Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid — A question of cost

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Soon after completing our first trip in a 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid crossover we headed straight for the press materials to discover why we were experiencing a noticeable difference in low-end performance compared to the standard gas engine version we tested last year.

The hybrid felt quicker off the line, livelier in stop and start city driving displaying a more zippy personality. Neither version of the Crosstrek is a speed demon, but the extra dose of hybrid performance at lower speeds we think will be welcome to people who do most of their driving on city and suburban streets where quickness is more likely to be measured from 0-to-40 than 0-to-interstate speed.

The hybrid uses the same engine as the gas-only version combined with an electric motor that gains a modest 12 horsepower and 18 p
ound-feet of torque. The perceived improvement comes because peak torque is reached at just 2,000 rpm in the hybrid compared to 4,200 rpm in the base Crosstrek.

At the same time EPA-rated city gas mileage is improved from 25 to 29 mpg. But overall gas mileage is just three miles to the gallon better rated at 31 mpg. The downside is that this modest increase in mileage comes at a rather steep price premium of approximately $3,000 starting at $26,820 including destination charge.

In fairness Subaru has put some unique features into the base hybrid that aren't available as standard equipment on the gas-engine model including automatic climate control and keyless entry/ignition, taking the edge off the higher purchase price.

The Crosstrek, which reached the market as a 2013 model, is essentially a compact Impreza hatchback with three more inches of ground clearance (8.7 inches) and a suspension beefed up for moderate off-road driving. And, of course, like all Subaru models — except the new BRZ sports car — it comes with all-wheel drive as standard equipment.

Both the standard issue Crosstrek and the hybrid are mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder horizontally opposed "boxer" engine makes 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. There is a five-speed manual option with the gas engine vehicle, the hybrid comes only with the CVT making a total of 160 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque.

Getting started in the hybrid is an exercise in frugality if you are careful and ease away. The car is designed to propel itself solely on electric power up to speeds of 13 mph at which point the gas engine comes to life. We found it a seamless transition. And the regenerative braking, which can feel a bit abrupt and off-putting in some hybrids, was very unobtrusive in the Crosstrek.

Performance is adequate and figure that a gas-guzzling pedal-to-the-metal zero to 60 can be accomplished in about 9.5 secon
ds. The ride is pleasant and the electric power-assisted steering receptive to commands. On-center feel is good and no serious course corrections are required on highway travel.

We complained about the interior noise level after our test last year. But for the 2014 model we discovered to our delight a much quieter interior. Subaru says it has taken the complaints to heart and reduced noise levels by adding such sound-deadening measures as putting more insulation in the vehicle, using quieter glass, and thickening the floor pan.

The interior is a nice place to reside, the front seats are comfortable even for long-distance travel, and the rear has adequate leg and head room. When hauling cargo is the object of the day, the rear seats can be folded to reveal 50.2 cubic feet of storage space. With the seats up there is a decent 21.5 cubic feet of luggage and grocery-hauling room. Those numbers are slightly lower than the gas engine car because of space taken up by the battery pack.

The dashboard layout is conservative. Controls are intuitive and include steering wheel buttons for the audio and cruise control systems. Climate controls are made up of three large well-designed knobs. High in the center of the dash is a hooded readout featuring outside temperature and time. Materials are of good quality and fit and finish is excellent.

Standard equipment on the Hybrid for the base price of $26,820 includes 17-inch wheels, active grille shutters to improve aerodynamics, upgraded multifunction display, heated front seats, a six-speaker audio system with CD player, rearview camera, and the aforementioned automatic climate control and keyless entry/ignition. The Hybrid Touring includes a sunroof, leather upholstery, navigation with voice controls and satellite radio. Base price for Touring is $30,120.

Base price: $26,820; as driven, $26,820
Engine: 2.0-liter flat 4, electric motor
Horsepower: 160 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 163 foot-pounds @ 2,000 rpm
Drive: all-wheel
Transmission: continuously variable
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 103.7 inches
Length: 175.2 inches
Curb weight: 3,451 pounds
Turning circle: 34.8 feet
Luggage capacity: 21.5 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 50.2 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 13.7 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 33 highway, 29 city
0-60: 9.5 seconds (estimated)
Also consider: Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V

The Good
• Standard all-wheel drive
• Fuel-efficient hybrid alternative
• Decent off-road capability

The Bad
• Below average acceleration

The Ugly
• Premium price negates gas savings