XV Crosstrek: Practical compact CUV

Farm Forum

Subaru’s new XV Crosstrek compact crossover shares the same starting price as its veteran line mate Forester at $21,995, but the two SUVs share little else.

Compared to Forester, the 2013 Crosstrek is shorter by 4.3 inches, lower by 3.3 inches and a bit lighter by 213 pounds. Crosstrek’s curving roofline contrasts with Forester’s more angular lines and its boxier body makes for more storage space than the new model.

Cargo capacity for Crosstrek (with all seats in place) is 22.3 cubic feet, compared to 30.8 cu.-ft. for Forester. However, the XV Crosstrek’s seatbacks fold forward to a flat load floor, and doing so raises the cargo ante to 51.9 cu.-ft. In addition, standard, integrated roof rails provide the base for several, dealer-available storage options up top. For example, Subaru’s Roof Cargo Carrier adds an additional 13 cu.-ft. of space. Towing capacity — modest for both vehicles — is 1,500 pounds for the XV and 2,400 pounds for Forester.

When deciding on the right Subaru crossover vehicle, buyers can also find a closer comparison in the Impreza hatchback, as both share the same drivetrain. But the new XV Crosstrek is considerably taller by 5.9 inches and wears rugged SUV-like body cladding.

The Crosstrek is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine linked to a five-speed manual transmission. A Continuously Variable Transmission is available. The horizontally opposed “boxer” style engine is rated at 148 horsepower and 145 lb.-ft. of torque. EPA estimates for fuel economy with Crosstrek are 23 miles per gallon city and 30 mpg highway (manual); 25/33 mpg CVT. In a week behind the wheel of a stick shift equipped Crosstrek, I averaged 27 mpg in mixed driving, which is right on target with EPA predictions for combined mileage.

The 2013 XV Crosstrek accelerates briskly off the line and cruises easily at highway speeds. Only in the high demand situations, such as passing or merging, did we find the limitations of the smaller displacement felt. As with many compact cars, drivers need to plan ahead to pass other motorists. The manual transmission is helpful in that regard, allowing the driver to dip into the gearbox when needed, to maximize performance.

While it sits much higher than Impreza, the Crosstrek manages a car-like feel on the road, which is expected from this car-based platform vehicle. Ride quality is comfortable and handling is nimble, by crossover standards.

All Crosstreks come equipped with one of two Subaru All-Wheel-Drive systems, depending on which transmission the buyer chooses. Manual models a Continuous AWD setup, with a 50/50 front/rear power split. CVT-equipped Crosstreks employ Active Torque Split AWD with a variable, front/back power split. Under normal conditions, the bias is towards FWD, but up to 100 percent of available torque can be shifted to the rear wheels as needed for maximum traction. These AWD systems, along with stability/traction control and 8.7 inches of ground clearance — make the XV Crosstrek well-suited for light off-roading.

Subaru offers the XV Crosstrek in two trim levels: Premium ($21,995) and Limited ($24,495). My Premium tester had no options and an as-delivered price of $22,790.

Crosstrek presents an understated but well finished interior. There’s enough room to fit four tall adults inside. Controls are straightforward, including rheostat dials for climate control functions and an uncomplicated array for the sound system.

There are a number of storage spaces sprinkled about the cabin (glove box, door pockets, console cubbyhole and covered bin), mostly on the small side, and the lid for the center console bin doubles as an inside armrest. It slides forward for a more customized fit, but doing so sacrifices one cupholder. The driver has generally good visibility, though the rear seat headrests may obscure some of the straight back view. When no one is seating in back popping the headrests out is a quick fix.

In recent years, we’ve seen a number of models that had been on sale in Europe eventually make their way into the American market. Crosstrek almost didn’t make the trip, as it wasn’t originally targeted for our market. But when dealers saw the European version to the Crosstrek, they lobbied Subaru to bring it stateside.

So they did, and it makes a good addition to the lineup. By taking the company’s core capability — versatile, all-season transport — and putting it in a fresh-looking package, Subaru has added a crossover model that should resonate well with the young, outdoor active segment. It’s more versatile than the Impreza, and has a sportier feel than Forester.