There comes a time in a man’s life where one of his best friends bestows upon him the honour of being the best man at his wedding. Several months ago, one of my best friends, Andrew, asked if I was willing to be his best man. I, of course, happily accepted.
Betcha didn’t think you’d be reading about a wedding when you clicked on the link to this Subaru XV Crosstrek hybrid review, did ya? Don’t worry, I’ll get to the car stuff shortly.
This trip was to be a bit of a trek (pun intended) as the wedding was not in the Greater Vancouver area where I reside, but in fact at a beautiful vineyard/orchard (named Kurtz Orchards) in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.
As many of my readers know, much of the driving in my reviews is city-based. I figured this would be a unique opportunity to take a vehicle on a proper out-of-town road trip and give it a full road test.
“You’re driving us in what to the wedding”, asked my fellow groomsmen.
“A plasma green Subaru XV Crosstrek hybrid”, I answered, “…but it’s cool!”, I added with some apprehensiveness.
“What the heck is a XV Crosstrek?” was the reply I got back.
To the uninitiated, the Subaru XV Crosstrek hybrid is a relatively new vehicle in the Subaru line-up and somewhat of a category buster. There really isn’t anything out there that is directly comparable, especially in hybrid form.
The XV Crosstrek is supposed to offer the benefits of a crossover (better visibility due to the raised seating position, ample cargo room, and increase ground clearance) and also the advantages of a hatchback (superior handling and better fuel economy).
When North American dealers first saw the XV, originally conceived as a way for Subaru to capitalize on the small-SUV trend in Europe, they convinced Subaru’s top brass that it would be a hit with young urban families. And so we have them to thank for bringing the vehicle to our shores.
After decades of successful “Outback” branding to separate the Subaru Outback from the standard Legacy wagon, the company hopes to repeat the success with the XV Crosstrek as well by separating it from the Impreza namesake. But the XV Crosstrek is still essentially an Impreza hatchback with a bit more crossover utility.
Compared to Subaru’s own Forester, the XV is 4.1” lower, 4.3” shorter, but shares the same width. Engineers have worked in additional ride height (versus the Impreza hatchback) for a total of 22 cm (8.7 inches) of ground clearance.
Tough and tumble plastic cladding helps the XV Crosstrek to further stand out from its donor platform and look more utilitarian.
Note that the Plasma Green paint job on my test vehicle is a colour unique to only the hybrid versions of the XV Crosstrek.
This includes all of your most wanted bits and bobs including a moonroof, HID headlights, LED taillights, iPod/USB audio integration with Bluetooth phone and streaming audio capabilities.
The interior is typical Subaru. Attractive enough, highly functional, well-equipped, but not exactly luxurious.
The cabin was surprisingly spacious for a compact vehicle and easily swallowed up our suitcases, camera gear, laptops, and more. The rear seatbacks still fold flat for larger cargo and because the battery capacity of the hybrid system is only 0.55 kWh, its packaging is virtually invisible.
As for the seats, the back seat room is more than sufficient in the outboard positions. Both front and rear seats were comfortable enough for the 2-3 hour trek between the airport and Niagara Falls. My rear passenger even had the chance to get comfortable and catch a few winks in between cities!
Flanking the typical no nonsense instrument cluster is what Subaru calls their MFD (Multi-Function display). The 4.3” screen can be configured to display a wide variety of information including fuel consumption, range to empty, torque distribution, and many other car settings. The screen, while small, is at least high resolution enough to be highly usable. It allows endless tweaking and a huge variety of adjustable features.
The rearview camera’s video feed also shows up on this display.
The downside of the MFD is that its menu interface seems to have been designed by the same people who design programmable thermostats. In short, it’s not exactly intuitive and the adjustments are done via steering wheel button controls and not a touchscreen. As such it can be quite awkward until you get the hang of it.
I found myself having to cycle through the menu a couple times to get to a the same function because I pressed the wrong button the first time around.
Despite being in the press fleet for some time now, my test vehicle’s settings were mostly unchanged from the factory defaults. I have a feeling that many of my fellow journalists never even came close to using the MFD’s full set of features or took the time to read the owner’s manual to figure out how to do so.
Few things are more important on a road trip than a decent sound system and the Crosstrek didn’t disappoint. Its 6 speaker system was much better than expected thanks to good frequency separation. Subaru even offers a number of speaker and tweeter upgrades as dealer-installed accessories for those wanting more.
In addition to the typical USB hook-up in the centre console, Bluetooth audio streaming was relatively easy to setup even on the standard non-touchscreen head unit.
If there is one other minor interior item I have to gripe about, it’s that the centre console armrest slides fore and aft a bit too easily (at least in my test vehicle) making it more annoying than useful.
SO HOW DOES IT DRIVE?
Ah the beauty of All-Wheel Drive. Like other Subarus, the XV Crosstrek Hybrid is equipped with Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel-drive system. Although there isn’t the same level of adjustability that one would find in the Subaru WRX or STI, the XV’s sure-footed nature was still confidence inspiring.
While plowing along the mud or puddle-filled dirt tracks in the vineyard where the wedding was taking place, not once did the car falter on the slippery surfaces.
The XV Crosstrek’s raised ride height also paid dividends as it breezed through these surfaces without jostling the bridesmaids’ carefully quaffed hairdos out of place.
Powering the hybrid Crosstrek is more or less the same 2.0 litre horizontally opposed boxer 4-cylinder engine that is found on non-hybrid models. However the engineers have bumped up the compression ratio from 10.5:1 to 10.8:1 and have fitted it with a thin electric drive motor to supplement the gas engine.
Although the small electric motor only makes 13 hp, it boosts the vehicle’s torque figures by a useful 48 ft-lbs from a low 0 to 1,500 rpms. Subsequently the hybrid Crosstrek ends up with 161 hp and 193 ft-lbs of torque versus 148 hp and 145 ft-lbs of torque in the standard gas-only car.
The electric drive’s effect is most noticeable when moving out across an intersection after a stop light, accelerating or climbing hills, or even when executing passing manoeuvres.
It quickly became a game for me to try to keep the vehicle in EV-only mode for as long as possible.
Transport Canada rates the hybrid at 6.9L/100 kms in the city and 6.0L/100 kms on the highway. In contrast the non-hybrid version is rated at 8.2L/100 kms in the city but the same 6.0L/1000kms on the highway.
My real world road test resulted in an average of 8.5L/100 kms in a mix of highway and city driving with the vehicle loaded with 3 passengers and luggage for much of the time.
After 5 days of driving between Mississauga, Niagara Falls, and Niagara-on-the-Lake, we were still left with ¼ tank of fuel when we pulled into the gas station by Subaru press office. I have to say that I was impressed even though the XV is not as efficient of a hybrid as others out there on the market.
Little did I know how big a part the Crosstrek would play in making the wedding the glorious success that it was. Not only did it function as reliable transport for three groomsmen to their friend’s wedding, but also as the wedding gift repository and more!
It lived up to expectation as a go-anywhere vehicle for the urban off-road enthusiast that is unlikely to see anything more challenging than logging roads, dirt paths leading to camp grounds, or snow covered ski slopes.
I have to credit Subaru for taking a good crack at their very first hybrid vehicle. It would’ve been easier for them to develop a mild-hybrid (one that never goes into pure EV mode) and then slap a hybrid badge on for mostly marketing purposes, but they didn’t.
Sure, the XV Crosstrek hybrid isn’t perfect. Given the $3,000 price delta between the hybrid and the non-hybrid Sport Package vehicle, one could wish for better fuel economy and more power from the electric motor.
However, the car is sure to find its fans amongst those who are looking for all-wheel-drive safety and security to get through Canadian winters, but unwilling to compromise for front-wheel-drive hybrid such as the Toyota Prius.