We’re going on a decade since the Subaru Impreza Wagon has left us, and it’s been a similar amount of time since its larger brother, the Legacy Wagon was discontinued. However, Subaru still remains one of those automakers that continue to offer their slightly offbeat offerings because they know their devout following appreciates this. The Outback is the perfect vehicle for the outdoorsy family, that requires the added ride height of a crossover but still appreciates the versatility of the traditional station wagon. A few years ago, we were introduced to the successor to the Impreza Outback, the XV Crosstrek. After some minor tweaks to the line, we were handed the keys to a 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek to see how it stacks up a couple years after its introduction.
The Crosstrek is fundamentally based on the Impreza, but offers a significant amount of differences that justify its existence. Simply put, the XV Crosstrek is to the Impreza hatchback what the Outback is to the (now-defunct) Legacy Wagon. The Crosstrek’s added ride height and short wheelbase allow it to be the perfect compromise between a weekend adventure vehicle and an urban traffic commuter. The styling of this car definitely looks authoritative, as well as manlier and more adventurous than the Impreza. At the same time, the blacked-out wheels and overall stance can appear cartoonish and goofy to some. Personally, I like how the XV looks – it’s different and your friends will see from your vehicle choice that you’re an out-of-the-box thinker.
There is a hybrid version of the XV Crosstrek available, but Subaru doesn’t really intend for that to be the volume seller. We also tested it last year and we concluded that only the most intense gridlock commuters will be able to appreciate the hybrid’s advantage. The regular XV Crosstrek is equipped with the Subaru signature motor, a horizontally-mounted flat four-cylinder. It’s the same engine in the Impreza; a 2.0L unit with the Dual Active Valve Control system and electronic throttle control. It’s good for 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque. There is a five-speed manual available, but our tester arrived with the Lineartronic CVT. Thanks to the torque distribution, I found that much like other Subarus, throttle tip-in is a bit sharp.
Response from the flat-four is pretty decent. If taking the car to organized autocross events or track days is your priority, you may want to consider the turbocharged WRX, because the XV Crosstrek isn’t really made for speed. Don’t get me wrong; it will get out of its own way with ease, but it’s not a powerhouse. The CVT is something Subaru has been trying for a few years to perfect, and they’re finally at the point where it’s one of the best units in the industry. It can be a bit buzzy and feel a bit stretched at times, but it’s a good unit and results in improved fuel economy. For maximum control, there are paddle shfiters for a makeshift manual mode. Being a purist at heart, I personally would opt for the 5-speed manual, but seeing as it lacks a sixth gear, highway hauls with the CVT would probably be best for efficiency purposes.
Naturally, being a modern Subaru product, the XV Crosstrek comes equipped with Symmetrical all-wheel-drive as a standard feature on all trim levels. This means the small crossover is surprisingly capable in all conditions, and definitely a beast in the Canadian winters we face. Even with its added ride height, the Crosstrek handles decently well and steering is surprisingly tight. It does have a pretty low center of gravity so there isn’t all that much body roll even when taking highway on-ramps rather briskly. The 17” wheels are the perfect balance between a ride that’s comfortable and sporty at the same time; there is still some harshness to the suspension but the XV Crosstrek does absorb bumps a little bit better than the Impreza I drove recently.
Speaking of efficiency, the XV Crosstrek’s flat-four is naturally aspirated, unlike the turbocharged WRX. This means it gets away just fine using regular 87-octane fuel. It’s not the most efficient in the city, but I didn’t ever see numbers going above the 9L/100km mark, and while commuting on the highway I saw the display read 6L/100km. Regardless, doing my own manual calculations, I was able to determine that throughout its test week with me, the cheeky little Subaru averaged 8.8L/100km in one combined cycle. Frequent highway commuters will see significantly better numbers, probably in the 7L/100km mark, exactly what Subaru estimates for this vehicle.
My test car was the 2015 XV Crosstrek with the Sport Package and Technology option. This means the heated seats remain upholstered in a fabric, as the Sport is the midrange model in the XV lineup, but the steering wheel and gear shifter are leather-wrapped. There’s a power tilt/slide sunroof, fog lights, automatic HID headlights with auto-leveling, and of course, the new Subaru StarLink infotainment system. My Sport Package car wasn’t equipped with the navigation system, but the infotainment system does include support for Aha radio, Bluetooth, and full iPod connectivity. This is all controlled via the very responsive 6.2” touchscreen display.
Being a compact crossover, the Crosstrek has a series of oddball competitors, all of which are reasonably new to the Canadian market. The Nissan Juke is often chalked off as being too polarizing in the looks department, but the Fiat 500L, Chevrolet Trax and Buick Encore remain strong contenders against the Subaru. My tester came in at an as-tested $29,495. The real conversation piece here remains Subaru’s EyeSight advanced driver aid technology, which is a camera based system that packs features such as adaptive cruise control, collision warning, and a few other little toys. One particularly neat trick is a friendly “beep” that alerts you when the vehicle ahead has taken off. While a neat setup, EyeSight unfortunately cannot be coupled with the manual transmission.
With EyeSight on board, the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (where we’ll be paying a visit soon) gives all Subaru models their highest rating, which is Top Safety Pick+. This goes a long way when recommending a car in this segment, which is something I’ve found myself doing a considerable amount over the last little while. Not only is it versatile, the XV Crosstrek is rugged-looking and good to drive. Subaru gives the 2015 XV Crosstrek a tow rating of 1500lb, so it can actually tow your dirt bike or enough junk for a weekend’s camping trip. This really is a multipurpose little crossover in a rapidly emerging class, and should definitely be on the list for anyone who truly misses the presence of either the Impreza Outback or the Legacy Wagon and doesn’t want to step up to the size of the current Outback.
2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek Gallery