2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Limited Review By Carey Russ


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Limited


DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Limited

Subaru’s have long been popular with people in parts of the country where there really are four seasons and the Pleistocene is more than ancient history, and they are also popular with people who like getting away from it all, to campsites or activity areas far off the paved path, even where the climate is pleasant and hospitable. Compared to a 4x4 SUV, a Subaru is a paragon of fuel efficiency. But only in that 20 to 25 mpg beats 10 to 15 hands-down.

Like the idea of a Subaru but like fuel efficiency even more? Meet the 2013 XV Crosstrek. Equipped with the wide-ratio continuously-variable transmission (CVT) that is optional in the Premium and standard in the Limited trim level, the Crosstrek is rated by the EPA at 25 mpg city, 33 mpg highway. With all-wheel drive, 8.7 inches of ground clearance, and the good traction and road manners expected from a Subaru. EPA estimates are often more than a bit optimistic, but with regular driving and no attempt to eke the maximum distance out of each gallon of regular unleaded, I still got 27 mpg overall for a recent week with a well-equipped 2013 XV Crosstrek Limited.

Smaller and priced lower, than the Forester, the XV Crosstrek fills the spot in the Subaru lineup vacated by the demise of the Outback Sport after 2011. Like that late Outback Sport, the XV Crosstrek is based on the Impreza five-door hatch/wagon. Unlike the Outback Sport, the XV Crosstrek has real Outback clearance, all the better for potholed city streets as well as forest trails. The increase in fuel efficiency comes from a new powertrain, with a long-stroke 2.0-liter boxer four replacing the previous 2.5-liter engine. Its 148 horsepower may seem like a step back from the last Outback Sport's 170, but the secret is the second-generation Lineartronic® CVT. Compared to the old four-speed automatic the CVT's lower low and higher high ratios improve both low- and medium-speed acceleration and highway fuel economy. It can hold its own in traffic, and if acceleration is not blistering, well, there's the WRX for that.

Besides the increased ride height, the Crosstrek gets matte-black cladding around its lower perimeter, including the lower front apron, rocker panels, and wheel arches, and an optional body-colored spoiler. Standard alloy wheels further add to its rugged appearance.

Premium is the base level? It's not even "base level" - included are heated front seats and side mirrors, a windshield de-icer, tilt-and-telescope steering wheel with Bluetooth« controls for hands-free phone and streaming audio, power windows, mirrors, and door locks, and audio with iPod«, USB, and jack inputs. Limited adds leather-trimmed upholstery, steering wheel, and shift knob, automatic on/off headlights, a display screen for the audio system and a rear-view camera, and more. A navigation system, moonroof, and accessories for bicycles, skis, snowboards, camping, and other outdoor activities are available for both levels.

During my week with a well-equipped XV Crosstrek Limited I didn't have a chance to head to the outback. Alas, my driving was around town, in the hills beyond, and on local highways. Local road maintenance budgets being what they are, the Crosstrek worked well even when the pavement was more a memory than real. Subaru figured out how to combine clearance and handling long ago. Ride quality was good, and interior noise levels low. Near the end of the week I suspected that either the fuel tank was extra-large or mileage better than the low to mid-20s I've found in previous Subarus. At 15.9 gallons, the tank is larger than usual -- and at 27 mpg, driving spiritedly most of the time, it takes a while to drain it. Add fuel economy to Subaru's traditional values of composed handling in all weather and road conditions.

APPEARANCE: Unsurprisingly, the XV Crosstrek looks like an Impreza wagon given the Outback treatment. It wears the black lower cladding well, especially in the signature orange of my test car. Proportions are right, and the extra height and roof rails look correct, not added-on. Underbody panels are plastic, more for aerodynamic efficiency than use as skid plates. Is that a trailer hitch mount in the center of the rear bumper? Interestingly, there are no visible exhausts. Maybe that has something to with the forthcoming hybrid version?

COMFORT: As is typical for Subaru, the Crosstrek's interior is functional, well-built, and handsome if not particularly fancy. It's comfortable and roomy for the car's small footprint. Seat comfort is good, even after several hours. The main instruments are shaded from glare and easily visible, tach on the left, speedometer on the right (with a "MPG gauge" telling whether current throttle use is good for that or not inset) and trip info between. Another hood atop the center stack shades a display of time, outside temperature, and information such as distance to empty and mileage. With navigation, the screen is to the right of the steering wheel and easily seen and used since it is a touchscreen. Audio and navigation are controlled through that, with climate being via simple knobs below. A locking glove box is useful, as are bottle holders in all doors, with a bit of storage in the fronts. The console has open storage and power in front, an open coin tray, simple cupholders, and audio jack, USB, and power in the covered box at the rear. Rear seat space is good for two; the moderately high central tunnel makes the center less useful for adults or large children. Storage space in the rear is good, and only increased by folding the 60/40 rear seat, although a bicycle will need front wheel removal. A space-saver spare lives under the load floor. The rubberized cargo area and floor mats are optional but inexpensive and useful.

SAFETY: Subaru expects the XV Crosstrek to achieve the highest ratings in NHTSA and IIHS front and side crash tests. Like all Subarus, it uses "Ring-Shaped Frame Reinforcement" in its unibody structure for rigidity and passenger protection regardless of the direction of collision. A full complement of airbags includes a driver's knee bag plus the usual front, front-seat side, and side-curtain bags. Strong four-wheel antilock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), and brake over-ride to cut engine power when both brake and throttle pedals are pressed simultaneously. The front seats are designed to reduce whiplash and add protection in the event of a rear-end collision. The Vehicle Dynamics Control system combines stability and traction systems.

RIDE AND HANDLING: With 8.7 inches of clearance, the XV Crosstrek might be suspected of poor, top-heavy handling. Not a chance! The low center of gravity from Subaru's trademark horizontally-opposed engine and low position of all other heavy masses plus suspension geometry optimized for the clearance and travel needed ensure stability and control. The fully-independent MacPherson strut front, double-wishbone rear suspension is tuned moderately firmly, for good ride comfort and control. Unlike too many current cars, the electrically-assisted power steering is not numb at all and good for that. The "hill-holder clutch" lives, as Incline Start Assist is standard with both transmissions. On the road, the XV Crosstrek is stable and comfortable, no matter how poor the surface.

For optimum traction no matter what the road surface may be, all Crosstreks use Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive with all four wheels driven all the time and a static 50:50 front/rear torque split, with capability to send torque where it can best be utilized.

PERFORMANCE: Reading the numbers, the 2.0-liter engine's 148 horsepower (at 6200 rpm) and 145 lb-ft of torque (at 4200 rpm) seem like a step backward in a car that weighs in 3200 pounds, a bit more than the previous Outback Sport with 170 hp and lb-ft. The secret is the wide-ratio CVT, with a lower low (3.58:1 vs 3.54:1) and higher high (0.618:1 vs 0.78:1) than the five-speed manual, and "shift" logic to use that to advantage. Meaning that low-speed acceleration, as in typical city and backcountry situations, is stronger than expected. Midrange acceleration is none too bad, either. At highway velocity, yes more power would be nice, but it works fine as is and contributes to exemplary fuel economy. As stated, I got 27 mpg for the week without trying for good economy. There is a manual-shift mode, with six virtual ratios via shift paddles behind the steering wheel arms. Not a necessity, but good for a spirited drive in the country.

CONCLUSIONS: The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek combines expected surefootedness and comfort with surprisingly good fuel economy.

SPECIFICATIONS
2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Base Price			$ 24,495
Price As Tested			$ 27,692
Engine Type			horizontally-opposed 16-valve DOHC
				 4-cylinder with variable cam phasing on 
				 intake cams
Engine Size			2.0 liters / 122 cu. in.
Horsepower			148 @ 6200 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			145 @ 4200 rpm
Transmission			CVT
Wheelbase / Length		103.7 in. / 175.2 in.
Curb Weight			3197 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		21.6
Fuel Capacity			15.9 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				P225/55R17 95H Yokohama Geolander G95
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut/
				  independent double wishbone
Ground clearance		8.7 inches
Drivetrain			longitudinal front engine,
				 all-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		25 / 33 / 27
0 to 60 mph				8.7  sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Moonroof and Navigation Package - includes
  moonroof, voice-activated navigation system	$ 1,200
Roof spoiler					$   314
Anti-slip cargo mat				$    19
All-weather floor mats				$    69
Destination charge				$   795

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