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2019 Subaru Crosstrek Plug-In Hybrid Review By John Heilig

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A Green-vehicle review for car shoppers concerned with fuel economy, hybrid vehicles, electric vehicles and gasoline and diesel exhaust emissions

By John Heilig
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Mid-Atlantic Bureau
The Auto Channel

REVIEWED MODEL: 2019 Subaru Crosstrek Plug-In Hybrid
ENGINE: 2.0-liter Boxer 4
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 123 hp @ 5,600 rpm (148 combined horsepower)/134 lb.-ft. @ 4,400 rpm
WHEELBASE: 104.9 in.
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 175.8 x 71.0 x 62.8 in.
TIRES: P225/55R18
CARGO CAPACITY: 15.9/43.1 cu. ft. (rear seats up/down)
ECONOMY: 90 mpge/29.5 mpg test
CURB WEIGHT: 3,726 lbs.
COMPETITIVE CLASS: Chevrolet Equinox, Hyundai Tucson, Ford EcoSport
STICKER: $38,470 (includes $975 delivery, $2,500 options)
BOTTOM LINE: While the Subaru Crosstrek has possibilities for being a good small SUV, the plug-in hybrid version simply has too many negative issues.

I was looking forward to driving the Subaru Crosstrek because one of my daughters indicated that she might be interested in buying one when her current Subaru dies. While the Crosstrek has possibilities, the plug-in hybrid version has simply too many deficiencies. 

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First and foremost, the engine/transmission combination is noisy, too noisy. I recall the first time I drove a vehicle with a CVT transmission it was also a Subaru, a Justy. Like the Justy, the Crosstrek’s transmission whines when the car slows and whines when you accelerate back up to speed. I know CVTs have improved over the years, so I was concerned about this one. My daughter, however, said she has Crosstrek owners in her office and that they haven’t indicated noisy transmissions. Besides the transmission, the engine is noisy all the time. Usually, engines that are noisy on acceleration aren’t too bad when cruising the highway. And Subaru boxer engines aren’t usually bad. This one was. 

The deficiencies are disappointing, because the Crosstrek is an ideal entry into Subaru’s family of SUVs that includes the Forester and Outback. I just hope the standard version is less noisy.

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Plug-in hybrids just don’t cut it for me. In the case of the Crosstrek, you have a cargo area full of battery pack (plus the plug-in connector) all for an EV range of a mere 17 miles. Charging time is two hours at 240 volts and five hours at 120 volts. Sure, there are tax  credits and a minimal effect on the environment, but one of the main reasons for an SUV is defeated by the severe reduction in cargo volume. For example, I had to lower a rear seat back just to get my golf clubs in. The bag might have made it without the battery pack.

Complaining over, the Crosstrek is a nice small SUV, although it’s closer to a sedan/wagon. I like the size.

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One of the first things you notices the color, of course. We had several comments, mostly positive about Lagoon Blue Pearl. The exterior color is reflected by matte blue interior accents. Instrumentation is clear, with an eco gauge, information panel and speedometer. You can adjust the information panel to have a digital speedometer at the top.

The Crosstrek has two center screens. The top one is for fuel economy and all the variations. It also includes a digital clock and outside temperature gauge.

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The main infotainment screen below it is fairly standard with all the normal functions. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning are accomplished well. The system did a good job of heating us in the early morning, then cooling us as the day warmed up.

Interior storage consists of a deep cubby at the base of the center stack, a useful arm rest/console that has two USB and an AUX outlet plus 12-volt access.

Four assist handles ease entry and exit. The visors have extensions for sun blockage.  Handling is good. We had fun on our favorite hillclimb. There wasn’t a tendency to speed, and the Crosstrek handled corners well. 

Rear legroom is good. There’s a fold-down armrest between the outside seats that has a pair of cupholders. The fairly tall center hump makes seating in the middle difficult. The seat backs fold easily and the cargo capacity would be good without the battery pack.

All in all, the standard Subaru Crosstrek could be very good, but I would not recommend the plug-in hybrid version.

(c) 2019 The Auto Page Syndicate