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Subaru XV Crosstrek vs Impreza Sport

Consumer Reports News: September 24, 2012 01:38 PM

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Buying a Subaru is typically a very practical and logical purchase. But some Subaru purchases are more logical than others. Case in point: the XV Crosstrek.

This new model is essentially an Impreza hatchback with more ground clearance, 8.7 inches in all. Unless you drive a lot of bad dirt roads or your biking/kayaking/hiking takes you to some really treacherous parking lots, the added ground clearance will seldom be advantageous. (It just makes things harder to put on the roof rack.) Fuel economy is lower than the Impreza, although the XV Crosstrek's gas tank is bigger. And it costs more money.

But the XV Crosstrek has a certain bulldog-like appeal created by the raised height, contrasting rocker panel paint, and mean-looking black wheels. Unique model-specific colors like traffic cone orange ("Tangerine Orange Pearl") or desert rat beige ("Desert Khaki") help. These styling revisions all add up to a look that is almost comically rugged and gives the car a different feel from its plain-Jane roots.

Subaru says that market research showed that potential buyers thought the XV Crosstrek competes with small SUVs, not hatchbacks. Ironically, the government confirms this: the higher ride height and rear privacy glass classify the XV Crosstrek as a light truck rather than a car.

Of course, all Subarus are simply different shades of practical. (Well, except maybe the BRZ.) The XV Crosstrek claims to be more fuel efficient than its motley crew of oddball competitors, the Nissan Juke and Mini Cooper Countryman. It's also roomier inside, which isn't too much of a challenge among that company. Driving the car shows that the steering changes shared with the Impreza as well as unique suspension tweaks do a good job at keeping the car nimble and decent-riding.

Subaru is selling everything they can build (excluding Tribecas) so the XV Crosstrek isn't likely to cannibalize Impreza hatch sales in the same way that the Outback put the Legacy wagon out to pasture in this country. We'll see how the XV Crosstrek compares by the numbers when we buy one to test.

Tom Mutchler

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