2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek first drive
Subaru treks into the city
Collingwood, Ont. — Can a jacked-up and toughened up Subaru Impreza hatchback compete with a new generation of small but sporty SUVs like the Mini Countryman and the Nissan Juke? We're about to find out, because that's the goal of the new 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek.
It's a familiar but freshened formula for Subaru, which used to make jacked-up Legacy sedans and wagons with extra ground clearance and outdoorsy, off-road-ish design cues. They were called Outbacks, and the theory was that they would provide the main benefits of an SUV — foul-weather traction from all four wheels and a higher ride height — without eschewing the inherently better ride quality and handling of a car.
Now that the midsize Outback has morphed into its own crossover model (it's still mechanically related to the Legacy but with unique SUV-ish styling), Subaru is tweaking the formula to make it a little cooler and a little more urban-flavoured; think more of a city street fighter that hasn't forgotten its back-road basher roots.
It's kind of like the Impreza five-door's taller fraternal twin, but in a leather jacket.
Revised styling is the major plus over the Impreza hatchback — or negative
In isolation, it may not seem it, but the XV is right up there in height with some serious off-roaders. Ground clearance is 220 mm, just one millimeter less than non-Rubicon Jeep Wranglers. This allows for an easier step-in height and entry than in the Impreza for most drivers, though kids and shorter passengers may have to stretch or jump a touch more than they'd like.
The easiest way to tell you're looking at an XV versus an Impreza five-door, if it's not wearing the eye-searing orange launch colour, is to look at the wheels. Those unique, black 17-inch alloy wheels are the only rims available on the XV from the factory, while black wheel arches and lower body cladding run the perimeter. Tinted glass is also standard fare here.
Having at least one other unique wheel option would be welcome, as personally I'm not a fan of black rims. Then again, I'd rather see the XV offer only these wheels than these plus regular Impreza wheels, which I'm sure would fit but would really make it look like, well, a tall Impreza with some body cladding. In other words, like the old Impreza-based Outback Sport.
There are also some dealer accessories available that can help further distinguish the XV, such as chromed front and rear underbody guards, roof rack-mounted bike racks, and a trailer capable of towing an ATV or other motorized fun machine, up to 680 kg. Subaru brought out a few XVs equipped with such toys, the trailer highlighting that many of the XV's main rivals — Countryman, Juke and Mitsubishi RVR — aren't rated to tow anything at all.
Fuel-economy focused drivetrain identical to the new-for-2012 Impreza
Despite its sporty and popular foray into rear-wheel drive sport coupes with the BRZ, full-time all-wheel drive and horizontally-opposed (Boxer) engines are still key pillars for what makes a Subaru a Subaru. Unfortunately, both are not inherently good for fuel economy, with the AWD adding extra drivetrain resistance. This was mostly addressed with the redesigned 2012 Impreza.
The compact car downsized to a 2.0-liter four from a 2.5, but still without direct injection, a turbo or other efficiency geared technologies that could keep the thrust up at the same time. Thus both horsepower and torque have dropped markedly from 170 hp and 170 lb.-ft., down to the XV's 148 and 145, respectively. That's still on the powerful side of the latest compact car spectrum, but at about 1,425 kg, its weight is also about 75 kg heavier than an Impreza.
The end result is that the XV Crosstrek is slightly slower and thirstier than the Impreza, which is no rocket or class-leading fuel miser to begin with. Still, up against its rival small SUVs, the Crosstrek shines in fuel economy, with EPA fuel economy numbers a touch below the all-wheel drive versions of the RVR and Juke, and well below slightly larger rivals like the Hyundai Tucson and outgoing Toyota RAV4 AWD models.