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Video | 2019 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid Review

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author photo by Eric Brandt December 2018

Plug-in hybrid vehicles have been on the mass market for a while now, but there is still surprisingly little variety in the kind of vehicle you can buy that can run on both gas and electricity. Subaru has made that variety a little wider by introducing the all-new 2019 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid.

Unlike the first generation Crosstrek Hybrid, this is a plug-in hybrid that can run on electricity alone. The original Crosstrek Hybrid was a swing and a miss by being not that much more efficient than the conventional model. We drove the new 2019 model both on-road and off to see if Subaru got the Crosstrek Hybrid right this time.


What Is It?

Subaru created its first plug-in hybrid offering with a little collaboration with Toyota. The 2019 Crosstrek Hybrid borrows the electric motor from the Toyota Camry Hybrid and the battery pack from the Prius Prime. The former is a conventional hybrid and the latter is a plug-in like this Subaru.

The result is an all-electric range of 17 miles and a total range of 480 miles with a fully-charged battery and a full tank of gas. It has an MPGe rating of 90 and it returns 35 miles per gallon in combined driving when the battery is dead, which is a notable improvement over the non-hybrid Crosstrek, which is good for 29 mpg combined.

In classic Subaru fashion, the Crosstrek Hybrid comes standard with all-wheel drive. That sets it apart from many other PHEVs on the market and Subaru claims it's the most efficient AWD plug-in hybrid in America.


On-Road Adequacy

On-road performance is pretty similar between the conventional and hybrid variants of the Crosstrek, but only when the hybrid has a full battery. When the battery is dead in the hybrid, this car won't blow you away with its speed or highway-passing abilities.

So it's not the fastest thing in the world, which probably isn't surprising, but it's a perfectly adequate city car. With its 17-mile EV range, you can easily make short jaunts around town without burning any gas. When it comes to long-distance highway cruising, the Crosstrek Hybrid can go the distance, but again, don't expect to do a lot of passing on the highway.

The Crosstrek Hybrid has three distinct drive modes that manage how the car is powered. There's normal mode, save mode and charge mode. Normal mode favors electric power when it's available and simply switches to the gas engine when it runs out of juice. Save mode saves your electric range by making it work kind of like a conventional hybrid. It makes it more efficient than a normal gas engine, but won't drain your battery. Charge mode does exactly what it sounds like. It uses the gas engine to power the car and to re-charge the battery.

In other words, normal mode will deplete your battery, save mode will keep it the same, and charge mode will charge it back up. Normal mode is good for the city, save mode is good for the highway and charge mode is good for when you're out of electric juice and want more.


Off-Road Competence

Subaru says that the Crosstrek Hybrid is both a true hybrid and a true Subaru. That means it gives you hybrid efficiency without sacrificing any of the off-road character that the brand is famous for. We took it off the beaten path in the foothills around Santa Barbara, California to find out of that's true.

After quite a bit of off-roading, we can confidently say that the Crosstrek Hybrid is, indeed, a true Subaru. This hybrid never missed a beat in traversing the rocky off-road trails we experienced and actually had a few advantages. Having electric torque means you have access to all of the torque the electric motor is capable off without having to rev it up like you would with a gas engine. If you meet a challenging obstacle, you don't need to rev up the engine and risk overshooting it. Instead, you can use as much electric torque as you need with ease.

X-Mode also came in handy off-road. X-Mode complements the car's symmetrical AWD to give you a few advantages off-road like lower gear ratios for easier hill-climbing, more sensitive traction control for better traction when things get slippery and hill descent control to keep you from going too fast while going downhill. X-Mode also gives you a cool display showing you what angle your car is in and which systems are being activated in real time.

Subaru made a pretty good hybrid and did not forget to give it everything that people love about Subaru. If you're concerned about this Crosstrek's off-road capabilities just because it's a hybrid, one trip on (or off) the road less traveled will quickly change your mind.


Is The Hybrid Worth It?

The Crosstrek Hybrid lives up to being both a true Subaru and a true hybrid, but is it worth the fairly significant cost over a conventional Crosstrek? It depends on a few things. The Crosstrek Hybrid is only being inventoried in states that have adopted CARB emissions standards. It's eligible for federal, state and local incentives like any other plug-in hybrid and you're going to need all of the incentives you can get to bring the price of the Crosstrek Hybrid closer to its gas-powered counterpart.

The starting MSRP of the Crosstrek Hybrid is $34,995 and has an optional $2,500 package that adds a power moonroof, navigation, Harman/Kardon premium audio and a heated steering wheel. Those are pretty steep prices for a compact Subaru. For reference, the Crosstrek 2.0i Limited starts at just $27,195 and it's equipped pretty similarly to the Crosstrek Hybrid with features like leather seats, an 8-in touchscreen, automatic climate control and EyeSight driver assistance technology.

If you live somewhere with generous incentives for plug-in hybrids, then the 2019 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid can be a pretty good value. However, it's hard to recommend paying somewhere in the mid to high $30k range for this Subaru, especially since the non-hybrid model is already pretty good on gas and quite a bit more affordable.

If you're one of Subaru's many environmentally-conscious fans, then the Crosstrek Hybrid is right up your alley, as long as you have the budget for it.

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Video | 2019 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid Review - Autotrader