When Green Isn’t Always Greener
Subaru is a brand after my own heart. The cheesy commercials and soft-roading outdoor culture just does something in my young, impressionable mind that sets me off. So when I first laid eyes on the XV Crosstrek at the 2012 New York Auto Show — it was love at first blinding orange sight.
The idea of a (much) better looking Outback, based on the Impreza platform, at an extremely affordable $21K+ just did it for me. And with new, sportier cars like the BRZ, WRX and STI, Subaru quickly turned into one of the brand’s this writer swore by. So lucky me — when a lovely green XV Crosstrek Hybrid showed up in my driveway, it seemed like it was Christmas in late March. But the joy of unwrapping this box faded fast… SUV Supermodel
First and foremost were the looks. Where the Outback and Forester are the durable older siblings, the XV Crosstrek is the better looking little brother. The extended Impreza platform featured a “Plasma Green Pearl” paint job that was almost as enticing as the likable orange we're so used to seeing online. The body lines were clean and simple, and the plastic fender covers hinted at its off-road endurance — which we’ll get to soon enough. It was the first properly pretty crossover the brand has ever made. Consider it in the context of the Forester and the *shudder* B9 Tribeca. PHOTOS: See More of the 2013 XV Crosstrek Hybrid Who?
With a 29/33 (combined 31) mpg rating, the XV Crosstrek Hybrid lays claim to being one of the most efficient vehicles in its class…or is it? At the end of our week with the Crosstrek Hybrid, we managed a lowly 24 mpg. That’s significantly less than advertised, and less than the standard XV’s 25/33 (combined 28) mpg. The 13-horsepower electric motor sits in the back of the car and acts as a crutch for the standard 2.0-liter engine — both combining to produce 160 horsepower. Electric only was available at extremely low speeds (under 13 mph) and grumbled along while in reverse. It even had an auto stop-start feature that sometimes worked the way it was supposed to. But often didn’t. All this was paired to a CVT transmission that was — to be blunt — godawful. PHOTOS: See More of the Subaru XV Black Gettin' (a little) Dirty
What the XV Crosstrek lacked in efficiency though, it made up for in off-road agility. We won’t be taking the XV on the Rubicon trail anytime soon, but this soft-roader felt capable and agile on some dirty backroads. Through the woods, it conquered rough terrain and plenty of dirt and rocks. We couldn’t help but feel that the non-hybrid XV, loaded with a manual gearbox (as is standard on the conventionally powered Crosstrek) would have been a bit more fun to work with. The CVT gearbox and hybrid engine just weren’t all that cohesive. PHOTOS: See More of the 2011 Subaru XV Concept Overall
So, while we did manage to get a little
mud dirt on the tires, we walked away with a different appreciation of the XV Crosstrek. It wasn’t nearly as good as it looked, but there was something about it that had a certain appeal. Inside, it was coated in leather and loaded with space — like most other Subarus though, it was lacking in many features. But to be fair, that's part of the draw. So take away the lifeless gearbox and jumpy hybrid engine, and you’re left with a mostly capable, and mostly handsome Subaru built for soft-roading. As tested, we were looking at about $29,295 when it was all said and done. But we suggest you avoid paying the extra $3,000 or so and go non-hybrid– with a standard 2.0i Premium with a five-speed manual. You’ll thank us later. PHOTOS: See More of the 2013 Subaru Outback
Specs Engine: 2.0-liter 4-Cylinder Boxer Hybrid Horsepower: 160 Price (as Tested): $29,295
Positives Best looking SUV/cross tourer around Agile off road
Negatives Useless hybrid Lifeless CVT transmission Lacking features
Photo Credit: Jeff Perez for BoldRide