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Road Test and Review - 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Benjamin Hunting
by Benjamin Hunting
January 20, 2013
7 min. Reading Time

What do you buy if you want the flexibility of an SUV but need the form factor of a compact hatchback or wagon?  The answer is something like the 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek.  When it was first introduced, the Subaru XV Crosstrek was dismissed by some as being no more than a jacked-up Impreza hatchback that had been sent to the gym in order to put on some sheet metal muscle so as to better hoodwink crossover-hungry family shoppers.  This facile dismissal of the Crosstrek, however, ignores the fact that Subaru has made a legitimate effort to create a niche vehicle that leverages the fuel efficiency and interior space offered by the Impreza hatch and pairs it with the added all-terrain capabilities of a crossover vehicle.  The Subaru XV Crosstrek is more than the sum of its parts, as the automobile rises above its Impreza roots and presents a strong challenge to other recent compact crossover efforts such as the Ford Escape, the Mazda CX-5, and the Kia Sportage.

2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Review: Models and Prices

The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek is offered in two trim levels, starting with the 2.0i Premium which retails for an MSRP of $21,995.  The 2.0i Premium offers fog lamps, a rear spoiler, intermittent wipers front and rear, heated front cloth seats, a multi-function display that keeps track of fuel mileage and odometer read-outs, power side mirrors, power windows and door locks, tilt and telescopic steering adjustment, a CD player, and manual climate control.  The 2.0i Limited model (MSRP $24,495) adds a rearview camera, a standard continuously-variable automatic transmission, automatic climate control, an upgraded stereo system featuring an LCD screen, and leather upholstery.

The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek that we parked in our test vehicle driveway for a week was a Canadian model that was roughly equivalent to the 2.0i Premium trim.  Our vehicle (which came with automatic climate control) had also been upgraded via the addition of an optional continuously-variable automatic transmission and a power moonroof, each of which added $1k to the vehicle's bottom line.  The total MSRP for our Subaru loaner came to $23,995.


2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Review: Design

What’s New:

  • The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek is an all-new model, but it is heavily based on the Impreza hatchback.

The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek is perhaps the most handsome compact vehicle in the brand's stable.  Subaru designers have done an excellent job of beefing up the lines of the Impreza hatch with wider, flared fenders as well as enhanced side sills and a more aggressive treatment for the crossover's front fascia.  Throw in the rear spoiler and the great-looking silver-on-black 17-inch alloy wheels that our test vehicle rolled on and the crossover stands well apart from its passenger car roots.  The differences between the Crosstrek and the Impreza are further driven home by the almost nine inches of ground clearance that see the crossover towering above its hatchback sibling.

The Subaru XV Crosstrek's passenger compartment is another story altogether.  Subaru has never been accused of over-designing its interior trappings, as the brand historically has preferred to let form follow function.  The Crosstrek continues this trend, as the vehicle's interior materials fall into the middle-of-the-road category: no rock-hard plastics, but nothing that invites the touch of driver or passengers.  This is perfectly acceptable given the crossover's price point, but the lack of ornamentation or any type of stylistic risk-taking inside the cabin stands in stark contrast to the more expressive interiors that are beginning to take hold across the entry-level SUV segment.


2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Review: Comfort and Cargo

What’s New:

  • The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek features the same amount of cargo space as the Impreza wagon.

The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek is eminently functional, with 22.3 cubic feet of cargo space available between the rear seatback and the vehicle's lift gate.  Folding that back row forward more than doubles the available space for lugging gear to 51.9 cubic feet, which is competitive for a vehicle in its class.  The additional ride height offered by the Crosstrek also makes for easy loading through the back hatch, which will be appreciated by anybody trying to line up snowboards or bicycles for that perfect, Tetris-like fit.

We were similarly content with the Subaru's seats, which came wrapped in an easy-to-clean fabric shell and which offered driver and front passenger plenty of support on the long haul.  Second row accommodations are adult-friendly, with no complaints from any passengers riding in the rear during our time with the vehicle.


2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Review: Features and Controls

What’s New:

  • The Subaru XV Crosstrek's feature set largely matches that offered by the Impreza.


Simplicity continues to reign inside the 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek when it comes to the vehicle's control surfaces and available features.  One won't find many luxuries available on the XV Crosstrek's order sheet, but the affordably-priced base model comes with niceties such as heated seats, a nod to the overwhelmingly northern buyer base enjoyed by Subaru vehicles.  Our Canadian-spec model included a very nice full-color LCD screen mounted on the top of the dash that displayed power flow, extended fuel mileage information, and a host of additional vehicle information.  U.S. buyers receive a single-line LCD readout in its place, an unusual difference for what is otherwise an identical product. 

We didn't have much cause to use the power moonroof due to the sub-zero temperatures associated with January in Montreal, but the automatic climate control system did its best to keep us warm and toasty against the chilling winds and long nights.  One area of disappointment was the Bluetooth system - we simply could not figure out how to link our mobile phones via the extremely basic stereo system and its difficult-to-read text display.  In fact, the stereo was the biggest letdown with the XV Crosstrek from a usability standpoint, as its almost retro feature set had us wondering if it could exclusively play music from the 90s.


2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Review: Safety and Ratings

What’s New:

  • The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek does not debut any additional safety gear compared to the Impreza, but it does feature a rollover sensor that is not offered with the passenger car as well as enhanced structural reinforcements.

The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek features dual forward airbags, side curtain airbags that deploy along the full length of the vehicle's passenger compartment, side impact airbags that are mounted to the front seats, and a driver's knee airbag.  Electronic stability control and traction control are also included free of charge with the XV Crosstrek, and a rearview camera is available with the vehicle.

2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Crash-Test Ratings:  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not yet crash tested the Subaru Crosstrek XV, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has rated the crossover as a 'Top Safety Pick,' which means that it scored 'Good' in all four of its important crash tests.


2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Review: Engines and Fuel Economy

What’s New:

  • The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek introduces slightly different CVT gearing to overcome its additional platform weight versus that of the Impreza.

The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek is offered with a single engine option, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that generates 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque.  Transmission choices available with the CV Crosstrek include a five-speed manual and a continuously-variable automatic, and when paired with the latter the four-cylinder unit delivers fuel mileage of 25-mpg city and 33-mpg highway.  During our time with the Crosstrek - a period of driving that limited us mostly to city roads covered with snow - we managed 21 miles per gallon overall.

All-wheel drive is standard with the XV Crosstrek, which accounts somewhat for its thirstiness at the pump compared to other small crossovers in its class, and two systems are available with the vehicle.  Ordering the five-speed manual tranny brings with it a mechanical design that provides a constant 50/50 power distribution between the front and rear wheels of the vehicle, while the CVT's electronically-controlled all-wheel drive design is slightly more front biased until wheel spin is detected.


2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Review: Driving Impressions

The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek's Impreza origins give it a significant leg up when it comes to providing a driving experience that is far more car-like than most other small crossovers.  In all honesty, piloting the XV Crosstrek around town had us feeling more like we were behind the wheel of a tall wagon rather than an SUV, an impression that reinforced every time we took a sharp corner and were surprised by the Subaru's minimum amount of body lean and excellent overall stability.  From a comfort perspective, the suspension system did a relatively good job of absorbing the punishment dished out by Montreal's horrific road infrastructure, further enhancing the passenger car personality of the small crossover.

Subaru's answer to the fuel consumption issues that have plagued older models of its crossovers, sedans, and hatchbacks has been to down-size its power plants and introduced a CVT, a move that was necessary given the soaring mpg ratings boasted by many other compact SUVs.  When seen on paper, the 148 ponies and 145 lb-ft of twist delivered by the Crosstrek's 2.0-liter engine might seem anemic at best, but once put to the test the small four-cylinder unit stands up well to the rigors of real-world driving. 

The continuously-variable automatic transmission outfitted to our test vehicle never had us giving it a second thought, and although we occasionally flipped through the 'virtual' gears programmed into it via the steering wheel-mounted shift paddles, we were happier to leave the Crosstrek in 'D' and have the computer sort things out for us.  We found little difference in performance between the five-speed manual and the CVT, with both versions of the crossover providing tepid, but usable acceleration, and we experienced none of the under-hood buzz that is sometimes associated with continuously-variable designs pegging small displacement engines at higher rpms.

Montreal saw a snow-filled January that wreaked havoc on local roads, and we were glad to be able to take advantage of the 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek's excellent all-wheel drive system while blasting through the piles of white stuff  that were scattered along side streets that the city's removal crews had completely forgotten about.  With more ground clearance than a base Jeep Grand Cherokee, the XV Crosstrek had no issue finding traction and maintaining its forward momentum in the less-than-ideal conditions we flogged it through, and the vehicle even display a surprising willingness to get tail-happy around a corner if one cranked the wheel at a high enough rate of speed.  It's very difficult to find a crossover better prepared for snowy weather than one wearing a Subaru badge, and this remains true for the new Crosstrek.


2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Review: Final Thoughts

The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek is a great entry-level crossover option for families who need a practical all-weather solution with the kind of ground clearance that can handle the occasional blizzard, rutted, mud-slicked road, or excursion into the woods.  Will most buyers be happy with the average power and good-but-not-great fuel efficiency provided by the XV Crosstrek's four-cylinder engine?  In our opinion, yes, but the spartan interior might be a harder sell.

The decision to keep the Impreza hatchback's dimensions virtually unchanged - especially inside the crossover - is a mixed blessing for the 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, as it keeps the vehicle livable in an urban setting but somewhat limits its total cargo capacity as compared to a few of its compact rivals.  The move to toughen up the Subaru's styling, however, was an excellent choice that has given the Crosstrek a rugged look that sets it apart from the anonymity that can occasionally plague family transportation.  From where we're standing, there's always room for another stylish, utility-focused, and affordable compact crossover on the market, and that's exactly what Subaru has given us with the XV Crosstrek.


2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Review: Pros and Cons


  • Great-looking, rugged styling conceals Impreza roots
  • Excellent all-wheel drive system
  • Affordable price
  • Surprisingly nimble handling dynamics
  • Better fuel mileage than past Subaru crossovers


  • Pokey acceleration
  • Plain interior styling
  • Lack of high tech features on the options list

Subaru Canada supplied the vehicle for this review



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