A few years ago, compact crossovers were written off as entry-level vehicles favored by young female buyers. Girl cars. No self-respecting dude or grown-up lady would be caught dead in one. With gas prices lodged in the stratosphere, things have changed. And so have the compact crossovers. Subaru's new masculine crossover, the 2013 XV Crosstrek, seeks to change all that. I test drove a Subaru XV Crosstrek 2.0i Limited with a base price of $24,495 and an "as-tested" price of $27,290, complete with a $2,000 navigation and moonroof package and $795 destination and delivery charge. Was the XV Crosstrek enough crossover for this fully-grown man? Let’s drive.
I always have to rehash my Subaru history in preface to every Subaru review I post, just to make sure that I have exposed my bias toward the brand. My very first car was a 1972 Subaru GL, and I loved that car (though you wouldn't know it from the way I treated it). Later, when I sold cars to put myself through college, Subaru was one of the brands at the dealership where I worked. As a result of this early imprinting, I've maintained a great affection for the brand -- though I haven't owned another Subaru since leaving my old GL behind in 1980.
So, when Subaru releases its first all-new crossover vehicle in a decade, I sit up and take notice. XV Crosstrek -- oh, heck, I'm going to stop calling it that, and just call it "Crosstrek," because I'm pretty sure that's what Subaru's going to do after a year or two anyway -- Crosstrek is very close in size to Subaru's Forester, but has about 10 cubic feet less interior volume due to Forester's airier greenhouse. Crosstrek looks completely different than Forester or Outback, though, with a very sleek, contemporary, racy exterior. Crosstrek looks muscular and cut, and above all - very masculine. Every one that I've seen so far, in person or in photographs, has shared the same Tangerine Orange Pearl exterior paint that coated the body of my test vehicle. One of my neighbors joked that the Crosstrek looked like a Tonka truck, and I could see their point. With the black body accent pieces and blacked out wheels, the orange Crosstrek looks ready for Halloween. Luckily, Crosstrek is available in seven other exterior colors besides Tangerine Orange Pearl, and some of them are quite subdued by contrast.
Inside, the Crosstrek is nicely arrayed, with good material selection and nice, subtle differences in texture on the monochromatic black dash. My Limited trim model got leather seats, and the leather seating surfaces felt particularly tough, yet soft. I have to quibble with the arrangement of the center stack, which puts air conditioning vents above the optional ($2,000 as part of a package) navigation system. I greatly prefer a nav screen that is at the top of the center stack, minimizing the time that the driver's eyes are off of the road to check the map.
Crosstrek can be ordered up with a five-speed manual transmission in the Premium trim level, but the only transmission available with the top trim level Limited models is a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with paddle shifters that simulate manual gear selection. I'm not a big fan of the CVT, which Subaru also jams into the Outback 2.5 models, but this one's not horrible. The only time the CVT in the Crosstrek got on my nerves was under heavy application of the accelerator, when the transmission holds at a constant level of RPMs and feels almost like it's holding the car back. That's not what's happening, but that's the kind of visceral disconnect that a CVT can create. Of course, a CVT can also be much more efficient than a conventional geared transmission, and for that reason I'm going to have to get used to them, and so will you. This CVT does get the most out of Crosstrek's modest 148 hp engine, producing spunky around-town performance and acceptable freeway guts. I didn't take my Crosstrek off-road, but with 8.7" of ground clearance, it should do very well on dirt roads and with Subaru's proven all-wheel drive prowess, I'd expect good performance in the snow, too.
XV Crosstrek's big competition can be found right there on the same showroom floor in the Forester. Forester is very close in size and price to Crosstrek, and already has a loyal following. Crosstrek trumps Forester in terms of fuel economy, and that may be the only advantage it needs right now. The big leaders in the clubhouse are Honda's CR-V and Toyota's RAV4, both big sellers and solid vehicles. Mazda's CX-5, Ford's newly redesigned Escape, Kia's Sportage and Hyundai's Tucson also compete tightly.
Which brings us back to the question of manliness. I would have no trouble parking an XV Crosstrek in a crowd of Tahoes, F-350s and Ram trucks. I'd even pick up the check for a round of barbeque and brews for my buddies with the extra money I pocketed from driving a 33 mpg compact crossover, without once handing in my man card.
- Right sized.
- Good fuel economy.
- A little pricier than the competition.
- Not as unique as other Subaru crossovers.
Details and specs:
- Base prices: $21,995 (2.0i Premium); $24,495 (2.0i Limited)
- Engine: 2.0-liter horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder
- Horsepower: 148 @ 6,200
- Torque: 145 @ 4,200 rpm
- Transmission: 5-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) with all-wheel drive
- Fuel Economy: 25 mpg city/33 mpg highway
- Wheelbase: 103.7" Vehicle Length: 175.2" Width: 70.1" Height: 63.6"
- Curb Weight: 3,087 lbs (5MT); 3,142 - 3,164 lbs (AWD)
- Cargo: 22.3 cubic feet behind second row; 51.9 cubic feet behind first row (second row folded).
- Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles basic; 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain