2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Review

2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Review Photo
By Daniel Barron, Toronto Sun
Don’t be fooled by the name of Subaru’s brand-new-for-2013 vehicle, the brawny-and-brash-sounding XV Crosstrek. The title makes it out to be a hardcore, rock-crawling beast, but really, it’s the latest entry in the ever-popular compact SUV segment.
Chances are if you don’t own one of these compact utes – such as the Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4 or Hyundai Tucson – someone you know almost certainly does. For obvious reasons, Subaru wants a piece of the action, and the XV Crosstrek is a smaller option than two of its wagon siblings, the Forester and Outback.
The XV further sets itself apart from other Subaru models thanks to a front grille and front and rear bumpers that are unique from the rest of the line-up.
One thing you’ll be happy the XV shares with other Subaru models is the symmetrical all-wheel drive system that easily helps the vehicle move through wet, slippery, snowy conditions. It’s an “always on” system that would make even the most inexperienced and nervous winter driver look like a pro as he or she easily gets from point A to point B with only the slightest of slippage to show for it.
And that would be the fun kind of slippage that only serves to remind you that you’re driving a vehicle and not an appliance. That’s because even driving up north on roads basically ignored by snowploughs, the XV Crosstrek barely breaks a sweat, and makes what could be a white-knuckle experience nothing of the sort.
The newest Subaru isn’t particularly tall, but it sits high off the ground, and while this could spell disaster to many vehicles in terms of handling, the XV Crosstrek actually feels quite steady, all things considered. I’m not convinced this is much of a performance vehicle beyond that though, as the steering is a little numb for my tastes, and the CVT – a transmission Subaru has been adopting more and more – barely registers on the excitement scale.
Really, though, the name of the game with a wagon like the XV Crosstrek is usability, and it’s top notch here. There’s nothing fancy here, to be completely honest, but the interior offers plenty of space for both passengers and their cargo, even when you have a lot of both to transport simultaneously. Being able to fold down one side of the 60/40 split rear bench allows me to fit in all sorts of equipment for myself and two passengers for the annual pond hockey tournament.
The XV Crosstrek’s generous wheelbase means interior space isn’t an issue, but the seats themselves leave something to be desired. They simply don’t hold up well over long distances.
This Subaru checks off other boxes that customers are most likely looking for in an SUV such as this: excellent visibility, good manoeuvrability (even in confined spaces), handy storage solutions in the cockpit, and a greenhouse that effectively mutes wind, road, and engine noise.
Still, the XV could stand to improve in some areas. Most notably, the brakes feel too mushy, and as functional as the interior and all its controls are, it looks terribly boring. Competitors are for the most part doing a far better job of making their vehicles look more upscale and eye-catching inside.
Beyond that, as serviceable as the horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine is in the XV Crosstrek (the only engine offered in the vehicle regardless of trim level), it does fall short of competitors in terms of power. Subaru may be able to boast being the “most fuel-efficient all-wheel drive crossover utility vehicle in North America” on paper, but I get better economy in the Mazda CX-5, which uses the same size engine, while having a whole lot more fun behind the wheel.
The XV Crosstrek may not be as tough as its name, but it is still well built for challenging road conditions brought on by Canadian winters, which can often be best described as unpredictable.
Many competitors have been evolving for a long time to suit the changing needs of consumers who are considering vehicles in this segment. The XV Crosstrek is on the right track, but it may just need to experience some growing pains before truly being considered a legitimate rival in this class.
Fact file:  2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek
Trim level: Touring
Price as tested (before taxes): $25,795
Options on test vehicle: Continuously variable transmission ($1,300)
Freight: $1,595
Configuration: front engine/ all-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 2.0L 4-cyl./ continuously variable
Power/torque: 148 hp/ 145 lb.-ft.
Fuel (capacity): regular (60L)
Fuel economy ratings: 8.2 L/100km city; 6.0 L/100km hwy
Observed fuel economy: 9.2 L/100km over 712 km
Warranties: 3 years/60,000 km (basic); 5 years/100,000 km (powertrain)
Competitors: Ford Escape; Honda CR-V; Hyundai Tucson; Kia Sportage; Mazda CX-5; Toyota RAV4
Strengths: AWD system; cargo space; value
Weaknesses: transmission; seats; brake feel
Report Card (out of 5):
Fuel Economy: 3 – Not too shabby for this heavy-ish, CVT-equipped vehicle.
Value for $: 4 – Competitive price for a roomy all-wheel drive crossover.
Styling: 3.5 – Nice wheels, and cool colour choices, but nothing special otherwise.
Comfort: 3.5 – Decent passenger space, but seats just don’t hold up.
Performance: 3.5 – CVT does little to help the XV, but it’s better than you may think.
Overall: 3 – Lots to like with this crossover, but there’s room for improvement.