Too many car companies commonly use a confusing array of letters to designate different models, rather than names. After all, names are usually easier to remember. That is, unless the car in question is the mystifyingly named Subaru XV Crosstrek.
Call it the Subaru XV. That would be easy to remember: XV equals crossover vehicle. Or name it the Subaru Crosstrek.
But why use both?
The tongue-tangling name adorns the flank of a vehicle that strikes a sporty, spunky off-road pose similar to a Subaru Outback. That’s because the XV Crosstrek replaces the Outback Sport, the smaller version of the Outback.
Like the former Outback Sport, the XV Crosstrek is basically a Subaru Impreza Sport hatchback jacked up a few inches and draped in added cladding.
With 8.7 inches of ground clearance, this vehicle gives the impression that it can easily traverse rocky roads. Maybe it can, but the XV Crosstrek lacks the underbody cladding needed for serious off-road work. But it’s perfect for folks who face flooded roadways, muddy fields and other uncivilized driving conditions.
The XV Crosstrek shares its 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with the Impreza. There’s a choice of a five-speed manual or a continuously variable automatic transmission, also known as a CVT. All-wheel drive is standard.
The test car had the CVT, which most buyers will opt for. A CVT differs from other automatic transmissions in that it constantly varies the gear ratio among numerous ratios, rather than choosing from among six, as in a six-speed transmission. So you’ll never feel it shift from first gear to second. But CVTs can cause a car to respond sluggishly at times, especially when asking for a burst of power. The flip side is that, since the transmission is always in the ideal gear ratio, mileage is impressive. Rated at 25 mpg city, 33 mpg highway by the EPA, the test car returned an admirable 28.4 mpg.
But this is a small car at heart, so don’t be surprised by the XV Crosstrek’s wind, road and tire noise, or the vocal engine note when asked for more power.
The XV Crosstrek rides very firmly; you’ll experience the deteriorating state of our highways. Steering effort is very light, and feels vague on center. But body lean is held in check in corners, and the car has an athletic feel, despite the added ride height. Braking is good. But the test vehicle’s pedal traveled some distance before the brakes seemed to work, which didn’t always inspire confidence.
While none of that is a deal breaker, keep in mind this platform is used for the high-performance WRX and STi, two models beloved by the fast-and-furious set. A little more of the feel of those cars in this one would be welcome.
The XV Crosstrek is offered in two trim levels: Premium and Limited. The test car, a Limited model, had the optional "Moonroof and Navigation Package," which added navigation and XMSirius satellite radio. But the software interface is cumbersome, and the navigation screen is needlessly cluttered, though manageable. Skipping this package might be a good idea.
The instrument panel is shared with the Impreza and features simple rotary knobs for controlling climate.
The interior is spacious for the overall size of the vehicle, even in the back. The seats are firm and supportive. Visibility is good in all directions, increasingly rare in an industry where small windows are considered fashionable. Cargo space is generous and usefully shaped, and the split folding rear seats allow for even more.
In the end, the XV Crosstrek’s utility, fuel economy and all-wheel drive are no different than the Impreza Sport. But the XV Crosstrek’s added ride height makes the XV Crosstrek a better choice for those who need it.
2013 SUBARU XV CROSSTREK:
Engine: DOHC 2.0-liter four-cylinder
Wheelbase: 103.7 inches
Length: 175.2 inches
Weight: 3,197 pounds
Cargo space: 22.3-51.9 cubic feet
EPA rating (city/highway): 25/33 mpg
Base price, base model: $21,995
Base price, test model: $24,495
As tested, including destination charge: $27,290