2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Jonathan Yarkony
It’s been quite some time since we tested the Subaru XV Crosstrek (in non-hybrid form), and the last time we had it around this office it swept away the competition in our Mini-Crossover Comparison Test shortly before wrapping up a long-term test. At the risk of completely ruining the suspense, we still love it.
In the past year, I must have recommended this thing to at least a dozen people, my dad the latest victim to fall prey to my preaching. There is a particular charm to it, especially in its vivid tangerine orange, against which the signature Subaru plastic body cladding stands out and cheekily advertises its ‘rugged’ personality. The other mini-utes seem like such city slickers, between the bug-eyed Juke, sleek RVR and somewhat dull Trax, the XV banks on Subaru’s already adventure-oriented customer base and manages to really stand out from the crowd. Okay, maybe not in this bLack on black tester.
Now, that’s not to say it is not without fault, but it has a unique combination of character, efficiency, capability and affordability that I think will be in the sweet spot for many shoppers looking at compact hatchbacks or small SUVs. I’m not alone. In its first full year of sales, Subaru sold more than 6,000 in Canada and over 50K in the USA. They’re on pace to sell even more of ‘em this year.
The XV Crosstrek is smaller than the familiar trucklets in the compact SUV category, like the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Subaru’s own Forester. There are only a few competitors similarly sized, the Chevrolet Trax (and its semi-premium twin Buick Encore), Nissan Juke and Mitsubishi RVR. But there are more to come, including a Fit-based crossover from Honda and the Jeep Renegade, and even luxury makers are getting in on the act, BMW already on board with its X1, and Mercedes and Audi answering with the GLA and Q3, respectively.
But enough about other vehicles, let’s get into this one. The XV Crosstrek, at 4450 mm long with a 2635 mm wheelbase, is a bit longer than the Trax or RVR, which yields better cargo space and legroom, with respectable headroom, even with the sunroof optioned. Cargo space is listed at 632 L and 1,470 L with the seats folded down. Even with the seats up, the cargo bay is wide and tall despite a fairly dramatic slope to the rear hatch and a standard retractable cargo cover. The seats are easy to fold and raise, split 60/40 for varying cargo and passenger needs.
Although legroom in the rear is sufficient, the seats are flat. We only used them for our kids, both of whom are in car seats, which proved a cinch to install. The driver’s seat was nicely contoured and comfortable, and all seats were covered in breathable fabric, so my backside was quite happy. Heated seats are also standard.
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek dashboard, centre stack, steering wheel controls. Click image to enlarge
The steering wheel is covered in decent leather (Sport trim and above), with audio and cruise control switchgear on the spokes (standard), and controls for the nifty multi-information display on the dash. The info display features fuel consumption, trip info, all-wheel-drive power distribution, or date and time. The gauges are simple and conventional with a low-res info screen between the gauges, so not quite as legible as some of the leaders in this dark art.
The materials are a mix of soft plastics on the dash with harder more durable materials below the silver accent spar, and switchgear is basic but functional. However, the interface screen is a small dot-matrix affair, though basic functions of volume, mode and tuning are easily deciphered. Bluetooth, in this setup, is connected via the steering wheel voice command controls. Climate control is a conventional three-knob system with inset buttons for specific functions, and a generous storage cubby is ideal for phones and ‘phablets’ of any size, with 12V and USB ports. Another ‘pocket’ aft of the leather-wrapped shifter can hold your phone upright until you hit the first bump or turn, then cupholders and under-armrest storage. The seat-heater controls are oddly placed next to the cupholders behind the hand brake.
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek seating & cargo area. Click image to enlarge
Out on the road, the XV Crosstrek is an easy car to drive. Slightly higher than the Impreza on which it based, the chunky styling interferes very little with outward visibility, so you can see the road ahead and to the sides very well, and it’s no trouble at all backing into tight parking spots even with no back-up camera.
Driving it is similarly effortless. Pop the shifter into D, and the CVT transmission (a $1,300 upgrade in any trim except hybrid) will take care of all the work. However, if you find the tendency for RPMs to surge irritating, you can pop it over into Manual mode, with six simulated gears and paddles shifters (in every trim!). I found this relieving as the auto mode tended to drone and whine, but in manual mode I could keep the RPMs lower for a quieter drive in traffic.