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Review of: 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek 5dr Man 2.0i w/Touring Pkg

8.0

2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek: The Impreza's beefier brother

By Jil McIntosh

Sep. 8, 2012

These days, it seems like the worst thing an automaker can do is leave any segment open. No niche is too small, which explains why I’m driving the all-new 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek on a press launch. It’s the company’s new “compact crossover,” filling the gap between the Impreza car on which it’s based, and the SUV/wagon style of Subaru’s Forester and Outback. For many buyers, it will overlap these segments, providing a car-like ride and city-smart size, but with the ability to handle tougher off-road duties, such as rutted cottage roads or treks into ski country.

Pros & Cons

  • + Visibility
  • + Interior storage
  • + Off-road performance
  • - Passing speed
  • - Ride comfort
Read the full review
  • Walkaround

    (Disclaimer: Overnight accommodation, food and drink, and a predetermined drive route were provided to the author by the automaker.)

    The Crosstrek has its charms, and can be a thoroughly pleasant driver, especially for those who want a more rugged-looking vehicle but who don’t want to move up into the traditional sport-ute category. (Just to clarify, its proper name is the XV Crosstrek, XV being its global name, but with Crosstrek added for the Canadian and U.S. market.)

    7.5Good
  • Interior

    The word that immediately springs to mind is “visibility.” If you can’t see just about everything around you in this vehicle, it’s because you’re not looking. In the front, that’s due to thin A-pillars, a large glass panel between the front window and the pillar, and mirrors mounted so they don’t form that dangerous pillar-mirror bloc that can hide pedestrians from view on some vehicles. On the sides and rear, there’s a low shoulder line and gently-sloped hatch window. On the Limited, there’s a rearview camera as well.

    With no “base” level as its Impreza sibling has, the Crosstrek starts out well-loaded. Features on the Touring include heated seats, driver’s knee airbag, automatic headlamps, heated mirrors, Bluetooth, iPod interface, automatic climate control, cargo cover, tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel with audio controls, and a windshield wiper de-icer. The Sport adds xenon headlamps, leather-wrapped steering wheel, roofline spoiler, and sunroof, while the Limited further adds dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, and navigation system.

    The interior design is lifted directly from the Impreza, but with the addition of a sliding centre armrest. Subaru has been steadily improving its interiors, and overall the design is handsome, but it isn’t quite there yet in terms of the overall impression. Despite the addition of more soft-touch surfaces, the cabin still relies too heavily on lots of plain plastic. The result is that while the Touring and Sport seem reasonably priced, the Limited doesn’t feel like you’ve dropped thirty grand on it, even with the moving map in its dash.

    And while it’s a minor quibble, a little more power to the paint could do wonders for it, too. There’s a “Tangerine Orange” exterior shade that really sets it off nicely, especially with the narrow band of cladding around the lower edge and wheel wells that gives it some off-road attitude. But if orange isn’t your style, your only other choices are guaranteed to blend into a crowd: black, grey, silver, white, a “deep cherry” that looks black, and “desert khaki” that sounded promising, but turned out to be an equally dull shade of cream.

    The Crosstrek is filled with all kinds of little cubbies, from cell-phone-sized slots in the door handles, to door pockets that hold drink bottles and magazines, to pen holders, a central pocket that’ll hold a smart phone, and enough room in the centre console to stash nine CDs, for them what’s still buying discs.

    The rear seats fold flat, and do so in a single motion, without the need to remove head restraints or pull up any seat cushions. That enlarges the cargo area from 632 litres when they’re up, to 1,470 litres when they’re down. If you’re going to be carrying a lot of wet or muddy cargo – this is aimed at the outdoorsy type, after all – you can buy an accessory rubber cargo tray for $60, as well as a $75 cover that fits over the carpeted seat backs for extra protection.

    Roof rails are standard on all models, although you’ll pay another $220 if you need the crossbars to go with them. The Crosstrek is also rated for 680 kilograms of towing capacity; Subaru reps pointed out that rivals Nissan Juke, Mitsubishi RVR and Mini Countryman aren’t recommended for towing.

    8.5Very good
  • Driving

    All Crosstrek models carry a 2.0-litre horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine, taken from the 2012 Impreza, that makes 148 horsepower at 6,200 rpm, and 145 lb-ft of torque that peaks at 4,200 rpm. New for 2013, the engine has a double coating on the pistons to reduce friction, while a spacer in the water jacket allows the engine to reach operating temperature faster, to reduce emissions.

    The stock transmission is a five-speed manual, which can be optioned to the continuously variable type. That’s the case on all models, and yes, it’s possible to get the Limited with a stick shift. The CVT includes paddle shifters on all trim lines as well, instead of being reserved for the upper-end trim line as often happens.

    All-wheel-drive is standard, but the configuration changes slightly with the transmission. On the stick shift, it’s a constant 50/50 torque split, while CVT-equipped models run 60/40, and can transfer up to 50/50 if slippage occurs. Those numbers are for front-to-rear, since there’s no variable side-to-side split. (For the record, Subaru’s “symmetrical” all-wheel system refers not to the torque distribution, but to the fact that the engine, transmission and transfer case are positioned symmetrically along the car’s north-south axis.) The CVT rates better fuel figures than the manual transmission, with published numbers of 8.2 L/100 km in the city and 6.0 on the highway, versus 8.9 and 6.7 for the stick shift.

    The engine tackles most of the driving tasks well, although it tends to run short on steam when asked to climb long, steep hills, and it gets a bit noisy when it digs deep for more power. The five-speed could use a sixth cog to settle it down a bit more on the highway, too.

    But if you’re curling your lip at the idea of a CVT, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. This one’s pretty damn good. There’s no whine and no rubber-band feel, just smooth, linear acceleration and a sprightlier feel from a stop compared to the stick. Subaru says the transmission has been rejigged to reduce vibration, and the ratios were designed specifically for the Crosstrek. Seriously: even if your mind’s made up, try the CVT anyway.

    Electric power steering is also something that can often promise more than it delivers, but Subaru has done a really good job with this, too. It’s lightweight on the straightaway, but tightens to a near-perfect weight on curves, providing precise feel and response from the standard 17-inch wheels (you’d better like the rim design, though, because it’s the only one you can get).

    The 220-mm ground clearance is the same as that of the Forester 2.5x (and better than that of a Jeep Grand Cherokee, the company reminded us). My drive took me over a few stretches of gravel path that, while not über-off-road, were nastier than the vast majority of urban dwellers will ever see, especially since torrential rains the day before had carved several deep holes and ruts. The Crosstrek took it all confidently, and with relatively few jostles and bumps.

    8.0Very good
  • Value

    There’s also an emphasis on styling, with the aim of appealing to buyers under the age of 35 – Subaru says it’s trying to get away from the boxy look that was perceived for older drivers – and with an even mix of male and female owners. It’s actually 130 mm shorter than the Impreza hatchback, and with a marginally shorter wheelbase, although it’s 150 mm taller. It’s also pricier than its hatchback sibling, starting at $24,495 in Touring trim, $26,495 in Sport trim, and $28,995 for the Limited, with an additional $1,300 if you want to swap out the five-speed manual for a CVT. By comparison, the Impreza hatchback runs between $22,595 and $27,795 in those three trim lines, plus a base 2.0i trim, at $20,895, that isn’t offered in the Crosstrek.

    7.5Good
  • Conclusion

    Up until now, my favourite Subaru has been the Forester, primarily for its nimble handling and light-on-its-feet feeling, but the XV Crosstrek has the potential to change that. It’s not a powerhouse, but handles most everyday driving well, and with the all-wheel that many drivers want for nastier conditions. It’s more than a car, but not as much as an SUV. Maybe there’s a reason for filling all those little niches after all.

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