Subaru's new compact XV Crosstrek is a curious little five-door hatchback that seems born of the marketing need for an entry in the compact crossover segment. Then there's its clumsy name, which seems better-suited to fitness equipment. So is the Crosstrek, which is based on the Impreza hatchback, an SUV? A wagon? You decide.
Appearance: "This car sure is ugly," were the first words from Lyra's 9-year-old son. And at first look, we can understand his distaste. The difference you notice about the Crosstrek is its higher stance — it has been raised 3 inches from the Impreza to 8.7 — and plastic fender cladding. Automakers may think cladding looks rugged; we think it looks cheap, especially in contrast to our tester's Satin White Pearl paint. The higher ground clearance also contributes to unsightly extra space above the 17-inch tires in the wheel wells. Still, Peter thinks the Crosstrek looks like good canvas for aftermarket tuners and customizers, which even Subaru seems to be hinting at with the black, geometric wheel design. (Lyra thinks the wheels look clunky.) Especially given the Crosstrek's roof rails, Peter thinks the overall look says "ski weekend."
Performance: The Crosstrek hints at off-roading, but we think most people will probably use it for city driving. (Its height and all-wheel drive would come in handy during storm season, though.) The ride is composed, even with a beefed-up suspension, and the handling nimble. The 2.0-liter, 148-horsepower 4-cylinder Boxer engine is adequate until you want to get ahead of that 18-wheeler barreling toward you when merging on the interstate. The transmission is of the CVT variety, which tends to drone loudly when you step on it. We found the electronic power steering feel to be on the light side. An estimated mpg of 25/33 is respectable for a small crossover.
Interior: Subaru knows how to build seats, and the Crosstrek's ivory leather ones don't disappoint. They are plush and offer plenty of support. The Crosstrek's surprisingly roomy cabin is bright, and its gauges and controls are well laid out with one exception. The climate controls are simple — three dials on the center console — but the touchscreen and its menu buttons are much too small.It's easy to hit the wrong one, especially for bigger fingers. (There's also voice control with the Bluetooth.) With the rear seats folded flat, there's an adequate 51.9 cubic feet of storage space.
Our 3 favorites
AWD: Subaru's standard feature gives it an advantage over other small crossovers.
Ride height: I like the elevated stance and seating position.
Cargo area: It has a retractable cover, tie-downs and weatherproof tray.
Leather seats: Plush and comfortable, yet has plenty of bolstering. Great for long drives.
Driving demeanor: A stable and planted ride.
Bright cabin: Ivory interior equals airy feel.
The bottom line: The XV Crosstrek slots between the Forester (Subaru just introduced the 2014 model at the Los Angeles auto show) and the Outback in the lineup. But is three a crowd?