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2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek: Drive Review

Mon, 12 Dec 2011

What is it?

To put it simply, the 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek is an Impreza five-door with a raised suspension, specific front and rear fascias, body-side cladding and exclusive wheels. However, the company line is that the XV is not an Impreza but its own model targeting a new group of customers: urbanites.

Traditionally, Subaru does well with active outdoor hobbyists with its lineup of crossovers, but none of the company's models put an emphasis on targeting the city-slicker crowd until now.

What's Subaru's plan of attack to appeal to Starbucks drinkers? Provide a sleek and sporty appearance, offer a fun driving character and flexible interior space. Drivetrain options, not surprisingly, mirror the Impreza's with a 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder producing 148 hp connected to a standard five-speed manual transmission or an available continuously variable transmission.

What is it like to drive?

Well, like a tall Impreza five-door hatchback. Unfortunately, the test vehicles we drove were European models shod with Yokohama winter tires. Our test drive took place in and around Florence, Italy, in December, where snow is usually the norm. But during our two days of driving, temps were in the high 50s with not a flake of snow in sight--not ideal conditions for full-fledged winter rubber.

As expected, the car exhibited more lean than we would like in corners and gradual sweepers on the expressway, and steering response was numb, which no doubt had much to do with the tires. We fully expect things to be more composed with proper, stock all-season tires mounted. Ride quality was surprisingly stiff with larger bumps giving us a good jolt in the driver's seat, but smaller ruts were smoothed out by the suspension without a hitch. Cabin isolation from road noise and wind noise was also good.

The first day had us in a six-speed-manual-equipped XV (which the Impreza and the XV get in Europe; U.S. models are saddled with a five-speed unit because of cost constraints), which helps get the most out of the flat four-cylinder. Power is adequate, but merging onto the expressway and getting past slower traffic requires a hearty stomp on the throttle.

We also had the opportunity to pilot an XV with Subaru's 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel boxer four-cylinder with 148 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. With peak torque available from 1,600 rpm, it gives the XV more grunt than you'll ever need for slicing through the urban jungle. Unfortunately, there are no plans in the immediate future to bring the diesel to the States in any Subaru vehicle.

Being a Subaru with standard all-wheel drive, our route took us through some light off-road duty, which the XV handled without a hitch.

Do I want it?

If you value hatchback flexibility (22.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, which grows to 52.4 with the rear seats folded down), all-wheel-drive traction and hipper looks, then the XV is an enticing offering. As we said, it's a raised Impreza five-door, but the small touches designers used to turn it into the XV are slick. The 17-inch aluminum wheels with black-painted spoke insets stand out, and the car is available with an orange paint job to really make it pop.

The cabin is exactly the same as the Impreza's, which is a good thing as Subaru went to great lengths to up quality with soft-touch surfaces on all major touch points. There's also a great view from the driver's seat with the skinny A-pillars made possible by the use of high-strength steel. Numerous storage spots provide lots of space to stash items, and major controls are laid out in an intuitive manner.

Then there is the fuel economy, which should be quite good when equipped with the CVT gearbox. EPA ratings aren't available yet but should closely mirror those of the Impreza, which is rated at 27 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway with the new Subaru 2.0-liter. And keep in mind that's with all-wheel drive.

If you're on the fence about the XV, you'll have plenty of time to think about it: The car doesn't arrive in the United States until next fall as a 2013 model. Initially, the U.S. Subaru arm didn't want to bring the XV over at all, but after seeing the vehicle they had a change of heart and saw the potential to appeal to a new group of customers.

Being diesel fans and having had a chance to sample Subaru's latest oil-burner, we think Subaru should also reconsider bringing that engine to America.

2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek

On Sale: Fall 2012

Base Price: $19,745 (est)

Drivetrain: 2.0-liter, 148-hp, 145-lb-ft H4; AWD, five-speed manual

Curb Weight: 3,020 lb

0-60 MPH: 9.9 sec (est)

Fuel Economy: 28 mpg (est)

More information: Check out the Subaru Impreza at

By Jonathan Wong