The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek 2.0i Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)


Review By Steve Purdy
Senior Editor
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

Subaru started out in the U.S. as a quirky Japanese brand imported by serial entrepreneur Malcom Bricklin back in the late 1960s. Subarus were unusual in style and design as well as having an unconventional “boxer” (horizontally-opposed) engine. Hardly anyone noticed. As it turned out the competence of the whole car, and particularly the functionality of the standard “symmetrical” all-wheel drive, gained the brand a small but loyal following. Over ensuing years the style and design became more mainstream but the all-wheel drive and boxer engines remain central to the brand’s DNA.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

It is interesting to note that during the Great Recession beginning in 2009 Subaru was the only brand to consistently see sales increases during those dismal years.

This week we’re testing the off-roady XV Crosstrek Premium, a small, snazzy version of the compact Impreza 5-door hatchback introduced in 2013. The XV Crosstrek sports a higher stance, a few flashy colors and a modestly aggressive personality, partly from visuals but partly from driving dynamics.

When they delivered the XV Crosstrek to my driveway I did not immediately recognize it as an Impreza. After all, as Subaru’s compact hatchback the basic car has little innate panache, but this one is a striking Sunrise Yellow color, has brash 17-inch styled alloy wheels and a higher than normal stance. It got my attention. Black roof rails, protruding taillights and privacy glass also make it look less like a white bread compact and more like a sporty one.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

The interior is quite striking as well with decent quality materials throughout including better-than-average cloth seats. Lots of simple silver metallic trim accents the dash, door panels and console. A combination of digital and analog gauges includes a multi-function display with all the important information accessible with a minimum of buttons and controls. Subaru designers get credit for avoiding unnecessary complexity and gimmickry. Seats are comfortable up front with enough adjustment range to fit most any size buyer including a bigger-than-conscionable guy like me.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Rear seat room is adequate. Remember, this is a compact after all. Rear seatbacks easily fold 60/40 for added cargo capacity. With the seatbacks folded we have 59.9 cubic feet for our stuff and with them in place we have 22.3 cubic feet – about average for this size of car.

Under the hood is Subaru’s classic, normally aspirated 2.0-liter boxer engine. While a 5-speed manual transmission is available our test car has the CVT with a six-speed faux-gearing programmed in - a $1,000 option. Paddle shifters allow us to pretend we have regular gearing and even in normal driving the CVT makes itself feel fairly conventional. That powertrain makes just 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque – not enough to feel particularly spirited but enough for normal driving. The zero-to-60 mph time is around 10 seconds according to Edmunds testing. This car could really benefit from a turbo.

A hybrid version of the XV Crosstrek is available that adds about 10% more power and a couple clicks better fuel mileage. Our conventional powertrain is good for 34 mpg on the highway, 26 in the city and 29 mpg combined using regular fuel. Our week with the car netted 30.5 mpg in mixed use.

Our test car shows a base price of $22,295 and we have a $2,000 option package that includes the yellow paint job, turn signals in the outside mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel, keyless entry with push-button start and power moonroof. With the extra grand for the CVT and an $850 destination and delivery charge we’re looking at $26,140 on the sticker’s bottom line.

Subaru’s new car warranty covers the whole car for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles.

Driving dynamics are a bit quirky as well, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Aggressive throttle engagement and a slight hesitation before the CVT engages makes it feel almost like a performance car. We expect most cars today to have a smooth, unobtrusive take-up, but this one has more personality. Acceleration seems adequate until you put your foot in it to get up to speed on a cloverleaf freeway ramp. Then it becomes wheezy and its lack of grunt becomes more apparent. Paddle shifters and the artificial gearing mitigate the CVT whine a bit, but it is still a CVT. Were I ordering this car I would certainly save a grand and go for the 5-speed manual.

At speed the Crosstrek is reasonably quiet and it handles quite well. The independent suspension design features front struts with a lower L-arm and rear double wishbone with stabilizer bar. It is both raised and stiffened for improved off-road capability. Cornering is firm and steering has enough feedback to gratify a driving enthusiast.

What sets Subaru’s XV Crosstrek apart from the competition is the standard symmetrical all-wheel drive that contributes to a feeling of stability and composure on dry, wet or slippery roads with all wheels pulling all the time.

Small, sporty crossovers or hatchbacks come in a seemingly endless variety of brands and personalities. This one deserves a look as a slow but sophisticated and competent version that can get you off-road if you like while managing daily driving efficiently.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

The Most In-Depth Subaru Vehicle Shopper's Research - Anywhere!