I have to admit that I didn’t get it, at first.
In the spring of 2012, I watched them pull the sheet off the new 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek at the New York Auto Show.
The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, now at Canadian dealers, is a five-door, five passenger vehicle based on the Impreza compact sedan platform.
It follows the current crossover recipe, designed to blend all-wheel drive abilities and SUV-like utility and attitude, with the ride, handling and fuel efficiencies of a family car.
And those of you in the know will recognize all of those ingredients as being part of something very similar – the Subaru Forester.
But what, at first, seemed like a duplication of effort, really began to make sense once I thought about it.
Because over the past 15 years the Forester, Subaru’s very first crossover, has matured and grown in both size and sophistication, shifting into the midsize market and offering an increasing amount of interior room and comfort, standard 2.5-litre motor and optional 2.0-litre turbo-powered engine choices, along with a wide variety of trim levels, technologies and equipment packages.
They say, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Well, so do car companies.
So, with Forester moving steadily up the evolutionary ladder, Subaru was able to slot a new entry-level crossover into the bottom of the lineup.
Word is that the XV (for Crossover Vehicle) was actually designed for the tighter confines of European roads. Those continental customers have begun to belatedly jump onto the utility bandwagon. But North American dealers took one look at this perky new little crossover and also started pleading for a chance to sell it.
Which is why Subaru Canada is offering the XV (with the added Crosstrek name), in the fast-growing compact crossover segment, promising, in their words, “best-in-class fuel economy, everyday comfort, exceptional safety standards and the most in-demand convenience and entertainment features.”
The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek starts with all the right stuff—Subaru’s trademark mix of symmetrical full-time All-Wheel Drive, a standard independent suspension and the advantages of a low centre of gravity boxer engine layout.
It’s not unfair to think of the XV Crosstrek as a jacked-up Impreza and, indeed, the 220 mm of ground clearance is higher than most other crossovers, even higher than some full-blown SUVs.
But, following the old Outback formula, the XV Crosstrek further separates itself from Impreza sedans and hatchbacks with rugged styling accents – black side- and wheel-arch cladding, a black rocker spoiler and standard black roof rails that all contrast with the body colour.
The front and rear bumpers, along with the front grille, are unique to the Subaru XV Crosstrek. Dark-tint privacy glass comes standard. And its macho attitude is completed with uniquely designed, high relief 17-inch alloy wheels that can’t be missed.
The final look-at-me shout for this lineup is the Tangerine Orange model, an over-the-top colour that adds a little fun and zest to the lineup.
I had kept my fingers crossed for it but, as tested here, we have a slightly more subtle, deep purple version – technically Deep Cherry Pearl.
Inside, passengers will find adequate room for five, extra comfort for four. The interior is pretty well standard issue Impreza, with all the usual sensible switching and instrumentation augmented by a 4.3-inch colour multi-function display in the centre of the dashboard.
Luggage room is rated at 632 litres (1,470 litres with the standard 60/40-split rear seatbacks folded) and the cargo area come equipped with a standard retractable cover, along with tie-down and grocery bag hooks.
The XV Crosstrek harnesses an FB 2.0-litre DOHC boxer engine that makes 148 hp at 6,200 rpm and 145 lb/ft of peak torque at 4,200 rpm. This engine has been tweaked to maximize performance and output and it even offers a 680 kg tow rating. It gets the job done but don’t expect neck-snapping acceleration.
Fuel economy is rated at 8.2/6.0L/100km (city/hwy) but, as usual, you should take those numbers with a grain of salt. A more exacting American EPA rating comes in a 9.4/7.1L/100km. And after 500 km of mixed driving I refueled with 46 litre of gas for a real world combined average of 9.2L/100km.
The 2.0-litre engine transmits power through a standard five-speed manual transmission or an available second-generation Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). The CVT automatic tranny is a $1,300 option.
I would probably pick the five-speed manual for performance fun, the CVT for a slight edge on fuel economy, although the CVT does compensate with a simulated 6-speed manual mode operated via steering wheel paddle shifters.
Subaru offers the 2013 XV Crosstrek in three trim levels – Touring, Sport and Limited.
Among the standard features in the 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Touring ($24,495), as tested here, are a tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio/phone/cruise/info controls, power windows, power door locks and body coloured side mirrors, the 4.3-inch colour multi-function display with fuel economy information, auto headlights, outside temp display, and a six-speaker audio system with Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity. Vehicle Dynamics Control, ABS disc braking with EBD and a hill holder system also come standard. A few creature comforts you might not usually expect in an entry-level offering include heated front seats, heated exterior mirrors and a windshield wiper de-icer.
The Sport Package ($26,495) adds a rear roofline spoiler, power tilting and sliding sunroof, leather- wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights.
The Limited Package ($28,995) adds leather-trimmed upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, chrome door handles and body-colour door mirrors with LED-integrated turn signals. The in-dash navigation system features a 6.1-inch touchscreen LCD display with back-up camera integration.
Those trim level choices mixed with the inherent qualities of the XV Crosstrek offer Canadian consumers new choices in the compact crossover segment.
And the XV Crosstrek is just getting started.
One year after that first debut, I was back in New York for this spring’s unveiling of the 2014 XV Crosstrek Hybrid, Subaru’s first ever hybrid and an initial indicator of the expected slate of hybrids and new electric cars that we will begin to see from Subaru over the coming years.
If past and present sales are any indication, the future looks bright for Subaru and the XV Crosstrek will probably play an important part in Subaru’s success.
Subaru XV Crosstrek Touring 2013
Body Style: Compact crossover CUV.
Drive Method: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive
Engine: 2.0-litre, horizontally opposed DOHC four-cylinder boxer engine (148 hp, 145 lb/ft)
Fuel Economy: 8.2/ 6.0L/100 km (city/hwy) (CVT); 8.9/6.7L/100km (city/hwy)(manual)
Cargo: 632 litres (22.3 cu. ft.); 1470 litres (52 cu.ft.)
Tow Rating: 680 kg
Price: 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Touring (CVT) $25,795