The first opportunity we had to drive the Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid was in Iceland. In winter. What that experience proved more than anything was that off-roading in Iceland in winter is not the best idea, even in an all-wheel-drive Subaru with extra ground clearance.
We were keen, then, to try this latest twist on the Subaru formula here at home. The Hybrid is a version of the Subaru XV Crosstrek, which is itself based on the Impreza four-door hatchback. The XV Crosstrek has been a hit for Subaru, with volumes approaching those of the entire Impreza line. Interestingly, word is that Subaru of America only added the model to its portfolio under pressure from its dealers, who had enough experience selling high-riding variants of existing models (i.e., the Outback offshoot of the Legacy wagon) to know a winner when they saw it.
What, then, of the Hybrid? To the Subaru XV Crosstrek’s—and Impreza’s—2.0-liter flat four, Subaru adds a 13-hp electric motor integrated into the CVT. Power and torque each get a small bump, going from 148 hp and 145 lb-ft to 160 hp and 163 lb-ft. Unfortunately, there’s also a commensurate increase in curb weight. Acceleration is fairly leisurely, and the interplay of the gasoline engine and the electric motor sometimes makes for non-linear throttle response.
The gasoline engine shuts off at stoplights, and the Hybrid can creep along under battery power alone at very low speeds or when first moving off from a stop. Those two factors help the Hybrid get better fuel economy in the city than the standard Subaru XV Crosstrek with a CVT: 29 mpg versus 25 mpg. On the highway, though, the Hybrid does no better, netting the same EPA rating of 33 mpg. We got 27 mpg in a traffic-choked drive home from New York’s Kennedy airport that did see some EV-mode creeping. The best we managed was 32 mpg, on a low-speed two-hour parkway trip upstate.
Overall, those are hardly headline-making figures. And they’re not much of a boost over the standard Subaru XV Crosstrek, given the Hybrid’s roughly $3000 extra cost. The Hybrid does throw in a couple more standard features, but nothing huge. There are two Hybrid trim levels. The base version starts at $26,820. The Touring, which adds leather, a moonroof, and Subaru’s exceedingly cheesy navigation radio, comes in just over $30,000, which really gives one pause. Dressing up the Impreza hatchback as a high-riding neo-SUV—that we get. But wrapping that neo-SUV in the green sheen of a hybrid—that’s a twist too far.
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid
Base Price:$30,120 (with destination)
Price As Tested:$30,120
Engine:2.0L H-4 electric hybrid
Total Power:160 hp
Total Torque:163 lb-ft
Transmission:Continuously variable automatic
Fuel Economy:29/33 mpg (city/highway)
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