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2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Rocky Mountain Review By Dan Poler

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2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek

By Dan Poler
Rocky Mountain Bureau
The Auto Channel


During a week we’re testing Subaru’s all-new XV Crosstrek? Yes, please! In fact this was one of three storms during our week with this car, dropping a total of about two feet of snow on us. Perfect timing – even for us grown kids, there’s nothing better than playing in the snow!

What exactly is the XV Crosstrek, you ask? Built upon the Impreza five-door hatchback platform, the XV Crosstrek that adds to Subaru’s smallest-available stateside offering nearly three inches additional lift, a beefed-up suspension, and unique styling in the form of black body cladding and alloy wheels. Consider the XV Crosstrek to the Impreza as the Outback is to the Legacy were we to go up a class in size.

But… It’s an Impreza, you think. Not really. What does three inches of additional lift do for the XV Crosstrek? That brings total ground clearance to 8.7 inches – that’s just a tenth of an inch shy of a Jeep Wrangler Sport, impressive for a compact and perfect for tackling snowy roads.

Our tester came to us in a color Subaru calls Tangerine Orange Pearl, and which we referred to alternatively as either Creamsicle or never-lose-it-in-a-parking-lot-orange. Although a little bright and flashy for our tastes, the color works nicely with the contrasting black body cladding.

The cabin is enormously spacious; we were surprised at how much legroom and headroom was available particularly in the back seat and for such a small car. With seats up there’s a reasonable 22.3 cubic feet of cargo space, but with the rear seats down that expands to nearly 52 cubic feet making the XV Crosstrek a versatile stuff-hauler.

Interior materials are no-frills, clearly implemented with function over form. Materials are of good quality, particularly seat coverings which look classy and durable. Controls are white-on-black during the day, with red lighting at night which is very easy on the eyes. Our only quibble is the gas gauge, implemented as a horizontal bar in a center LCD display in the dash – it’s a bit challenging to read and notice, but we expect that it just takes some getting used to.

Entertainment comes from a fairly basic head unit radio with integrated Bluetooth – in keeping with the spirit of the rest of the vehicle, it’s decent but not over-the-moon, lacking somewhat in bass.

The XV Crosstrek is powered by a 2.0-liter horizontally-opposed Boxer engine, putting out 148 hp which gets to all four wheels via a 5-speed manual transmission and Subaru’s all-wheel drive system which splits power 50/50 front to rear by means of a viscous coupling locking center differential.

Driving the XV Crosstrek is fun, as we’ve found is true for any car with a horizontally-opposed engine and a manual gearbox. Although not very powerful, it doesn’t detract from simply being a good time. We did, however, find the 148 hp engine to struggle on high mountain passes – crossing Floyd Hill just west of Denver, for example, required dropping all the way to 3rd gear to maintain 65 mph on the incline, creating a somewhat noisy experience. Having the manual gearbox definitely helps in this sort of scenario, but Subaru would be well served by wedging another 30-50 ponies under the hood. Our one other concern was a long throw and heavy weight to the clutch which became tiring for long drives.

One neat feature is Subaru’s Incline Start Assist which will momentarily hold the brake to prevent the car from rolling backwards when starting on an incline – if the driver takes his or her foot off of the brake when the light turns green, the brake will actually hold until there is sufficient power to propel the vehicle forward. This is a nice touch sure to be appreciated by novice stick-shift drivers.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

So given our weather during our week with the XV Crosstrek, how did it do? In a word: Excellent. The XV Crosstrek handled admirably on every condition we could throw at it – deep snow, snowpack, ice, and slush. As we’ve observed before, the most important component to Subaru’s all-wheel drive setup is predictability – it’s easy for the driver to perceive what the car will do in a given situation. We only found ourselves in trouble when we pushed past that point just to see if we were really at that point – the “are you sure you want to do that?” moment. We found that when we pushed past our comfort zone, particularly on slick, icy slush, we pushed the car past its limits as well and started to slide. It took considerable effort to get to this point, however.

All in all, the Subaru XV Crosstrek is a car that seems just about purpose-built for the Mountain West. It’s comfortable but not opulent. Small but enormously spacious inside, particularly the back seats. Subaru’s top-notch all-wheel-drive system. In addition to all of this, we averaged an astonishingly good 31 MPG during our time with the car, easily beating the EPA estimates 23 / 30 city / highway. While not luxurious, it’s perfectly tailored to daily driving needs – a vehicle that will get you comfortable and efficiently across the high mountain passes in inclement weather. Given an as-tested price of $22,790, the XV Crosstrek is a potent combination of comfort, capability, and efficiency that’s hard to match.


2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek
Base Price: $21,995.00
Price as Tested: $22,790.00
Engine Type: DOHC 4-cyl Boxer
Engine Size: 2.0 liter
Horsepower: 148 @ 6,200 RPM
Torque (lb-ft): 145 @ 4,200 RPM
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Wheelbase / Length (in): 103.7 / 175.2
Curb Weight: 3,087 lb
Pounds per HP: 20.9
Fuel Capacity (gal): 15.9
Fuel Requirement: Regular unleaded
Tires: Yokohama Geolandar G95; P225/55HR17
Brakes, front/rear: Ventilated disc / Solid disc
Suspension, front/rear: MacPherson Strut / Double Wishbone
Ground clearance (in): 8.7
Drivetrain: Full-time all-wheel drive with viscous coupling locking center differential
EPA Fuel Economy - MPG
city / highway / observed: 23 / 30 / 31
Base Trim Price: $21,995

Options and Charges
Delivery: $795.00
Price as tested: $22,790.00