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2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Is the XV Crosstrek the next Outback?

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating
User Rating 5 Star Rating (1 Review)

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2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek

2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Photo © Subaru

Meet Subaru's latest car-SUV crossover: The 2013 XV Crosstrek, an Impreza hatchback that's been beefed up for the "active lifestyle" that SUV buyers are supposed to lead -- or at least desire. Is the $22,790 XV Crosstrek the SUV for a new generation, or will it sink like a stone? Let's drive it and (try to) find out.

First Glance

Legend has it that Subaru came up with their iconic Outback back in 1995 because they didn't have the money to develop a proper SUV. Instead, they took a Legacy wagon, jacked up the suspension, bolted on some rugged-looking trim -- and inadvertently created the vehicle that put Subaru on the map. What many people don't realize is that Subaru also Outback-ized the smaller Impreza that same year -- and yet in 16 years of sales, the Outback Sport, as it was known, never took off. Maybe it was the lack of a raised suspension, or the fact that people were looking for bigger utility vehicles, not smaller ones.

Of course, that was long before gas hit $4/gallon. Today, small-car sales are growing, and the Impreza has risen to meet the challenge, receiving a major re-do for 2012 that included a nicer interior and a more miserly engine. Subaru thinks the time is right for a new small Outback, and this is it: The 2013 XV Crosstrek.

The XV Crosstrek certainly looks the part: Big, beefy body cladding, big, beefy wheels, and -- most importantly -- big, beefy ground clearance. Subaru claims 8.7" beneath the XV Crosstrek, same as their other-other crossover, the Forester. The sheetmetal is identical to the Impreza hatchback, but the XV isn't just a car on stilts; it looks purpose-built. The pricing is pretty car-like, though: $22,790 for starters, $1,445 more than a comparably-equipped Impreza hatchback. The automatic leather-lined Limited model goes for $25,290, and an XV with all two of the options (sunroof and navigation) lists for $27,290.

In the Driver's Seat

2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Photo © Subaru

CUV commercials often show smiling families exploring the Great Outdoors, but Subaru says their buyers really do lead such adventurous lifestyles, and they've designed the XV Crosstrek's interior to suit. The basic layout is identical to the Impreza; it's a conservative but well-executed design, with predictably-placed controls, adequate storage, high-quality materials and soft padding in the places you rest your elbows. The XV Crosstrek gets unique seat cloth (unless you pop for the Limited model, which gets leather). The 22.5 cubic foot cargo bay is lined with a thick rubber tray, so you can toss your muddy boots into the back without a second thought. Fold down the back seats and you can stuff in a mountain bike, sans front wheel.

The XV Crosstrek's stance gives drivers a unique view of the road: You sit taller than you would in a car, but you don't lord over traffic as you would in a big SUV. Visibility is good all around, despite the pinched rear-side windows. A rear-view camera is optional on the Premium model and standard on the Limited. And speaking of visibility, this is a good a time as any to mention that the optional cold-weather package includes a de-icer for the windshield wipers -- very handy. The back seat feels like, well, a car -- it's actually rather roomy by small-car standards, but lacks the towering headroom of many CUVs.

On the Road

The XV Crosstrek inherits its 148 hp 2-liter four-cylinder engine from the Impreza, which is not a particularly quick car to begin with -- and the XV Crosstrek's extra 150 lbs of weight doesn't help matters much. The XV Crosstrek isn't exactly slow, but it isn't exactly fast. It does, however, have one key advantage over its peers: Unlike many small crossovers, the XV Crosstrek is rated for towing -- although it is limited to 1,500 lbs.

Another thing that differentiates the Crosstrek from other CUVs is that you can get it with a 5-speed manual transmission. I really enjoyed driving the stick-shift Crosstrek, though I can't understand why Subaru hasn't yet added a 6th gear. Automatic XV Crosstreks get a continuously-variable transmission (CVT), which does a better job squeezing power and fuel economy from the engine; EPA ratings are 25 MPG city/33 MPG highway, versus 23/30 for the manual. Those are good numbers by SUV standards, but compared to the regular Impreza -- 25/34 for the manual and 27/36 for the CVT -- they show the price we pay for style.

The CVT also comes with a more sophisticated electronically-controlled all-wheel-drive system, versus the mechanical system in manual cars. I had the chance to do a little off-road bashing in the XV, and the automatic did indeed do a better job moving power from wheel to wheel in slower, steeper, stickier situations. But on plain ol' dirt and mud, either one does an impressive job. Out on the pavement, the Crosstrek's handling is similar to the Impreza; the steering is a bit light, but the all-wheel-drive system provides excellent grip. The Crosstrek leans less than you would expect given its height.

Journey's End

2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Photo © Subaru

Will the XV Crosstrek have the same appeal for today's buyers as the Outback did in the 1990s? I'm really not sure. The optimist in me says yes: If people realize they can get their dose of SUVness in a smaller, more fuel-efficient package, they might well go for it. But the cynic in me says no: SUV purists will think the XV Crosstrek is too small, while those who prefer small cars will buy -- well, small cars.

It doesn't help that the XV Crosstrek faces so much strong competition. There are a lot of good compact SUVs on the market, which offer more space for a similar price: The Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and Subaru's own Forester spring to mind, not to mention micro-SUVs like the Nissan Juke and MINI Countryman. Cross-shop the Crosstrek against small hatchbacks, and the picture is even more bleak: Start the Impreza on which the XV Crosstrek is based -- it's $1,500 cheaper, more fuel efficient, and just as good in the snow. And then you have the super-frugal and fun-to-drive Mazda3 SkyActiv and the gadget-laden Ford Focus.

Then again, it seems there's always a place for a niche vehicle, which the XV Crosstrek certainly is. With any luck, Subaru will have the same success with the Crosstrek in 2013 that they did with the Outback in 1995. -- Aaron Gold

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 5 out of 5
Great Ride!, Member GreenDesignGuy

So, we have owned our Subaru XV Crosstrek Limited (Crystal Black Silica/Ivory Leather, Pop Package #1, Moonroof, and Navigation) for about a month now. This vehicle is very difficult to find, and we would have had ours earlier had we not had to wait for it to arrive at the dealer. It was also actually very difficult to find one to test drive, and we ultimately ended up testing out a demo version. I will start with the items I find to be an issue, and then talk about the stuff I love. First, as most have said, the vehicle lacks a little bit of power from the 40mph-60mph range, which is basically when you get on an interstate or highway. This is somewhat mitigated through use of the paddle shifters (which can actually be quite fun, but I use them sparingly). The acceleration is just fine otherwise. Starts smoothly and quickly from a stop and accelerates quickly and smoothly once you are already up to speed as in passing situations. The second item that is probably only an issue for me so it is really more of an annoyance and probably won't both many others is the way the dashboard cuts back to the passenger. I am fairly tall (6'-7"") and I fit really well on the driverís side. Plenty of legroom compared to a lot of vehicles in this range. The problem is that when I am a passenger my right knee does not touch the dash when the seat is all the way back, but the dash swoops back towards the passenger at the center console which jams my left knee into it. It is not a big deal on short trips, but I have a feeling I will be doing all of the driving on the long trips. And again, this will only be an issue if you are my height. I would say anyone over 6'-4"" to check it out first to see if it bothers you. Those are my only complaints, and quite honestly, they are not all that big of a deal. On to the great stuff. First, the XV Crosstrek has a wonderfully solid ride and handles impeccably. We have owned many other small SUV/CUV vehicles and this one handles like a sports car compared to most of them. I would even go as far to say that it is better than the Acura crossover that we had for about a year. Next, the AWD works like a champ. Traveling for the holidays we were mostly driving through snow and ice, and this thing felt like it was magnetized to the road. On top of that, we were loaded down with two people, a large dog, all of our luggage and Christmas gifts driving in c rappy, high wind weather and we still got 30 mpg. When it is just I or my wife driving in normal conditions we average that for both city and highway driving. I have to say this is one of the things that brought me to Subaru in the first place, great gas mileage on an AWD vehicle, and it has more than exceeded my expectations. All of the features of the vehicle are very nice (Moonroof, voice activated Navigation, backup camera etc.) , and I have found the leather interior to feel like it is of very high quality. The other interior finishes are also on par and even the plastics have a soft tactile feel to them. The interior design is simple, which is nice because it does not feel cluttered like a lot of vehicles today. One tech item I wish was part of the vehicle though is a read out of tire pressures. It has a tire pressure monitor/warning system, but nothing that tells you what the pressure currently is. We had this in another vehicle of ours and found it to be a functional and useful tool. On the exterior, I love the rugged yet refined look that the vehicle has from its added height, modified bumpers and especially the rims. Can't say enough how cool the rims are. Finally, a couple of other things to mention I would like to mention. First, the way the engine compartment is setup it will make it very easy to do routine maintenance if that is your thing. I will probably change our own oil and air filter as required. Second, while many dealers are not open to dealing on this vehicle, if you play your cards right, you can still get a deal as some dealers are open to dealing on the price. The biggest suggestion would be to make the dealers compete against one another and don't set foot into the dealership to finalize the deal until you have a price locked from email or phone communication. Doing so allowed us to get our Crosstrek ($28,200 MSRP) for $24,300, which makes for an incredible value on this vehicle. I hope that this review helps anyone that is interested in this vehicle. We really do love this car and could not be happier with it.

25 out of 25 people found this helpful.

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