2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Road Test Review
2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek marks Subaru’s latest crossover offering
Scores High: Practicality, economy, safety, permanent all-wheel drive
Scores Low: A bit of a yawn in the performance department
Total Car Score Analysis
The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek is a compact crossover utility vehicle (CUV) based on the well-regarded Subaru Impreza. The XV Crosstrek has many qualities that have become hallmarks for the company: boxer engine configuration, all-wheel drive, strong construction and solid value. Yet the XV also breaks from tradition by appealing to a more youthful crowd. Offering space for mountain bikes and access to trail heads, the 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek becomes a weekend warrior's accomplice.
Subaru claims class-leading fuel consumption on the highway of 33 miles per gallon, running with the CVT (as opposed to the entry-level manual transmission). Ground clearance of 8.7 inches is similarly second to none among rivals, while at the same time sporting a lowest-in-class center of gravity – a neat trick that adds to the Crosstrek’s range of fun and functionality.
Subaru calls the 2013 XV Crosstrek "stylish." With regard to almost any other car in its range, that description might be considered optimistic, but the company has a point here. There's a general harmony to the lines and proportions. A touch of plastic cladding adds a little SUV-like attitude and complements the standard-fit roof rails.
The A-pillars are thinner than those of many contemporaries. This is good for visibility, but Subaru's deployment of high-strength steel means no worries over safety; the company expects the XV Crosstrek to score a maximum five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and earn a "Top Safety Pick" from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
For the brave and/or extrovert, Tangerine Orange Pearl is exclusive to the XV Crosstrek. In a sea of gray cars, this color stands out like a fluorescent beacon. Or there's Desert Khaki, which looks a little green when skies are blue.
The XV Crosstrek’s relatively low center of gravity helps make the vehicle feel stable, despite the elevated ride height for off-pavement excursions. Relative to the Impreza sedan, the XV Crosstrek's suspension and brakes have been reinforced. There's minimal lean through corners, but ride quality remains supple. Firm, yes, but not uncomfortably so.
Another reason for limited lean when cornering is a chassis that never gets overwhelmed by the engine. Tuned to fulfill emissions and economy targets rather than please the power seekers, this 2.0-liter boxer-4 develops 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. That's a fairly modest output, and it shows, especially when trying to accelerate with the engine at low revs, or needing a little extra top end power for overtaking on the highway. For general everyday use, it's fine. But once a few passengers have climbed aboard the XV Crosstrek with their outdoor sports paraphernalia – or the maximum towing capability of 1,500 pounds is utilized – progress will become distinctly sedate.
There's also a feeling of detachment to the controls. The throttle, like every other modern car, is a drive-by-wire system – like a foot-operated volume control – but the level of resistance in the pedal feels off. And despite a pleasant weight and fast action to the steering, there's no real information coming up to the hands. Oh, the joys of electrical assistance.
These are counterbalanced by the joys of Subaru’s permanent all-wheel drive, where every wheel receives power all the time. It's helpful in snow, and also when negotiating dirt roads; to go appreciably further off-road than the XV Crosstrek can take you would require buying a much more specialized machine.
As mentioned earlier, the entry-level model comes with a five-speed manual transmission, although most buyers will (and should) go for the automatic transmission, either by checking that particular options box or choosing the higher trim level where it's standard. In this case, the automatic is a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Historically, there's often a drone and/or slackness to the driveline whenever a CVT is involved. In the XV Crosstrek, neither are in evidence. And this transmission enjoys improved fuel efficiency versus the manual: 25 mpg city, 33 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined, compared with 23/30/26 mpg.
Interior Design and Function
Except for some hardier fabrics, the Crosstrek's cabin is remarkably similar to Subaru’s mainstream sedan, which is no bad thing. There are soft plastics where the elbows come to rest; a tilt-and-telescope steering column helps create a comfortable driving position, and rear passenger space edges close to "generous" for a vehicle classified as compact. There's just a little road noise, but it's no worse at 60 mph than it is at 40 mph.
With the back seats in place, cargo space runs to 22.3 cubic feet – enough for three golf bags. Lifting a latch and giving the seat a light nudge is all that's needed to expand the volume to 51.9 cubes. The seats split in the usual 60/40 manner and fold right down to create a flat floor.
Subaru owners, according to the company's research, are an active bunch; always hiking here or biking there. A standard-issue waterproof cargo tray for muddy and damp apparel should therefore be a welcome XV Crosstrek feature for many.
Primary Features and Options
Beyond power locks, windows and mirrors (and air conditioning), a "winter package" is also standard on all Crosstrek’s. This package comes with heated seats and side mirrors, plus a wiper blade de-icing function. And there's the now-obligatory Bluetooth connectivity, along with a USB socket for MP3 players.
The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek goes on sale September 2012, in Premium and Limited trim levels. Premium offers the option of a moonroof or satellite navigation system with a rearview camera; Limited buyers may choose both. The latter also makes leather-seating surfaces available. Adjustable crossbars for the roof rails are optional on both trims.
It’s Perfect For…
Subaru’s latest crossover will work for nearly any active-lifestyle situation where a gutsier engine isn't a prerequisite. Examples include family duties, workday transport, weekend driving excursions and light-to-medium off-road activities. The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek is easy to live with and reasonably priced, making it a worthy competitor in a competitive segment.
Vehicle Tested: 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek
Base MSRP of Test Vehicle: $22,790 (inc. destination)
Options on Test Vehicle: Moonroof, navigation, rearview camera, leather seating surfaces
MSRP of Test Vehicle (including destination charge): TBA
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The manufacturer provided Total Car Score this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Photos Courtesy of the manufacturer.