Full 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Review
What's New for 2014
For 2014, the Subaru XV Crosstrek sees the addition of a hybrid version to the lineup as well as smartphone integration (featuring Aha Internet radio) for Crosstreks equipped with the navigation system.
In automotive parlance, the term "crossover" refers to a vehicle that's based on a car's architecture rather than a truck's, but still has plenty of SUV-like functionality. Within the crossover SUV segment, there's a lot of variety, as some crossovers resemble traditional, burly SUVs while others, like the 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek, are essentially wagons with jacked-up suspensions and toughened-up styling.
Subaru has been doing the crossover thing successfully for a long time with its Legacy-based Outback series. In that vein, its relatively new Crosstrek is essentially an Impreza hatchback with a raised suspension along with the obligatory rugged styling accents. As such, the all-wheel-drive Crosstrek is as adept at getting you to the trailhead on fun-filled weekends as it is taking you over crumbling pavement during the weekday grind.
As expected, all-wheel drive is standard, and the XV Crosstrek offers a choice of a five-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). In addition to riding 3 inches higher than the Impreza, the Crosstrek features beefed-up underpinnings, 8.7 inches of ground clearance and black plastic wheelwell flares (ostensibly to fend off and hide scratches while driving on trails). The simple interior is fitted with straightforward controls, good-quality materials and comfortable seats.
The big news this year is the introduction of the XV Crosstrek Hybrid. Subaru's first-ever hybrid model is a full hybrid, meaning it can propel itself at low speeds purely under electric power, which optimizes fuel economy in stop-and-go city traffic. The gain in fuel economy is modest, however -- Subaru's estimate pegs the Hybrid's combined fuel economy average at 31 mpg, just 3 mpg more than the non-hybrid model. Given its price premium, you'll certainly want to consider whether the Crosstrek Hybrid makes sense for you.
Overall, the 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek's combination of all-wheel drive, wagonlike characteristics and enhanced off-road ability make it rather distinctive in the compact crossover class. The Nissan Juke is more fun to drive but comes up short on cargo space and versatility. The same is true for the 2014 Mini Cooper Countryman, which costs more but earns more style points than the Subaru. Only the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport comes close to the Crosstrek's ground clearance and cargo space. But of the two, the Subaru strikes us as a better all-around package.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek is a five-passenger crossover available in 2.0i Premium, 2.0i Limited, Hybrid and Hybrid Touring trims.
Standard equipment on the 2.0i Premium includes 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, heated mirrors, a windshield wiper de-icer, air-conditioning, full power accessories, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated front seats, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a six-speaker audio system with a CD player, USB port and auxiliary jack.
The 2.0i Limited adds automatic headlights, automatic climate control, leather upholstery, a rear seat fold-down armrest, a rearview camera and six speakers and a 4.3-inch LCD display for the audio system.
The Hybrid includes the 2.0i Limited features (minus the leather upholstery) and adds unique 17-inch wheels, chrome door handles, quick-ratio electric power steering, active grille shutters (to improve aerodynamics), foldable sideview mirrors with signal repeaters, keyless ignition/entry and an upgraded multifunction display.
The Hybrid Touring includes a sunroof, leather upholstery, a 6.1-inch touchscreen, a navigation system with voice controls, smartphone integration (Aha radio), HD radio and satellite radio.
The 2.0i Premium and Limited models can also be equipped with the optional sunroof and a package that includes the upgraded audio system and navigation system.
Powertrains and Performance
The regular 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek features a 2.0-liter horizontally opposed "boxer" four-cylinder engine that produces 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard for the Premium trim and is coupled to an all-wheel-drive system with a 50/50 front/rear power distribution. Optional on the Premium and standard for the Limited is a CVT coupled to a different all-wheel-drive system that typically apportions more power to the front wheels but directs power rearward when traction is needed.
The Hybrid has the same engine running through the CVT and AWD system, and combines them with an electric motor that chips in an additional 13 hp and 48 lb-ft.
In Edmunds testing, a regular XV Crosstrek with the CVT accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 9.9 seconds. This is similar to the Outlander Sport and base Countryman, though the Countryman S and Juke are significantly quicker. We've yet to test the Hybrid.
Official EPA estimates for the XV Crosstrek stand at 28 mpg combined (25 city/33 highway) for the CVT, while the manual transmission reduces those numbers to 26 mpg combined (23/30). The XV Crosstrek Hybrid is the best of the bunch at 31 mpg combined (29/33).
The 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock disc brakes, front side airbags and side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag and active front head restraints. A rearview camera comes standard on all but the 2.0i Premium trim but is included with the optional navigation system.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the XV Crosstrek the highest possible rating of "Good" in its moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests. The Crosstrek's seat/head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
In Edmunds brake testing, the XV Crosstrek stopped from 60 mph in 126 feet, which is a few feet longer than average.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Subaru XV Crosstrek follows a template similar to its Impreza counterpart, with a clean and minimalist interior design featuring simple, logically arranged controls. Dash and door panels are wrapped in soft-touch trim in an elegant (but slightly austere) presentation, and the cabin remains surprisingly well isolated from wind and tire noise on the highway.
The Impreza's sound systems are pretty awful, however. Audio quality is subpar and the available touchscreen infotainment interface, while an improvement over the base system, offers only small, finicky touchscreen icons and locks out some pretty basic audio functions while the car is in motion.
As befits a car built to inspire wandering and adventure, the XV Crosstrek is slightly roomier than a base Impreza and there's even plenty of room for 6-foot-tall drivers and passengers. With the rear seats up, the Crosstrek offers 22.3 cubic feet of storage space. Lower those seats and space jumps to 51.9 cubes. That's about 15 more cubic feet of space compared to the Juke and 10 more than the Mini Cooper Countryman. A flat load floor means you're able to maximize most of that additional space. The Hybrid rates only slightly less in this regard, as the battery pack located beneath the cargo floor only reduces cargo capacity by 1.7 cubic feet.
Most 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek buyers will end up with the CVT, which takes the place of a conventional automatic transmission. And whether you're driving around town or on the highway, there's no hiding the fact that the CVT's top priority is to minimize fuel consumption. The downside is that acceleration is merely adequate, and you'll need to plan ahead for highway passing maneuvers. We've also found that the CVT's touchy response to gas pedal inputs can increase engine speed unnecessarily and exacerbate noise coming into the cabin from the engine bay during hard acceleration.
Dynamically, the XV Crosstrek is every bit a traditional Subaru, and it feels confident and composed on loose, slippery roads, where its all-wheel-drive and traction control systems make the XV's reactions fairly predictable. The Crosstrek's extra ground clearance also helps it glide through snowy streets and find all but the most remote surf breaks and trailheads. Subaru's tall wagon can be pretty fun on dry pavement, too, as its nicely tuned suspension gives it good balance around tight turns.