Subaru XV Crosstrek Review

Almost 20 years ago Subaru took the slow selling Legacy station wagon, jacked it up a few inches, added some side-body cladding, named it the Legacy “Outback” and had a hit.  Now Subaru is hoping to make the past repeat itself by jacking up an Impreza a few inches, adding special alloy wheels, and some underbody cladding.  And, to my surprise, it appears to be working.

The Outback came into being at the peak of the SUV craze.  It was an inexpensive alternative to a true 4-wheel drive; plus it got better gas mileage and was almost as roomy.  Now 19 years later the SUV craze has died and the Impreza is a solid but not spectacular selling vehicle.  Sound familiar?  It did to Subaru, they saw the opportunity and ran with it.

Earlier this year Subaru released the XV Crosstrek.  Even though it is almost $3,000 more than the Impreza 5-door it is outselling it.  For the month of May alone, Subaru sold 5,295 XV Crosstreks compared to 5,219 Imprezas.  Any time a car company can take an existing vehicle, add alloy wheels, larger tires, raise it up, slap some some trim on it and sell it for $3,000 more, they’ve accomplished something special (at least special in the automotive world).

Features

Even the base model XV Crosstrek comes with 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels and features 8.7 inches of ground clearance. The mileage is almost the same as the Impreza’s but the Crosstrek loses a mile per gallon in the city due to its extra weight.  Considering the Crosstrek, like almost all Subarus, offers standard all-wheel drive, its EPA rating of 25 city, 33 highway is all the more impressive.

Driving impressions

The Crosstrek handles a little better than the Impreza due to its stiffer suspension, but that is where it ends.  It’s slow to get moving, being both noisy and underpowered but at least the visibility is good.  The CrossTrek is well equipped, but for the extra three grand I expected more; a turbo-charged engine perhaps?

The XV Crosstrek has a nice dash with gauges that are legible and well laid out.  The doors seem very light, but based on crash testing they will protect you, and their light weight makes them very easy to open.  The seats are comfortable and for a relatively small car the back seat is roomy and easy to get in and out of.  The cargo area has plenty of room for groceries or for an overnight trip.  With the rear seats folded down the cargo area practically doubles.  Note: a gallery of interior and exterior photos can be found at the end of this review.

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Comparisons

On their website Subaru compares the XV Crosstrek with the 2013 Kia Sportage and somehow manages to have the Sportage come out thousands of dollars more expensive ($22,995 for the Crosstrek versus $25,700 for the Sportage).  Boomer’s comparison of the two vehicles, both similarly equipped, arrives at a very different conclusion as shown in the Quick Comparison Table below.

Reliability and Safety

Traditionally Subaru’s are very reliable, handle well (especially in rain/snow), and have good passenger protection.  The XV Crosstrek’s drawbacks are initial purchase price, slow acceleration and noise.   The IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) considers the XV Crosstrek a top safety pick.

Boomer Value Scale

The BVS rating is for the XV Crosstrek is 41 out of 75.  The strong points for the Crosstrek are its safety, reliability, visibility and ergonomics.  The XV Crosstrek scores very high for safety and its combined city/highway mileage according to the EPA is  28 (very good for an all-wheel drive).  Exterior visibility is also very good and the gauges are well laid out and easy to read.  The seats are comfortable if not particularly large.  For more details, see the XV Crosstrek Boomer Value Scale.

The weak spots for the XV Crosstrek?  It’s initial cost, slow acceleration, and noisy engine.

Summary

Unless you really need the extra ground clearance I can’t think of any reason to prefer the XV Crosstrek over the standard Impreza hatchback.  Before buying one I strongly recommend driving an Impreza.  You just may save thousands of dollars.  Or, wait until this Fall when the new hybrid version of the XV Crosstrek is available (it will be the most fuel-efficient all-wheel drive hybrid crossover in America according to Subaru) and save money on gas.

Quick Comparison Table

XV Crosstrek, Honda CRV and Kia Sportage, all comparably equipped, all with automatic transmission.

Subaru XV Crosstrek Honda CRV – AWD Kia Sportage – AWD
MSRP (w/dest. fee) $23,790 $25,100 $23,550
Miles Per Gallon (City/Hwy.) 25/33 22/30 20/27
Fuel type Regular Regular Regular
Transmission Continuously variable 5-speed auto. 6-speed auto.
Horsepower 148@6200 185@7000 176@6000
Torque (lb.-ft.) 145@4200 163@4400 168@4000
Overall length (in.) 175.2 178.3 174.8
Wheelbase (in.) 103.7 103.1 103.9
Overall height (in.) 63.6 64.7 65.1
Overall width (in.) 70.1 71.6 73.0
Cargo capacity (cu. ft.) 22.3 37.2 26.1
Turning radius 34.8 37.0 34.7
Bluetooth Standard Standard Standard
Rearview camera Optional Standard Optional
Tilt/Telescoping steering wheel Standard Standard Standard
Driver seat adjustments 8-way manual 6-way manual 6-way manual
Seating surfaces Cloth Cloth Cloth
Radio AM/FM/CD USB/iPod – 4-speakers AM/FM/CD USB/iPod – 6-speakers AM/FM/CD USB/iPod – 6-speakers
Daytime running lights Standard Standard Standard
Warranty 48 month/50,000 miles 36 month/36,000 miles 60 month/60,000 miles

Image Gallery

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