1st Place: 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, by Peter Bleakney

I’ll admit to a certain skepticism when first learning of the Subaru XV Crosstrek. Taking an Impreza hatch, jacking it up and slapping on some body cladding and funky wheels smacked of a lame marketing trick to me.

2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Limited
2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Limited. Click image to enlarge

Then I drove one for a week. And it snowed a lot.

All of a sudden this high-riding Impreza with the rugged swagger came into its own. With a special nod going to the snow tires, this Subie was unstoppable, and its tidy size, excellent outward visibility and general lightness-of-being made it an absolute hoot to boot about in the white stuff.

Sure, the “regular” Impreza hatch is competent, but it is dull. In the admittedly pricier XV Crosstrek form, this compact five-door hatchback is infinitely more appealing. The XV has funky charm, and a couple of interesting colours add real pizazz. Additionally, the higher seat points make ingress and egress a breeze.

Yet there must have been a lot more than this to warrant such a decisive victory in our group test.

Being based on a car, the XV was the most car-like to drive. It tied with the sporty Juke for best handler, and throughout our test the Crosstrek showed confidence-inspiring balance and a linear and feelsome helm. Its elevated ride height didn’t seem to adversely affect handling either. Body control is good, although some testers found the ride pitchy and jittery over some surfaces.

Strangely, the Crosstrek gives the impression of being bigger than the Impreza hatch on which it is based. Whatever the case, back seat leg room and head room are generous and the hatch easily swallowed our test box, getting the best marks for cargo space.

2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Limited2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Limited2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Limited2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Limited
2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Limited. Click image to enlarge

This Subaru in an extremely user-friendly device. The 2.0L boxer-four provides sufficient urge, and mated to the CVT there is an eager tip-in off the line. The paddle shifters quickly toggle through six ‘virtual’ gears if you are so inclined.

The Subaru’s interior quality got the best marks here, although it’s hardly rubbing shoulders with Audi or Infiniti. That said, the rotary HVAC controls operate with an expensive feel and the audio with its seven-band EQ garnered universal praise.

On the down side, the touch screen drew criticism for its small and hard to see “buttons”, and Senior Editor Yarkony discovered this was the hardest vehicle in which to install his child seat.

The real kicker here was fuel economy. This Subie absolutely creamed the competitors with a 9.6 L/100 km showing over the test day. And this little SUV is no slug – unlike the lethargic Mitsubishi RVR whose 2.0L four generates the same 148 hp and 145 lb-ft. The Mitsubishi, which weighs about 65 kg more, returned 11.5 L/100 km.

And finally we come to price. At $31,990 the Subaru XV Crosstrek Limited was the second most affordable vehicle in the test. Game, set, match.

Pricing: 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Limited
Base price: $28,995
Options: $1,300 (CVT)
A/C tax: $100
Freight: $1,595
Price as tested: $31,990

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