2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Jacob Black

First, the good bits. Subaru makes an excellent all-wheel-drive system. It is brilliant. I have used it to accelerate up steep inclines in a perfectly straight line from a dead stop halfway up the hill. I have used it to muck about in snow-covered parking lots, and I have experienced the system kicking in when I was a klutz during a snap snow-flurry that left half an on-ramp dry and a thick drift about half-way down.

That last one was really my fault. I had not paid enough attention as I entered the on-ramp at my usual speed and was totally caught out by the snow drift ahead – the XV Crosstrek Hybrid was sideways for a moment and scrambling toward the outside kerb. With barely a correction on the wheel and the slightest of lift-offs, the Subaru’s system kicked in, flashed a message to me on the dash and then picked up the car and returned it to its proper trajectory. I was impressed, I was pleased, I posted a melodramatic tweet about it.

So that bit was good.

Also, this one was lime green, and green is my favourite colour, so that bit was good too. In fact, that shade of green is exclusive to the hybrid trim. All in all, the XV Crosstrek Hybrid is a damn good looking car, with stunning rims, a cool jacked-up wagon profile and sharp lines. Even the roof racks look good, contributing to the action-adventure attitude of the car and increasing utility. So they’re a win.

Subaru makes a pretty great CVT, too, all things considered. So good that in a regular XV Crosstrek with the CVT and the same 148 hp/145 lb-ft 2.0L four-cylinder boxer we’ve seen fuel economy as good as 9.0 L/100 km, so naturally we were keen to see what this hybrid edition would be able to achieve. Our expectations were high.

Oh, dear.

Yes, it’s winter – but it was winter in the test mentioned above, too. Okay, granted, this has been an Epic Winter. And yes, this one only has 1,600 km on the clock – but we had to break in our long-term tester last year, too. All of those things mean that our final reading of 10.4 L/100 km is a truly dreadful reading and throws into question the entire purpose of buying a hybrid version of this car – especially when other rigs like the Honda Accord record as much as 50 percent better economy than their conventional engine counterparts in our tests.

2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Sure, for the extra $3,500 ($29,995 base MSRP for the Hybrid vs $26,495 for the Crosstrek Sport) you get an extra 13.4 hp and 48 lb-ft of torque, but you also gain 150 kg for the hybrid system, batteries etc. That results in a small reduction in the power-to-weight ratio – so the weight-to-horsepower trade-off is not worthwhile. The Hybrid comes with a CVT as the only available transmission, and it’s a $1,300 option on the Sport, eating into that $3,500 price difference considerably. You also get 58 L less cargo volume with the seats folded flat – but the same with the seats all in place.

That’s fine, of course, because hybrids are all about fuel economy, not power or cargo space. Except I’ve already pointed out that our real-world experience of fuel economy wasn’t positive.

2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

For what it’s worth, the EPA gives the two identical figures on the highway (7.1 L/100 km) but gives the hybrid a 1.3 L/100 km edge in the city where 8.1 L/100 km plays 9.4. Combined, the EPA says the Crosstrek is good for 7.6 L/100 km and the non-hybrid 8.4. So technically, there should be an advantage.

Our former colleague Mike Schlee had this exact same car after me and averaged 9.8 L/100 km during his week – coincidentally, that was also worse than he achieved in the non-hybrid version we had for a long-term test last year. On this occasion the EPA figures haven’t proven accurate. Maybe it’s the winter? I did try turning off the heater and relying on my jacket for a few days to see if it helped, but it didn’t. And try as I might, I couldn’t get the Crosstrek to stay in EV mode for any more than a few seconds at a time – that was not my experience in the Accord Hybrid or Jetta Hybrid also tested this winter.

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