2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Road Test Review

Simon Hill - CAP staff
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It's been a good year for Subaru. A few short months ago, just in time for the summer, the company introduced its sporty BRZ coupe, which is the first performance-oriented rear-wheel drive car in the company's history. Now, just in time for the winter, Subaru has revealed the XV Crosstrek, a new all-wheel drive compact crossover utility vehicle that's perfect for tackling snowy roads and winter sports adventures.

But just as the BRZ has a fraternal twin in the form of the Toyota FR-S (thanks to a joint development program between Subaru and Toyota), the XV Crosstrek also has a fraternal twin, and this one is much closer to home: behind the lower body cladding, the raised suspension, the adventure-ready roof rails and the unique wheels the Crosstrek is in fact a modified Impreza 5-door. This fact doesn't make the XV Crosstrek any less good. In fact, I'd argue, it makes it better.

While compact CUVs are immensely popular due to their spacious practicality, they tend to suffer in the handling department due to their upright stance and relatively high centre of gravity. The XV Crosstrek, on the other hand, has an inherently low centre of gravity thanks to its flat 4-cylinder "boxer" engine, and it rides only 75 millimetres higher than the Impreza 5-door on which it is based - enough to give it a substantial advantage in deep snow and on rocky, rutted cottage trails, but not enough to seriously affect its handling. Sure, there's a touch more body lean in the corners and a bit more dive and squat when braking and accelerating, but overall the Crosstrek is one of the best-handling small CUVs I've ever driven, with an athletic chassis and a ride that's taut without being harsh. For someone who likes to drive, this is a big deal.

Outside, the Crosstrek is differentiated from the Impreza 5-door by unique front and rear fascias plus the previously mentioned lower body cladding, roof rails and angular "flower" alloys (I've heard mixed reviews about these, but everyone who saw my test car really liked them). The XV also offers a couple of distinctly un-Impreza like colours (Tangerine Orange and Desert Khaki) in addition to Deep Cherry Pearl (shared with the Impreza) and the usual black, white, silver and grey. The exterior changes, while individually quite subtle, add up to create an overall appearance that's distinctly different from the Impreza and remarkably good-looking.

Inside, the Crosstrek is pretty much the same as the Impreza, and again this is a good thing. It means that it has comfortable and supportive front seats, a roomy split-folding back seat, and reasonably spacious cargo area. With the back seats up there's 632 litres of space, which can be expanded to 1,470 litres by folding the rear seats. The Crosstrek's outward visibility is also very good, especially rearward visibility, which can often be quite restricted in small CUVs. The interior is built mostly of hard plastics, but it has a premium look to it with nice textures, and there are soft-touch surfaces where it counts including on the upper dashboard.

My test car was fitted out in base Touring trim, which includes an impressive range of equipment such as automatic climate control, keyless entry, power locks, cruise control, tilt and telescoping steering, heated front seats, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio system with Bluetooth phone connectivity, and more. About the only things I really missed having were a sunroof and a leather-covered steering wheel and shift knob. Conveniently these are all available as part of the Sport trim package, which also adds HID headlights and a roof spoiler. There's also a Limited package that adds leather upholstery, a premium audio system with satellite radio, voice activated GPS navigation, dual-zone climate control, chrome door handles and a few other features.

Where the Crosstrek does perhaps suffer a little due to its close kinship with the Impreza 5-door is in the power department. The only available engine is Subaru's ubiquitous 2.0-litre horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder, which develops 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque. In the Impreza this is adequate if not abundant power, and the same generally holds true for the Crosstrek, although the latter is hauling around an extra 80kg, which is like having an Olympic snowboarder riding shotgun with you the whole time, except without the snowboarding advice. An easy solution to amp up the power would be to drop in the turbocharged 2.5-litre engine out of the Impreza-based WRX, and that may yet be an option in the future, but in the meantime the 2.0-litre manages fine provided you're willing to rev it into the upper ranges when merging or attacking steep gradients.

My test car had the 5-speed manual transmission, and while a 6-speed would be even better I reckon the manual is the best way to wring the available power from the engine (apparently Subaru expects about 20-percent of Crosstrek buyers to agree, which is a much higher-than-average manual transmission uptake). I found the 5-speed to be slick shifting and easy to drive, making it reasonably fun to run the engine through its paces on twisty, hilly back roads. For those wanting an automatic, the Crosstrek has an available Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) with paddle-shift operated manual mode, which in typical CVT fashion offers good fuel economy at the expense of a somewhat droning character under acceleration. Rated city/highway fuel consumption is 8.9 / 6.7 L/100km with the manual transmission and 8.2 / 6.0 with the automatic.

Suggested pricing for the XV Crosstrek with the manual transmission starts at $26,190 including destination fees in base Touring trim, with the Sport trim going for $28,190 and the Limited for $30,690, destination in. The automatic transmission is an additional $1,300. With pricing like that, and an athletic character that allows it to deliver surprisingly car-like handling while still venturing where front-wheel drive crossovers dare not tread, the Crosstrek should prove to be a winner. 
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, Subaru, 2013, XV Crosstrek, $20,000 - $29,999, Compact,

Organizations: Subaru

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