to the table. It's a small window of available muscle. Peak horsepower of 148 hp is similarly unremarkable from a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, even when it's tuned for economy above all else.

The XV Crosstrek has a maximum towing capacity of 1,500 pounds. Once a couple of passengers are on board, plus some cargo, and a trailer is hooked up, things could become rather too sedate for the buyers Subaru is after, people in their late 20s and early 30s. If ever there was an argument for a turbo version, this would be it. After all, Subaru has a fine tradition of turbocharging. Having said that, for the majority of day-in/day-out use, this engine performs adequately.

Interior Dialogue

Subaru's research has turned up something surprising: its customers really do participate in all that outdoorsy "lifestyle" stuff we see in TV advertising. Subaru owners are four times more likely to go hiking than drivers of other brands and 3.5 times more likely to jump on a bike. So the waterproof cargo tray where XV owners can throw their muddy and damp sports kit is a welcome feature among the standard equipment.

With rear seats up, cargo space is 22.3 cubic feet, enough for three golf bags. The seats split in time-honored 60/40 fashion. Raising the latch on either side and giving a little push is all it takes for them to fold down and form a flat floor, opening up cargo volume to 51.9 cubic feet.

Heated seats and side mirrors are also standard, as are Bluetooth connectivity and a USB socket for iPods. Adjustable crossbars for the roof rails are on the options list along with a moonroof, satellite navigation and a rear-view camera.

The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek goes on sale in September. Trim levels are Premium and Limited, with a starting price of $22,790 including destination.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek: First Drive - Autotrader