In a world full of crossover SUVs, the Subaru XV Crosstrek takes things to the extreme – it’s completely car-based, yet offers better off-road chops than the vast majority of wannabe wagons cluttering up the mall parking lots. The XV Crosstrek is indeed a legit player in the dirt, having the benefit of Subaru’s venerable AWD system and more ground clearance than a Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The XV Crosstrek is a global player as well, being sold in its home market of Japan and other regions as simply the XV. North America is the only market that gets the extra Crosstrek nomenclature. Nevertheless, the Subie is making a name for itself wherever it goes. Click the Hybrid box if going green is a priority. Subaru debuted the XV Crosstrek Hybrid for 2013, a year after it’s global debut, complete with a 13-horsepower electric motor assisting the otherwise standard 2.0-liter Boxer engine.

Though 2013 was the high-riding wagon’s first year in the U.S., it sold well, rolling some 61,137 units that year. 2014 saw even better numbers, with Subaru moving nearly 10,000 more than the year prior.

So with such hubbub surrounding this little soft-roader, I grew excited to know I’d have one for a week. I admittedly loved its emboldened body cladding and two-tone wheels, so I was hopeful to see it arrive.
Continue reading for the full review

  • 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek - Driven
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  • Displacement:
    2.0 L
  • 0-60 time:
    9.5 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    118 mph
  • Layout:
    Front Engine; AWD
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TopSpeed Garage


2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek - Driven
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2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek - Driven
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2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek - Driven
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Those familiar with the standard Subaru Impreza will find the XV’s painted bits much to their remembrance. In fact, there are not many differences between the two, save of course, for the black body cladding along the bottom of the bumpers, cresting the wheel wells, and running along the rocker panels. The wheel and tire package is also a substantial change from the Impreza’s rolling stock. The XV’s 17-inch, black and polished alloy wheels come wrapped in 225/55-series Yokohama Geolander G95 rubber with a mildly aggressive tread pattern.

The Crosstrek sits an impressive 8.7 inches above the ground

Ground clearance is the other news-maker in this Impreza transformation. The Crosstrek sits an impressive 8.7 inches above the ground. Remember the Grand Cherokee referenced above? Well it skates by with 8.6 inches of ground clearance. Sure, that’s a nominal amount, but the difference is still there. The Crosstrek also has an approach angle of 18 degrees and a departure angle of 27.7 degrees, ensuring the bodywork isn’t prone to damage on the trail.

The XV Crosstrek’s looks are impressive. I did get mostly “love it/hate it” feedback from friends and neighbors, but everyone seemed to love the color.


2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek - Driven
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2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek - Driven
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2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek - Driven
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Just like the outside, the XV Crosstrek’s interior is a mirror image of the Impreza wagon. Details down to the trim work, button placement, and gauge cluster are all in familiar places. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily. The interior is intuitive in its layout – including its perfectly simple HVAC controls. Steering wheel controls help keep hands on the wheel and simple hard buttons along side the infotainment system make navigating menus fairly simple.

The interior is intuitive in its layout – including its perfectly simple HVAC controls

Where the interior strays is in its personality and fit and finish. The materials just feel dull, lacking any real soul. Don’t get me wrong – everything works, it just feels a bit ho-hum. I do take issue with the infotainment system, however. Much like my experience with the Subaru Impreza WRX STI and standard Impreza, the system lacks any real customization. That even extends to the basic stuff like audio tuning. You’ll have to settle for preset EQ controls like “Jazz” or “Pop” when pumping tunes.

Another complaint that transfers from my Impreza review is the keyless door unlock feature. In order to unlock the passenger doors, you must hit the unlock button on the door panel. It’s impossible without visiting the dealership to program the driver’s door keyless unlock system to also unlock the other doors automatically. It’s nit-picky, but nevertheless frustrating.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The XV Crosstrek features tons of usable space inside its wagon-like body. There’s plenty of room for four adults or two adults and three kids. Folding the back seats down reveals a respectable cargo area, complete with tie down hooks and an optional cargo mat.


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Its 2.0-liter flat four-cylinder “Boxer” engine produces 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque

The Impreza similarities continue with the XV’s drivetrain. The car is powered by a 2.0-liter flat four-cylinder “Boxer” engine that produces 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. While a honest five-speed manual is offered in the base trim level, my tester came packing the optional CVT. Behind that is Subaru’s full-time AWD system. Two versions of the AWD system are available and coordinate with the transmission choice.

With the manual, the XV comes fitted with a viscous-coupling center differential that distributes a 50/50 torque split. Those with the CVT come equipped with the more advanced Active Torque Split version of Subaru’s Symmetrical AWD. Detected wheel slippage will automatically send power to the wheels with more traction. The system will actually route up to 100 percent of power to a wheel if needed.

Though the XV Crosstrek does its best to be a crossover, its fuel economy says otherwise. The EPA rates this non-hybrid model at 26 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined. All told, my week of driving saw an average of 27.6 mpg. However, with only 1,000 miles on the clock and my heavy right foot, that number is likely at the lower end of what the average driver would see, especially with a broken-in powertrain.

Driving Impressions

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Hopping behind the wheel feels much like driving the standard Impreza. The controls are right where they should be and logic is the name of the game. While underway, the steering is light and mostly numb, though it stiffens up once hard in a corner. Its on-center feel is a touch vague, though without any truck-like slop. The throttle has an excessive bit of tip-in, causing the car to be herky-jerky until the driver learns to only flex his pinky toe when accelerating.

Throwing the car into a corner is pretty fun, especially when that corner is dirt

Detracting a bit from the driving experience is the CVT’s drone and rubbery acceleration. The transmission does it job in fuel conservation by keeping the revs down, but also kills much of the fun. On the other hand, the car does accelerate with more grunt than expected, hitting 60 mph in roughly 8.5 seconds. The trip there can be classified as “gradual” as the CVT slips into its higher ratios. The transmission does come with paddle shifters, but they’re not much fun to operate.

Overall handling is pretty good, especially considering the extra ride height and fatter tires. Throwing the car into a corner is pretty fun, especially when that corner is dirt. Speaking of which, the car handles dirt roads like a boss. Washboards and unpredictable undulations are all soaked up nicely by its four-wheel independent suspension. Never once did I feel the car bottom out or feel outmatched by the road. Granted, I wasn’t on a rally course, but more of your average soft-dirt trail.


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Those seeking a bare-bones XV Crosstrek will find prices start at $21,595. Purists and Subaru loyalists might find the base model most appealing as it comes standard with the five-speed manual transmission. There are three trim levels to choose from: the 2.0i, 2.0i Premium, and 2.0i Limited.

As it turns out, my Premium tester came packing “Option Package 15,” which designates it’s one of only 1,000 XV Crosstrek Special Editions set for production in 2015. The “special” part consists of the very yellow “Sunrise Yellow” paint and the grouping of optional equipment, which includes the leather-wrapped shifter and steering wheel, the keyless access and push-button start, and the 7.0-inch StarLink infotainment system. All that adds another $1,995 to the price, along with the $1,000 for the CVT.

Add in the $850 destination charge, and the final price for my tester comes to $26,140. That’s not a bad price for such a capable vehicle – and one that’s limited to a 1,000-unit run.


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2015 Mini Countryman High Resolution Exterior
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The Countryman caters to those who favor style over practicality. That’s not to say the Countryman isn’t practical, as it has folding rear seats, a taller ride height and a peppy engine. Speaking of which, the Mini is likely the better driver thanks to four choices of engine output. If AWD is a must, the Cooper S ALL4 is the answer, though it does cost a bit more at $27,850. Prices for the FWD Countryman are only slightly more expensive than the Subaru, starting at $22,750.
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Jeep Renegade

2015 Jeep Renegade High Resolution Exterior
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For those wanting a more SUV-like crossover, Jeep’s latest offering is the 2015 Renegade. This little cute ‘ute offers plenty of character with its colored interior accents and optional removable roof panels. For U.S. customers, the Jeep offers two engine options and both FWD and 4WD. Opt for the Trailhawk package if off-roading is a requirement. Prices for the Renegade are darn near cheap, as it starts at $17,995 and rises to $25,995 for the top-trim Trailhawk.
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2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek - Driven
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The Subaru XV Crosstrek offers plenty of Subaru quirkiness and interior room with an impressive amount of ground clearance. It’s low starting price, available manual transmission, solid AWD systems and spunky looks make the XV Crosstrek a rather desirable ride. It’s few shortcomings can be overlooked by those who want or need such a high-riding wagon. Grab the manual transmission and forget about the CVT issues. Forego the keyless access and the problem with the door unlocking process disappears. It’s easy to make this car your own, and that counts for a lot.

All told, the XV Crosstrek is an impressive little car with some SUV-like characteristics. If you find yourself needing the capability of a 4WD SUV but would rather buy a car, the XV might be your happy medium.

  • Leave it
    • CVT spoils the fun
    • Interior is a bit dull
    • Quirky infotainment system
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