2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid review
Subaru gets greener with a Hybrid.
That’s an, umm, interesting colour . . .
Yes, Plasma Green Pearl, as a matter of fact, a suitably distinctive hue to mark the debut of Subaru’s first ever hybrid vehicle, the 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid.
Before we get into too much detail about the hybrid, let’s take a quick look at the regular XV Crosstrek (or just XV in Europe), the latest generation Impreza derivative that was introduced for the 2013 model year to add a little off-road flavour to Subaru’s small hatchback, courtesy of a jacked up suspension, raised ground clearance and a few other Outback-style SUV cues.
The regular XV Crosstrek harnesses a gasoline-powered 148 hp four cylinder 2.0-litre boxer engine mated to a standard five-speed manual transmission, putting power to the ground via Subaru’s trademark symmetrical full-time all-wheel drive system.
It comes in three trim levels – Touring ($24,495), Sport ($26,495) and Limited ($28,995). An optional Lineartronic CVT (continuously variable transmission), for an extra $1,300, allows automatic operation or manual stepped shifting.
The 2013 XV Crosstrek was well received by the Subaru faithful, so adding a new-for-2014 hybrid version seems a logical next step, playing to the granola-crunching Eco crowd and a wider audience of fuel-conservation customers who are looking for hybrid alternatives to the perennial Prius.
The 2014 XV Crosstrek Hybrid shares all of its gasoline-powered predecessors, Subaru strengths – a relatively low-centre-of-gravity thanks to the flat-four boxer engine (even with the increased ground clearance) and the secure traction of the all-wheel drive system.
And it builds on the already fuel-efficient 148 hp 2.0-litre four-cylinder powertrain by adding a 10 kW permanent magnet synchronous electric motor that has been adapted directly into the CVT transmission (the only transmission available with the hybrid). A 0.6 kWh 100V Sanyo nickel metal hydride battery provides the electric power.
The electric motor adds about 13.4 hp and 48 lb/ft to the mix for a total net power rating that Subaru estimates at 160 hp and 163 lb/ft of torque. As a result, the XV Crosstrek Hybrid’s fuel economy rating improves to 6.9/6.0L/100km (city/hwy) compared to the regular XV Crosstrek’s rating of 8.2/6.0L/100km.
Obviously, the highway rating is unchanged with the improvement made in city driving where the hybrid’s strengths – acceleration assist, regenerative braking and automatic stop/start system – come into play.
There’s even a kilometre or so of available EV performance, pretty well limited to creeping around parking lots at walking speed to keep the engine from kicking in. The automatic stop/start feature is somewhat clunky; especially in stop-and-go traffic and using the HVAC negates the system in many instances.
Drivers might expect to feel a little more of the added torque during initial launch but, frankly, the effect is minimal. With the battery and hybrid system’s extra 150 kg, there’s only a slight improvement to the hybrid’s power/weight ratio.
A mild hybrid system like this one, with only a small battery and electric motor combo, can only have so much impact. But there are some factors that do set apart the XV Crosstrek Hybrid.
The battery pack slots into the compartment normally reserved for the spare tire, which has been replaced with an inflator kit. Intrusion into the cargo area is minimal, with 609 litres available (compared to 632 litres of luggage room in the regular XV Crosstrek) and the maximum space available with the rear seat folded flat is about 48 litres less (1422 litres instead of 1470 litres).
The fuel tank (52 litres) is eight litres smaller. And the weight increase and different distribution of mass encouraged Subaru to re-engineer the chassis and suspension for improved ride, better handling and a slightly tighter steering ratio. Standard hood insulation and an acoustically laminated windshield reduce noise intrusion. And the XV Crosstrek Hybrid adds unique silver roof rails and special lightweight 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels.
Inside, keyless access and a push-button start system comes standard. Blue luminescent sport gauges separate the hybrid from the rest of its stable mates and unique hybrid energy readouts are shown on the 4.3-inch Multi-function display.
And all of this is wrapped in two hybrid-exclusive colours – Quartz Blue Pearl and, as tested here, the Plasma Green Pearl – along with colours shared by the rest of the lineup – Dark Grey Metallic and Satin White Pearl.
So, bottom line, is it worth it?
The XV Crosstrek Hybrid lists for $29,995, which works out to about $2,200 more than a relatively similar-equipped mid-level XV Crosstrek Sport model.
Personally, I’d lean towards a minimalist, gasoline-powered XV Crosstrek with the five-speed manual tranny for an affordable mix of fun and frugality.
It would take a long time to work off the extra $2,200 premium by saving a litre of gas or so every 100 kilometres.
But the XV Crosstrek does boast an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV) rating. It offers quiet and composed ride and handling. And, for early adopters and environmentally conscious customers who are determined to take a personal stand on ecological issues, the XV Crosstrek Hybrid can also offer peace of mind, Subaru’s reassuring reputation for reliability and the satisfaction of industry-wide recognition as the most fuel-efficient full-time AWD hybrid crossover in North America.