Remember when Subaru used to make affordable, small, quirky cars? I do too, and I have some great news – this XV Crosstrek fits the bill of what we once knew as a Subaru. It’s relatively small by modern standards, it start at $23,000 which is cheap these days, and, pending your tastes, it can be quite quirky.
The most significant thing, however, is the combination of all these things resting on a solid, fun to drive chassis which translates into a very decent package. It’s not perfect, but as far as fuel-efficient all-weather hatchbacks go, it may be one of the best ones on the market.
The jacked-up stance gives the XV interesting proportions. Think of it as the old VW Golf 4×4 Country; a small hatchback that’s jacked-up, and fitted with a set of all-terrain(-ish) tires. It’s likely at that this little guy maybe as capable off-road as a Range Rover, as demonstrated by this unaffiliated YouTube video.
Back on the road, or more specifically, moderately challenging off-road trails that are the streets of Boston in the winter. The XV rides smoothly and does a great job absorbing even large potholes and uneven pavement. Puddles of melted snow, salt, and sand do not do anything to upset the steering feel of the car. In fact, what makes the XV so much fun to drive is you feel like a pseudo-rally driver, just powering through all those obstacles.
Speaking of power, there is not much of it, but that does not really matter. Like the Miata, the XV Crosstrek (awful name, by the way), is a slow vehicle that likes being driven fast. Yes, the 305hp STI engine would turn this into an amazing machine, but with proper driver involvement (looking ahead, predicating), it is not bad. What is bad is the continuously variable transmission and the noise it makes, but the XV is available with a proper 5-speed manual too. It is beyond me why the CVT even comes with paddle shifters.
From the driver’s seat, visibility is superior. Most new cars have thick A-pillars, but somehow the little Scuby does without those. The little not-a-vent window helps too, as does a short hood. Visibility towards the back is good too, with minimal blind spots. A simple optional back-up camera aids in tight parking situations. The seat is comfy but not overly supportive.
Complaints, there are a few: the ignition key pokes the driver’s knee, and the heated seats buttons are still placed way out of the way. Biggest complaint would be the engine and wind noise – it’s just loud, like all Imprezas. Also, it has a wimpy horn – peep!
Two clear gauges, a segmented fuel level display, and a useless economy gauge are all there is to the gauge cluster. Since there is no engine temperature gauge, Subaru installed a “cold engine temp” idiot light – it has no other meaning than to say that the engine is cold. I don’t understand it, I chalked it to up being one of those things that Subaru just does.
The climate control is a thing of beauty and simplicity – three large knobs with a button on each one. That’s it, and that’s all that is required to adjust temperature, direction and speed of incoming air. Things change dramatically for the infotainment unit. The thing has only one knob and three buttons. The rest is controlled by small soft keys on the touch-screen, operation of which is rather slow. There is voice control too, if you like that sort of thing, and simple steering wheel controls.
The rear seat is surprisingly accommodating, offering good leg and headroom – at 6’2” I could sit behind myself comfortably. Wide opening rear doors with a square window frame are a welcome bonus for those of us who have to wrestle with child seats and their occupants. The hatch offers plenty of access to a somewhat small trunk which comes equipped with a standard rubber mat. Rear seat is split 60:40 and it folds flat, without the need to remove headrests. Completing the functional/outdoorsy theme of the XV are standard roof rails.
The car is great daily driver, especially where roads are not ideal. It’s comfortable, easy to drive and efficient. Perhaps at this point in my life I am more impressed with what I get for my money as opposed to the best things money can buy. Needless to say, I was quite impressed with the XV Crosstrek because $23,000 does not buy much car these days, and the XV, and its lower Impreza sibling, deliver damn good value.