By on June 9, 2014

green subaru xv crosstrek hybrid

Subarus shine when the sun does not. That reputation has been built on the back of Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive so that in places that freeze, Subarus are everywhere. Given the concerns of the customer base and a corporate commitment to sustainability, a hybrid Subaru seems like an obvious slam dunk. That’s why it’s surprising it took so long to get one, even with some ties to Toyota. The XV Crosstrek is the first Subaru to go hybrid. It’s definitely the Subaru of hybrids.

2014 subaru xv crosstrek hybrid

What that means is that you’ll find a familiar 2.0 liter boxer four and all-wheel drive in the Crosstrek Hybrid. Added to that is a 100.8 volt, 13.5 kW battery pack that tucks .55 kWh of stamina under the cargo area floor. You lose just 1.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the seats, which is a nice trick compared to what happens in some other hybrid-ized cars. The combination of 2.0 liter boxer with compression bumped to 10.8:1 (from the standard 10.5:1) and electric motor makes the hybrid the most powerful Crosstrek there is. Total combined output is 160 hp vs. 148 hp for the gas-only model. More significantly, the total system torque is 163 lb-ft and you’ve got it all at 2,000 rpm. That beats the heck out of making those opposed pistons flail to 4,200 rpm for  the 145 lb-ft of the non-hybrid. The electric motor is cleverly integrated into the AWD system, a move that keeps the center of gravity the same as the gas model and doesn’t cut into passenger space.

The best Subarus are niche Subarus. The rowdy WRX and Crosstrek Hybrid are the gold and silver medalists on the lot. It says something about the Impreza platform’s versatility and quality. I haven’t forgotten the BRZ, it’s just not as good as the other two. The coupe gets a bronze because it’s not as versatile as the other two and still lacks the power it really deserves. Sales have increased every month since January 2014, when Subaru started keeping  track of Crosstrek hybrid sales. The model cracked 1,000 in May, and the total sits at 2,700 so far.

rear view of 2014 subaru xv crosstrek hybrid

The $27,000 price for the the XV Crosstrek Hybrid I drove is close to reasonable. The entry price is $25,995, and with $825 of destination you’ve got the $26,820 bottom line. That’s for a car with cloth seats, no sunroof, and Subaru’s typically half-dismal audio system. If you want the nice stuff like leather and navigation, you’re looking at the $29,295 Hybrid Touring.

The more basic car has got it where it counts, though. It’s not stripped by any means, and the audio head unit easily connects to devices with Bluetooth and streams audio while allowing the steering-wheel audio buttons to control playback. This without stabbing at a touchscreen or dealing with voice prompts. The hands-free isn’t perfect – people I called asked me to repeat a lot of stuff because of audio quality. Three knurled dials give easy control over the HVAC and automatic climate control is standard for the hybrid. The steering column tilts and telescopes, and a rear view camera is also standard. The hatchback layout is useful, with a liftover height that’s easily managed even if you’re shorter, and that’s despite the 8.7” of ground clearance. That’s only 1/10″ shy of an F150 4×4. Other cars this size trading for this price carry more amenities, but none of them are all-wheel drive hybrids.

side view of 2014 subaru xv crosstrek hybrid

Interior materials don’t feel $27K nice, but the design and ergonomics of the Crosstrek cabin present well. Visibility out is what now passes for good, and the controls are all easy to operate. Some, like the shifter, feel a little flimsy (wiggle that silvery piece of trim!), but the Crosstrek Hybrid is not a hard car to use, and that’s a happy thing.

Practical matters aside, this is the best driving Crosstrek, and all the changes made to the Hybrid should be mirrored across the range. The suspension has been retuned, which explains its good wheel control and buttoned-down feel in corners. It works well with the quick electric power steering, which is good on weight and direct feel. Other changes include thicker floor sections and increased sound insulation, both measures that increase the feeling of refinement.

2014 subaru xv crosstrek seats

The Crosstrek Hybrid is unique in that you’re getting all-wheel drive as part of the deal, and the improvement over gas-only Crosstreks is a bump to 29/33 mpg city/highway from 25/33. Pardon me for feeling like that’s a miniscule increase and that the 30 mpg average I observed is what all Crosstreks should be returning already. There are very few other all-wheeler hybrids, and they’re all more expensive. Luxe options like the Lexus RX 400h and Audi Q5 hybrid or the significantly larger Toyota Highlander hybrid aren’t directly comparable. A used second-generation Ford Escape Hybrid (or Mercury Mariner) is likely the closest actual competitor.

The rest of the Crosstrek Hybrid is bang on with the desires of its target customers. The batteries and motor don’t cut into the usefulness of the hatchback layout. There’s a good-sized cargo area behind the rear seats, and since those seats also fold, you’ve got one useful little tadpole on your hands. Moreover, the space inside the Crosstrek is comfortable for four, a bit squeezy for five. The rear seat legroom is probably the biggest sticking point. A quintet of tallies isn’t going to like it very much, but the Crosstrek is great for three or four average grown-ups. It’s even better for one or two smaller-statured folks with a big ol’ dog fogging the windows.

2014 subaru xv crosstrek hybrid cargo area

Another happy thing is the way the electric motor bolsters the 2.0 liter engine’s torque delivery and flattens out bandy feeling you often get from CVTs. The presence of paddle shifters to toggle between fake ratios feels really out of place. That’s money that could have gone into making the door panels padded so your elbow doesn’t fall asleep. At least with torque to go, the Crosstrek doesn’t have to wind up the engine so much to make forward progress. It’s a more relaxed way to get to speed, and it makes for a more refined Subaru. One annoyance, a major one, is the momentary hesitation upon taking off as the system fires the engine. It makes the car feel slow-witted, and it doesn’t build confidence when you’re trying to make a quick move in heavy traffic.

The hybrid system makes distinct shudders when the flame is blown out or fired up. You won’t get very far on electric-only, which generally seems to only operate in traffic jams. Subaru says the hybrid will crawl in an electric-only mode, but I found that the engine fired almost all the time when I wanted to move even a few feet. The Crosstrek hybrid is a few software tweaks away from greatness, but that doesn’t stop it from being good. The chassis feels solid, the steering is well-weighted, and the braking transitions from regen to friction very smoothly.

I was surprised to come away from the Crosstrek Hybrid so impressed with it. I’m not generally a fan of hybrids, and one that’s so obvious about what it’s doing SHOULD have put me off. Instead, it was charming. Clearly, I’m not the only one who’s been taken in by this car’s talents. If only all Crosstreks were this good.

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63 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2014 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid...”


  • avatar
    seth1065

    Not sure I could live with this day to day, it seems the author states the misses, but speed past them, the sub par materials, crappy Bluetooth , and the delay in taking off all would wear on me quickly if I owned this day after day.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    Extra $5K upfront to save 2 MPG, which is about $120 annually.

    Not getting it.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatist

      The low end torque and performance boost are better justification.

      Nonetheless, from an engineering perspective, I just don’t see CVT for long term durability.

    • 0 avatar
      3800FAN

      Seriously. Total wom. Only people who will buy these are annoying greenie hipsters who let themselves be brainwashed by marketers and only care about their image.

      • 0 avatar
        DrGastro997

        Funny you mentioned greenies and Subarus. I went to the Chicago Botanical Garden where the parking lot was 75% Subaru Foresters and the rest Toyota Prius’. All were thought to save our environment …

      • 0 avatar
        niky

        Hipsters don’t buy cars.

        The image-conscious buy Prii. Because they look like hybrids. A Crosstrek hybrid looks like a Crosstrek.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Where did you get $5k? I checked edmunds as a non-hybrid Premium is 23,828 and hybrid is 26,820. So, $3k. That seems reasonable for a performance boost.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        $3K is still too much for this. That “performance boost” only seems to bring this powertrain up to “adequate”, with only a marginal benefit in fuel economy. $3K should buy more than that.

        • 0 avatar
          05lgt

          It has more power, more torque, and gets better city MPG. That’s … pretty good for 3k. A turbo would be how many extra $ for torque, power and fewer MPG? It’s not my next car, but I wouldn’t mock someone for buying one.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Just read a C&D article online about entry level mini-lux cars. Apparently you can upgrade the FWD Audi A3 with the 170 hp 1.8 Jetta engine into a Quattro-equipped trim with the quick 220 hp 2.0 turbo for $3K. *That* seems like a worthwhile use for 3 grand.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        I performed only a cursory review to get the $5K estimate, and am willing to concede it’s only a $2,700 difference between hybrid and conventional CrossTrek.

        Saving 2MPG at $4 gas, it will take 300,000 miles to make up that upfront cost. Excluding interest. Regarding the claim of improved performance: while the HP is higher, you are adding 400 pounds, which actually slows acceleration, and ruins handling.

        Car & Driver hated this car; I am surprised Winston is so positive.

        • 0 avatar
          Winston Braithwaite

          “Car & Driver hated this car; I am surprised Winston is so positive.”

          Well, Car & Drivel usually miss the point on cars under $30K and devolve into making shitty puns laced with out-of-touch and obviously desperate pop culture references.

          Where else are you going to find an all-wheel drive hatchback that turns in 30 mpg? The mileage *SHOULD* be better. Dynamically, that big pause when taking off is obnoxious. BUT: it’s a useful hatch, it feels good on the road, it doesn’t make you sacrifice much (if at all) for those virtues over a “normal” Crosstrek.

          All Crosstreks – all Imprezas, really, have the same interior quality issues. The hybrid at least has the torque to make the CVT NOT suck.

        • 0 avatar
          jmo

          “you are adding 400 pounds,”

          According to Car and Driver the hybrid adds 209lbs. All your made up numbers makes it seem like you have an ax to grind.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            jmo,
            Direct quote from C/D: “the 0.6-kWh nickel-metal hydride battery pack accounts for most of the 415 extra pounds of mass the hybrid totes around (3488 pounds versus the nonhybrid XV’s 3073).”

            source: http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/2014-subaru-xv-crosstrek-hybrid-test-review

            Made up numbers?

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            VoGo,

            And I quote “Subaru places the hybrid system’s weight at 209 pounds,”

            http://www.caranddriver.com/news/2014-subaru-xv-crosstrek-photos-and-info-news

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            OK, so we have 2 separate sources from the same website/magazine that say different things.

            I don’t have an axe to grind. Subie isn’t my cup of tea – 90% of owners would be better off with winter ties, but it’s their money; I don’t really care.

            But calling me out for “made up numbers” is a little out of line, don’t you think?

          • 0 avatar
            05lgt

            “90% would be better off with winter tires”
            Stop burning straw men, winter tires fit on AWD cars, it’s not an either or situation.

    • 0 avatar
      Astigmatism

      I haven’t checked through option-by-option, but if you use Michael’s price comparison calculator at TrueDelta, select the XV Limited and XV Hybrid, and hit “Maximize Shared Features,” you end up with a price difference of $2,700. Not chump change, but for slightly better fuel economy and slightly more power, a 10% price bump doesn’t seem that out of whack, particularly as you’ll probably get some of it back when you trade it in.

      • 0 avatar
        Astigmatism

        That said, I’m assuming the mileage bump on the hybrid is legitimate. My CX-5-driving wife has been in an informal contest with a Crosstek Hybrid-driving coworker to see who gets better gas mileage over the last three months and it’s been a draw so far. If that’s the case, then for about the same price, you can get AWD with more space, more power, a more engaging driving experience, a higher-quality interior, and equivalent real-world fuel economy in the Mazda – and _that_ is the comparison that I don’t think the Subie can win.

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      The benefit of the hybrid system is in pure urban driving, not out on the highway where all you are doing is lugging a giant battery around.

      If this Subaru hybrid has significant hesitation when turning the gasoline engine on and off then I’d say they failed at making a hybrid that makes sense.

      The feel of a properly-executed hybrid is worth the premium and the (city) fuel savings are a bonus. It’s too bad Toyota decided to market the Prius as an “absolute” fuel saver because that just misses the point. They could have accomplished nearly the same thing with a gasoline engine only. And now everyone thinks hybrids are only about fuel economy.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the price comparison should be between the Limited model at $24,500 and the Hybrid at $26,000, as the Hybrid includes the Limited’s equipment.
      Are you getting it at $1500.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Why do Subarus fuel economy suck?! My 2013 Buick Encore AWD can see close to 40 mpg at 60 mph, faster time through Motor Trend’s figure-eight, and more cargo capacity than the VX. I got it for $24,000..

    Who wants to bet that the Encore is quieter?

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      How many gold stars would it take to never hear about your Encore again?

      I’ve got several teachers in the family… I bet I could get you a *whole pack*!

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      No one gives a flying ___ about your Encore.

      It’s the only vehicle on the road uglier than this Subaru. Mutant little metal gerbil that robs the dignity of anyone behind the wheel whether they know it or not. I’m no fan of this Subaru but at least you get some usable ground clearance for all of the hideous styling.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Yours is the only one that can do it, and everybody else’s costs half as much again.

      Subaru’s full-time AWD setup means you’re dragging around two extra axles, hubs, driveshafts, and differentials all the time. That extra rotating mass has to be powered from somewhere, so there goes the fuel economy.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Norm, again, you are wrong about your Encore’s cargo space. It lags in ‘behind the 2nd row’ cargo space to the Crosstrek Hybrid by 3.5cu.ft. It lags, again, by 3.5cu.ft with the 2nd row seats flat. It also lags in legroom, hiproom, and shoulder room across the board.

      http://www.cars.com/go/compare/trimCompare.jsp?acodes=USC40BUS042A0,USC40SUS081A0

      This is where you say that you can lay the front seat down on the Buick and that is how it has more cargo space. Because the Buick Encore, with trifecta tune, is the only car in the history of mankind that has a seat that reclines enough where you could fit a large object running from front to back. If other manufacturers could just figure out how to make a mechanically reclining seat…

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        The girlfriend wants to trade me her 2012 Forester for my Encore it is that good and i agree.

        Within an inch is a wash depending on where the seat cushion allows you to sit. Tenths of an inch is jus looking for argument. I would not put to much weight numbers when they are that close, but for a tin-box hybrid the reaults are poor when near-luxury Encore gets similar results for less money. For the record the front passenger seat folds orward allow a passenger in the seat behind. Eight foot lumber gets swallowed with ease.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Wow, Subaru’s 2.0 flat four + CVT is so abysmal that a still-slow 160hp hybrid is considered the performance powertrain.

    Seems like the natural competitor for this is an aging Jeep Patriot, and given that choice I honestly don’t know which one I’d go for.

  • avatar
    The Heisenberg Cartel

    This “hybrid” is some weak sauce General Motors crap. Nice try Subaru but… no. It didn’t work for the Malibu either.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Of course it comes in special Ultra Awful Hybrid Green, so everybody knows you don’t have the standard Plhegmy Peach colored XV. When I see one of these, I’ll immediately know the driver is an annoying hippie, probably concentrating more on their thoughts of fair trade and Apple stickers than driving the car. Thus, I can stay away and avoid an accident.

  • avatar
    Toad

    Subaru’s don’t look right without a bunch of stickers on the back hatch. “Coexist” is mandatory, along with obscure bands and outdoor gear manufacturers.

    That being said, this is a good looking car and combined with AWD I can see why somebody would like it with or without the hybrid option.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    The girl who sold me my new Saturn (which was gifted to her with 25K) opted for the conventional version of one of these. Man was she stupid.

  • avatar
    lowsodium

    The CVT is just plain awful. I was looking for a hatchback type car, fwd or awd. But I wanted my daily driver car to be an auto. I passed on the suby and got a VW gti. The dual clutch in the vw is fantastic. Still fun to drive in manual mode. Shifts super quick. That stupid cvt feels like a slushbox on its last legs.

    • 0 avatar
      djsyndrome

      You were honestly cross shopping a Crosstrek with a GTI?

    • 0 avatar

      The funny thing with the CVT is that all the non car people I know who have bought new Imprezzas and Foresters (and there are a ton of them here in CT), love the transmission. Consider the conventional slush box dead in a few years. In fact they actually go out of there way to say how much they like it.

      • 0 avatar
        niky

        @mopar4wd: For most people, the CVT is pretty neat. Very responsive, less slurring and more positive feel at a cruise than older CVTs… yet still always in the right “gear” and very good on gas.

        Enthusiasts aren’t most people. Under “spirited” (read: balls-to-the-walls) driving, these Subaru CVTs still slur on acceleration, still have that lag where the engine revs up and the belts move down to the proper ratio before anything actually happens, and there’s godawful droning on your way to whatever multiple of the speed limit you define as a “realistic” cruising speed.

        If I were to buy a WRX or STI, I’d still get a manual. For an everyday commuter, the CVT works perfectly fine.

  • avatar

    To me this is best car currently for sale for a place like Chicago.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    At first I thought, “This is the car for all those folks bitching that the Ford C-Max doesn’t come with all-wheel-drive!” (You know, the ones who drive old Escape Hybrids.) The Subie looks like someone took a C-Max, kept the roof the same height but raised the floor half a foot for ground clearance, and voila. Similar price, similar look, still a hybrid, and AWD. What could go wrong?

    OK, so the Subie’s tall floor looks a little goofy and costs space for passengers and cargo vs the Max, but Subarus live in places with mounds of snow, so that’s forgivable. Losing about 30 HP vs the Max…well, that sounds like a lot, but neither one is supposed to be a sports car. Losing 8 real-world MPG (or 10+ on-paper MPG) vs the Max…well, that sounds like a lot too, but not everyone is a greenie first; many of us actually prefer hybrids for other characteristics–namely nearly NVH-free urban operation (instant electric torque, and a well-isolated ICE that rarely fires). Wait, those characteristics don’t apply to the Subie either? Hm. Subaru may have lost the plot.

    Still, maybe that’s not the point. Both cars maintain the strengths of the cars they’re based on, while — for those willing to pay the difference in price — eliminating the weaknesses. A Focus is a refined, good-handling car, but lacks interior space and and a smooth transmission — and the C-Max corrects those shortcomings. The gas-only Subie has AWD and pretty good MPG, but is asthmatic and noisy — and the Hybrid corrects those shortcomings.

  • avatar
    make_light

    Why

  • avatar
    make_light

    Why do people knock the Impreza/Crosstrek interior? It’s far better than Civic/CRV, whose prices also creep close to 30k. I drive a standard Crosstrek and it’s a great car. It’s a blast to drive around and more agile than anything else with 9″ of ground clearance. Sure the ride could be quieter and smoother, but I have a durable, tossable car with heated seats that get can get through anything. The hybrid does seem a bit half-baked, but I hope that cars refinements trickle down to the standard Crosstrek.

    • 0 avatar
      djsyndrome

      The only problem with the Crosstrek is the Forester. It offers more trim levels (both above and below the Crosstrek offerings), better performance, a turbo option, similar mileage on the freeway with the 2.5i, far more room – all for only a little more cash. The Crosstrek offers – paddle shifters? Orange paint?

      We drove both back to back; the price for a base Forester 2.5i was the same as the Crosstrek Premium. Guess which one we bought?

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        You did not drive the Forester on the highway? Bring ear plugs and get ready to crank up the radio. The girlfriend’s 2012 Forester is very noisy even with new tires. It blows fuses jn the cig lighter when I plugged in a tire pump, runs low on oil before oil change interval is up, very loud piston slap at cold start up, and the electrical systems slows window up speeds when more than one window is going up. Add 3rd or 4th window and you’ll left waiting a while.

        The handling and visibilty are good.

        • 0 avatar
          djsyndrome

          Not only did I drive it on the freeway, I also drove a ’13 (the prior generation). Guess what! NVH was much lower in the new model! Is it as quiet as a Lexus? No, but I didn’t have to raid my retirement to afford it either.

          As far as your girlfriend’s Forester goes: my mom’s ’99 has never burned an ounce of oil, never required an unscheduled repair and never left her stranded, all in the mountains of NE Pennsylvania. She just had her brake pads replaced for the first time. By jove, it must be the most reliable car ever made.

          (it’s easy to force a point with a sample size of one.)

          • 0 avatar
            NormSV650

            Forgot to mention the low coolant level setting the check engine light on the Forester. She just had the oil change one month prior. I’m not hoping for a head/head gasket repair.

            The Forester lease is up next fall and i have her drive just abour every CUV.

          • 0 avatar

            As far as repairs Subies seem to be an all or nothing kind of car. Also alot of owners seem to view having the heads machined at 120k miles as normal maintenance.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Been checking out many new cars the past 18 months. Then I was given a new Impreza for 8 days while they sourced two apparently obscure parts for my Legacy.

    The car is abysmal in many ways: the interior is by far the worst of any new car I’ve been in, just inexcusable. The car is so noisy (hatch model) on the highway, it sounds as if a window is down. The steering is slow at city speeds, requiring excessive rim movement. Got used to the engine and flappy paddles, and didn’t mind the CVT that much – to me, that’s the least if its problems. Was not overjoyed by the boingy ride, but everything snapped together when I drove it hard

    However, two of my best friends leased Mazda3’s during May, and the comparison is invidious. The Mazda is better in every single way except ground clearance compared to Crosstrek. Against the Impreza, it’s a slam dunk.

    Then there is a pitiful hybrid version of Crosstrek as tested here. I wonder why Subaru even bothered. It apparently has the thicker WRX floorpan, wheeeee. And over a hundred kilos of extra weight flapping around in the breeze up there.

    The whole car needs a makeover with some sound insulation, better steering, and more than 22hp from its electric motor. Overpriced and not particularly nice.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Amazing how much the Crosstrek looks like a Dodge Caliber.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    “You lose just 1.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the seats, which is a nice trick compared to what happens in some other hybrid-ized cars.”

    The spare tire was removed to make space for the battery.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I like the Crosstrek’s exterior…a lot, but I’m not feeling the interior at all. The instrument panel…something that I’d be looking at fairly often. They should have nixed the fixed-segment display in the IP, and instead put the color display from the center stack in the IP. To me, the Crosstrek just screams “cheap for no reason”. It doesn’t seem to have gotten with the fact that small cars should no longer feel like econoboxes. Moreover, the interior looks like it could have come from a 2005 model, an instant fail in my book. And maybe the design and materials choices work for Subaru’s loyal customer base, but…well…that’s why I’m not a Subaru customer.


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