2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek HybridPosted on April 2nd, 2014
Hybrid crossover meets the needs of active lifestyles
By Nina Russin
This year Subaru introduces its first gasoline-electric hybrid built on the all-wheel drive Crosstrek platform. The idea is to offer the brand’s core audience of outdoor enthusiasts enhanced fuel economy without sacrificing any of the utility the brand is known for.
Power comes from a two-liter boxer gasoline engine and electric motor, paired to a continuously variable automatic transmission. A nickel metal hydride battery powers the electric motor, and is recharged on the go thanks to regenerative braking. Engineers packaged the battery to be minimally intrusive on the cargo area, so the hybrid only loses about a cubic foot as compared to the gasoline model.
The new hybrid maintains the same 8.5-inches of ground clearance as the gasoline-powered Crosstrek, and is all-wheel drive. The car comes with low rolling resistance tires to extend gas mileage, but buyers can swap those out for more aggressive treads if they need to.
In addition to making the Crosstrek more fuel efficient, the electric motor adds power on the low end. Peak torque is 163 foot-pounds as opposed to 145 on the gasoline model, and comes on much earlier: 2000 rpm versus 4600.
The gasoline engine for the hybrid has a slightly higher compression ratio but runs fine on regular unleaded fuel to contain cost of ownership. An automatic stop/start feature cuts the ignition when the car stops at a traffic light and restarts it when the driver releases the brake. An active grille shutter system makes the Crosstrek hybrid more slippery in the wind tunnel to improve fuel efficiency on the highway.
The model comes fully loaded with comfort and convenience features including a rearview camera, Bluetooth interface, satellite radio, roof rails, fog lamps, a power moonroof, keyless start and heated front seats. Base price is $29,295 excluding the $825 delivery charge. Final MSRP is $30,120.
Test drive in northern Arizona
This week, I put the Crosstrek Hybrid to the ultimate test with a round trip drive between Phoenix and Flagstaff, Arizona. I was anxious to see how my fuel economy would compare to the EPA estimate of 31 miles-per-gallon, and experience the car’s performance at Flagstaff’s 7200-foot elevation.
While my average fuel economy of 28 miles-per-gallon fell short of the EPA estimate, I can’t say enough good things about the Crosstrek’s performance. The crossover soared up Highway 17, eating up 5500 feet of elevation gain as if it was chump change. Larger vehicles with V-8 engines were eating my dust.
Two-cylinder engines, especially those that are naturally aspirated (not turbocharged), tend to be anemic at altitude. That is not the case for the Crosstrek Hybrid. I noticed little if any loss in power at altitude. The fact that the Crosstrek can maintain this level of performance at 7,000 feet will make it a better choice for buyers who live in the mountains but want a green car than some of the competition.
The fact that it is all-wheel drive and has ample ground clearance for travelling along unimproved dirt roads is another big sell. Basically, the Crosstrek Hybrid is a green car for buyers who lead green lives.
The electric motor eliminates the rubber band feel that can plague continuously variable automatic transmissions. Acceleration off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range is strong and linear.
The electric power steering system offers ample assist at low speeds for maneuverability while feeling pleasantly heavy on the highway. A 34.8-foot turning circle is pretty amazing for a car with a 103.7-inch wheelbase. I was able to perform a U-turn on a narrow two-lane road.
A four-wheel independent suspension keeps both rows of occupants comfortable on bumpy roads. It gives the Crosstrek Hybrid a competitive edge over hybrids with live rear axles. Four-wheel disc brakes stop the car in firm, linear fashion.
Visibility around the car’s perimeter is pretty good, with the exception of some blind spots in the back created by the car’s thick D pillars. The rearview camera screen is on the small side, but it’s functional.
While I have noticed a lot of engine noise on some new Subaru models, this does not seem to be the case for the Crosstrek Hybrid. There is, however, some noticeable wind noise at higher speeds.
As with its gasoline-powered sibling, the Crosstrek Hybrid offers seating for up to five adults and a spacious cargo bay. The standard roof rails make it easy to add a bike rack or cargo carrier up top.
Keyless entry and start enables the owner to enter the car and fire the ignition without fumbling in his pocket for the key fob. The leather-trimmed upholstery is attractive and comfortable. Manual seat controls are easy to use. I had plenty of lower lumbar support for my test drive that included about 2-1/2 hour legs in each direction.
The radio controls are not particularly intuitive. It took some time to figure out how to program the satellite radio. That probably won’t be as much of an issue for owners as a journalist who is only in the car for a week.
The cargo area comes with a nice rubber mat that is easy to clean. With the second-row seats folded flat, the Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid easily meets our bicycle-friendly standards.
The Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid comes with front, side, side curtain and driver’s knee airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, daytime running lamps, tire pressure monitoring and all-wheel drive. The factory warranty includes three years of 24-hour roadside assistance.
Subaru builds the Crosstrek Hybrid at its Ota Gunma, Japan assembly plant.
Like: A hybrid that works for buyers with active lifestyles thanks to its spacious, versatile cargo area and standard all-wheel drive. The electric motors extend gas mileage and add a welcome dose of low-end power that is especially noticeable at altitude.
Dislike: Some wind noise at higher speeds.
Model: Crosstrek Hybrid
Base price: $29,295
As tested: $30,120
Horsepower*: 148 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque*: 145 lbs.-ft. @ 4200 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 29/33 mpg city/highway
Comment: Horsepower and torque specifications are for the gasoline engine only. Net system horsepower is 160@ 6000 rpm and net torque is 163 foot-pounds @ 2000 rpm.2014, Green Hybrid 2014, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, performance, pricing, standard safety, Subaru
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