Subaru XV Crosstrek is a disappointing hybrid

A tiny boost in gas mileage isn’t worth the price

Published: June 02, 2014 02:00 PM

It would stand to reason that those most interested in saving the earth are the outdoor enthusiasts who like to enjoy it. And while Subaru built the XV Crosstrek Hybrid for those consumers, they’re likely to come away disappointed.

This XV is a hybridized version of the standard XV Crosstrek, itself essentially an Impreza hatchback jacked up to resemble an SUV. The hybrid version adds a small battery pack and electric motor to the basic Crosstrek package to allow it to drive at very low speeds on electric power alone.

We did manage to get the Crosstrek Hybrid to drive, briefly, on electric power, but it wasn’t easy. The electric motor and battery pack have so little power that you’d hardly know this is a hybrid from behind the wheel. The engine starts immediately almost every time you think about taking off from a stop.

This is Subaru’s first hybrid, and it seems to need more development.

Gas mileage isn’t what you’d expect, either. We measured 28 mpg from the XV Crosstrek Hybrid, and 26 mpg from the regular XV Crosstrek. Part of the Hybrid’s challenge is that 26 mpg is very good, for a small SUV with all-wheel drive. And while 28 mpg is a little better than any other SUV on the market, it falls short of the gains typically seen from some hybrid powertrains.

The Hybrid does have some benefits over the standard Crosstrek: When you’re accelerating or climbing hills on the highway, or even moving out across an intersection after a stoplight, the engine doesn’t feel like it’s working as hard as the basic Crosstrek’s does. Both use a continuously variable transmission. CVTs have a tendency to make the engine rev hard whenever you ask for power, and the Crosstrek’s (née Impreza’s) 2.0-liter boxer four cylinder isn’t particularly smooth or quiet under such conditions. So having the electric motor take some load off the engine makes a noticeable difference.

Still, even for image-conscious environmentalists, it’s hard to justify the extra $3,000 the Crosstrek Hybrid costs over the regular Crosstrek. Certainly, you won’t save that in gas costs any time soon. What’s worse for those who want to get out on the trail while polluting as little as possible, this Hybrid has no spare tire to get you home if you slice the sidewall on a rock while you’re in the boonies. So its all-wheel-drive system and SUV ride height may amount to nothing more than a false sense of security.

In short, we think the environmentalists who might like this car would be better served either by a proper hybrid or the regular XV Crosstrek.

—Eric Evarts

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