Subaru does more with less than anybody in the car business, and the 2014 XV Crosstrek is a perfect example of how this resourceful car company remixes automotive recipes in order to create something refreshingly new out of something relentlessly familiar. Essentially, the XV Crosstrek is a Subaru Impreza 5-door hatchback with what amounts to an Outback-style trim package and a different name. Speaking of which, why isn’t this car/SUV thingy simply called the Crosstrek? Didn’t Subaru learn its lesson with that B9 Tribeca nonsense?
Anyway, for the 2014 model year the Crosstrek is offered with an optional gas-electric hybrid powertrain, Subaru’s first. Appropriately, my test car arrived wearing Plasma Green paint, a color that virtually ensures that you and your Subaru will get noticed, and perhaps ridiculed. At first, this bright metallic hue was off-putting, and then, with time and acclimation, it proved just as endearing as the rest of the car.
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid Review and Quick Spin: About Our Test Car
To get a 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid, you’ve gotta pay a $4,000 premium, but it’s important to remember that the hybrid model is better equipped.
For a base price of $26,820, including an $825 destination charge, the hybrid model’s standard equipment list is enhanced with more aerodynamic aluminum wheel designs, chrome exterior trim, raised roof rails, a front wiper de-icing system, heated side mirrors, and LED taillights. Additionally, the XV Crosstrek Hybrid features automatic climate control, heated front seats, Keyless Access & Start technology, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a rubber cargo mat, upgraded instrumentation, and a 4.3-inch multi-function display including advanced trip computer functions.
Subaru also sells the XV Crosstrek Hybrid in a Touring trim level ($30,120). This is the version I tested, and it had leather seats, a power sunroof, and a 6.1-inch touchscreen navigation system with voice control and Aha smartphone integration technology.
In addition to Plasma Green, Subaru offers this model in Satin White, Ice Silver, and Quartz Blue paint colors. Dealers can upgrade the car with accessories, including audio system improvements, cargo carrying and storage solutions, exterior styling and interior cosmetic modifications, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a universal garage door opener, an engine block heater, and more.
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid Review and Quick Spin: Styling and Design
Let’s agree that the Subaru XV Crosstrek is not an attractive car in a conventional sense. Nevertheless, I loved it in the same way that some people find Pugs adorable, and only in part because the hybrid model’s wheels are the more appealing design. There’s no shortage of personality in the XV Crosstrek’s styling, and I even warmed up to the Plasma Green paint job, which makes it super easy to find this car in crowded parking lots and for other motorists to spot it in traffic.
Traditionally speaking, the Crosstrek’s interior is more appealing than its exterior. Aside from the cabin’s cheap-and-cheesy headliner material, I identified no flaws in terms of fit-and-finish. Materials are tastefully textured in matching tones, the silver trim and silver seat stitching provide enough contrast to keep occupants from feeling like they’re sitting in a black hole, and quality levels are both high and consistent.
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid Review and Quick Spin: Comfort and Quality
Because the XV Crosstrek sits on a raised suspension offering 8.7 inches of ground clearance, the seating hip point is raised, and that translates to easier entry and exit. Plus, once you’re seated, you’ve got a better view of your surroundings.
Subaru installs quite comfortable front seats in the Crosstrek, my Touring model’s leather seats offering a manual height adjuster for the driver’s side. Combined with the tilt/telescopic steering wheel and sliding center console, a perfect driving position is easy to achieve. Plus, the Crosstrek features soft-touch upper door panel trim, adding to comfort levels. The front passenger’s seat does not have a height adjuster, and while it sat a smidge too low for my comfort, my wife didn’t complain, so there you go.
If you can, grab one of the front chairs because the rear seat’s bottom cushion is fairly flat and rather low. The idea here must be to preserve true fold-flat capability for when the Crosstrek Hybrid’s owner wishes to expand the 21.5 cubic-foot trunk to its 50.2 cu.-ft. maximum, but as a result the rear seat isn’t comfortable for adults. There’s plenty of legroom and foot room, though, and the front seatbacks are padded for extra comfort.
The Crosstrek Hybrid’s cargo area is slightly smaller than a standard Crosstrek, yet during a particularly busy week at the Wardlaw household we hauled gardening supplies, home improvement materials, party decorations, big-box retailer hauls, groceries, and a couple of kids – not all at the same time, of course. The point is, the Crosstrek handled everything we threw at it, and when some water leaked out of plants the Touring model’s standard rubber cargo mat made cleanup a cinch.
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid Review and Quick Spin: Features and Controls
In my opinion, the absolute worst thing about the XV Crosstrek Hybrid is the touchscreen infotainment system’s display. In fact, I would skip the Touring trim level just to avoid having this system installed in my car.
Why am I hating on it? Aside from a power/volume knob it lacks traditional controls for primary functions, the screen is too small, the system is slow to respond to input, and I don’t find it intuitive in terms of operation. I mean, I never did figure out how to reduce the brightness level, so driving at night with the navigation map displayed was akin to having a flashlight shining in the face the entire time. Seriously, whatever company Subaru hired to engineer and build this system ought to be fired, or at least forced to spend a month playing with a Dodge Dart’s Uconnect 8.4 infotainment system to learn how this kind of technology is properly executed.
With that blistering diatribe out of the way, it is easy enough to pair a smartphone to the car’s Bluetooth system and to use its voice recognition technology, so the text-messaging function bundled with the navigation system counts as one useful aspect. Plus, the rest of the XV Crosstrek’s controls are logically located and easy to use.
But that infotainment system, ugh. I’d rather have the standard radio setup and just use my smartphone for navigation and other functions. That approach couldn’t possibly be less distracting.
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid Review and Quick Spin: Safety Matters
Every Subaru is engineered with what the company calls a ring-shaped reinforcement frame that is designed to deflect crash energy away from the interior. Evidently, it works. The XV Crosstrek gets a 5-star overall rating from the NHTSA and a “Top Safety Pick” designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Aside from these outstanding crash-test ratings, the XV Crosstrek Hybrid is equipped with a standard reversing camera. If you’re looking safety-related technology that’s more sophisticated than this, though, the Crosstrek disappoints.
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid Review and Quick Spin: Driving Impressions
This car is equipped with Subaru’s first gas-electric hybrid powertrain, a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that has an integrated electric assist motor powered by a 13.5 kW nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Automatic stop/start technology and an all-wheel-drive system are standard, and active grille shutters improve aerodynamics on the highway. Combined output measures 160 horsepower and 163 lb.-ft. of torque, increases of 12 hp. and 18 lb.-ft., respectively, over a standard XV Crosstrek.
As hybrids go, this is fairly basic technology. It can travel short distances at speeds under 25 mph using nothing but electricity, and peak torque is available lower in the rev range compared to a standard Crosstrek. The system causes a slight reduction in cargo space, but the XV Crosstrek Hybrid retains 8.7 inches of blizzard-battling ground clearance.
Part-throttle acceleration is decent, but if you mash the gas pedal to the floor thinking you can improve upon power and response, you’ll be disappointed. Even my 70-year-old mother, who was riding shotgun, commented on the car’s lack of get-up-and-go. Thanks to the traditional boxer-type engine, the Crosstrek Hybrid retains its characteristic Subaru grumble, one that I enjoy quite a bit.
Occasionally, the CVT exhibits inconsistent, wavering response as it works to find the right ratio, and it also drones when coaxing velocity to merge onto a fast-moving freeway; each are common characteristics of this breed of transmission. Manually shifting between CVT ratios using the paddle shifters on the steering wheel isn’t terribly satisfying, either, and I also noticed that the Crosstrek Hybrid sometimes rolled back a bit when lifting off the brake and stepping on the accelerator on a hill, despite its standard Incline Start Assist system.
Despite its impressive ground clearance and low-rolling resistance tires designed for maximizing fuel economy while providing traction in water, snow, and dirt, I thought the XV Crosstrek Hybrid demonstrated tossable handling, taking corners with unexpected gusto and always feeling more nimble than a typical crossover suv. The steering wheel is excellent to grip, and while response is somewhat slow, the electric steering is accurate and provides natural feel and heft.
I’d stop short of calling the Crosstrek Hybrid athletic, though. In addition to its leisurely acceleration, this car’s body rolls in corners and the seats lack bolstering. Plus, the brake pedal exhibits inconsistencies in terms of feel and response, typical traits of regenerative braking systems. This is a fairly loud car on the highway, too, making it hard to make calls and have conversations. Wind noise is always evident at higher speeds, and on textured pavement the tires produce lots of road rumble.
Unlike other hybrids, though, the XV Crosstrek supplies plenty of ground clearance. This isn’t a serious rock hopper, but it works better than most crossovers when the pavement comes to an end. And you can plow through deeper snow, too.
So, how did the XV Crosstrek Hybrid perform when it came to fuel economy numbers? The EPA says it will get 31 mpg in combined driving. My first ride in my test car was an 85-mile drive on L.A. freeways, and the trip computer never indicated more than 30.6 mpg. After a week and more than 625 miles of driving, I managed to average 27.6 mpg.
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid Review and Quick Spin: Final Thoughts
Despite the XV Crosstrek Hybrid’s dynamic disappointments, I really enjoyed this car. The Crosstrek is a practical and affordable vehicle with loads of utility and personality, a safe vehicle that gets decent gas mileage and isn’t sidelined the moment the weather turns from delightful to frightful. Is the hybrid powertrain worth the extra $4,000? No, but it does gives the Crosstrek an added boost of satisfying low-end torque while at the same time delivering incremental improvement in fuel economy.
If Subaru wants to improve the XV Crosstrek’s mileage, a clean turbo-diesel option might work better, providing the desired fuel economy improvement coupled with all kinds of torque. Still, the entire time I was using this Subaru as a daily driver, I kept thinking that what the Crosstrek really needs is a turbocharged gas engine.
How awesome would a WRX-ified Crosstrek be? Lots of awesome.
Subaru provided the 2014 XV Crosstrek Hybrid for this review
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid photos by Christian Wardlaw