Fitted with a raised suspension, unique wheels and some bold paint colors, Subaru’s new XV Crosstrek five-door hatchback gets attention.
The verdict is out, though, on whether potential buyers will see the Crosstrek as a smartly utilitarian tall wagon or what Subaru officials sought to design – a compact crossover sport utility vehicle.
Basically, the 2013 Crosstrek is a Subaru Impreza that has been raised 3 inches, shod with larger tires on black-and-gray, two-toned wheels and mildly restyled.
The Crosstrek uses the same platform as the Impreza, the same 148-horsepower, horizontally opposed, four-cylinder engine and Subaru’s all-wheel drive.
Nearly all the interior is from the Impreza, too.
Where the Impreza, which is Subaru’s entry-level car, blends in as a normal and pleasant-looking sedan and a slightly sporty-looking hatchback, the unusual – some might say odd-looking – Crosstrek tends to stand out in a crowd.
Pricewise, the Crosstrek comes in at the higher range of the Impreza models and at the lower end of models of the Subaru Forester compact SUV.
The starting price, including destination charge, for an XV Crosstrek is $22,790 with five-speed manual transmission and $23,790 with a continuously variable transmission that a driver operates like an automatic.
This compares with $19,165 for a base, 2013 Impreza five-door hatchback with manual transmission and the $22,090 starting retail price for a base, 2013 Forester with manual.
The Forester is heavier, taller and longer in overall length than the Crosstrek. The Crosstrek is heavier, taller and a tad longer in overall length than the Impreza hatchback.
All Crosstreks come standard with all-wheel drive.
Though federal crash testing has not been reported, standard safety equipment on Crosstreks includes seven air bags – one is for the driver’s right knee – along with stability control, traction control, front-seat anti-whiplash head restraints and anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake Distribution.
Subaru officials say competitors include compact crossover SUVs, which are vehicles built on carlike platforms that provide a more comfortable ride, rather than a brutish trucklike ride. Examples include the Nissan Juke and the Mazda CX-5 crossover SUV.
Though the Crosstrek’s foreign looks grab attention, it is the vehicle’s flexible interior for people and cargo that have enduring appeal.
Cargo room behind the second-row seats measures 22.3 cubic feet, and there’s small-SUV-like space of 51.9 cubic feet with rear seats folded down. The cargo floor is up some, so people don’t have to lean over to load and unload the back.
The interior, at least in base Premium trim, appears a lot like an Impreza’s. There’s considerable plastic trim in there and acceptable cloth upholstery on the seats, with front seats heated as standard equipment. To get leather-trimmed seats, buyers must move up to the Limited model, which starts at $25,290.
For both the Limited and base models, a moonroof and navigation system are options, and a rear vision camera is available only on the pricey Limited.
The 2-liter, double overhead cam four cylinder worked hard to keep up with other vehicles on uphill mountain highway sections and to accelerate. Mated to a fuel-saving CVT that droned incessantly, the power felt a bit tapped at times in the 3,175-pound tester, particularly when it carried four adults and suitcases.
Peak torque is 145 foot-pounds at 4,200 rpm. Paddle shifters on the steering wheel let drivers manually “shift” the CVT and reduce the droning as the transmission then goes from one to another of six preset gear ratios. Still, this artificial fix conflicts with the real reason to have a CVT, which is to maximize fuel economy by allowing the transmission to manage power delivery itself.
The seats were well-positioned, but the electric power-assist rack-and-pinion steering felt a bit numb.