Speaking lightly, this winter has been a bit of a surprise for most of us Canadians (read: Ontarians); and it’s safe to say that, for most of us, it hasn’t been a good surprise. Then again, with a 2.1% Canadian market share in 2013, it’s safe to say most of us don’t have a Subaru in their driveway. After a week in the 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid in some of the worst winter conditions I’ve driven in years, that really needs to change. Having been a longtime Subaru fanboy ever since I first drove my best-friend’s ’04 Impreza WRX, I was champing at the bit when my editor told me my tester for the week came with stars on the hood.
The XV Crosstrek Hybrid, is both a mouthful as well as Subaru’s first step into the hybrid market. Where the spare tire once was, engineers have placed a battery pack which adds around 13.4 extra horsepower to the existing 148 horses which the non-hybrid version was already pushing from the four-cylinder boxer engine. With just over 161 combined horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque, the Crosstrek Hybrid wasn’t exactly a powerhouse off the line. However, there’s a lot more to consider if you’re one of the individuals who belong in the all-too-niche target market of this little green brute. Holding true to what I consider one of Subaru’s strong suits, this crossover is built for practicality.
Practicality shines through as soon as you step inside the XV. It only took me a couple of seconds to figure out the control scheme, which is more than I can say for a lot of today’s overly-complex and unintuitive consoles, steering wheels, and multimedia screens. I’m a man who likes form with his function, and the simplicity of this vehicle didn’t let me down – it’s simple, purpose-built, and it looks good. Sure, it’s not the image of luxury, but every button placement has been thoroughly planned, and nothing looks like a last minute addition or an afterthought. The designers have found a nice balance that lets all the controls be seen, all while keeping all of them out of your way while driving. There’s a couple things missing, such the ability to quick-scroll through your iPod (connected via USB or Bluetooth) and perhaps a cover on the change tray, but now I’m just playing hard-to-please.
Throw some snow on the ground, and this beefed-up, hybrid electric Impreza becomes much more lively and entertaining. Subaru’s famed full-time, symmetrical AWD system just continues to live up to it’s name to deliver some surprisingly sporty performance in the snow. The traction control system does an excellent job and I would say that the only fault I could find is its ability to over-inspire a driver beyond their abilities. That said, keeping in mind the laws of physics still applied to this car, I did find myself conquering conditions my daily driver (a 2007 Civic Sedan) would never survive. When the weather gets bad, the Crosstrek Hybrid gets good. Pump up your favourite soundtrack, turn on the heated seats, and you’re in for a real treat. Further credit should be given to Subaru for being able to please an enthusiast with their Lineartronic CVT transmission. With the added simulated manual mode & paddle shifters, you can have some good fun pushing through corners and adding some extra oomph to your passes.
All this said, I found it hard to figure out how the hybrid system fit into this little bundle. The main display allows you to see when it’s active, charging, or dormant – but despite my best efforts, it didn’t seem to come into play all that often. Also, the battery seemed to drain out faster than my iPhone 5. Every single one of these things though is largely due to the -17 degrees Celsius temperatures I experienced during my week of testing. Sadly, I saw the system charging more than I saw it working – only really coming into play at low speeds and cruising at steady speeds between 60-80 km/h. It probably would have improved fuel economy a bit more in warmer temperatures, and with our resident hypermiler at the helm. Most of my driving consisted of city streets with a lot of stop & go due to the lousy conditions, so I only returned an average of 10.4L/100km – but I did manage to get the average down to 7.2L/100km on a long country drive, even in a snowstorm.
Although the hybrid system needs a bit of refinement, I’m confident Subaru can bring it up to par with other hybrid crossovers. Overall, the 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid is definitely a pleasant drive, and from what I’ve heard, significantly quieter than it’s non-hybrid counterpart. Manageable power, flawless AWD, and plenty of ground clearance make this a pretty excellent contender in the Canadian market. With my tester coming in just under the infamous $30,000 mark at $29,995, I think Subaru is on track towards increasing that market share.
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid Gallery