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Auto Corner: 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid

20 December 2014  
Subaru's entry to the hybrid dance.

2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid

Best Gizmo: The brakes.

Most Annoying Feature: hybrid only 

MPG: 27/30 (real world test)

Cars we smoked at stoplights: None. Seriously.

How Fast Is It? Fast enough but you won’t be setting any records.

How Much? $26,820 ($30,120 for the Touring version)

Serious Contenders? Honda CR-V, Ford Escape hybrid, Toyota Rav4, and Nissan Rouge.

Let's start with the obvious. Subaru is late to the hybrid dance. While Toyota and Honda have been churning out high quality gas sippers for a decade, Subaru has focused on updating its niche off-road wagons and improving its storied reliability.

When arriving late to a dance, you’d better be dressed for the occasion. And Subaru’s XV is dressed for the part--with a stylish body and some bold, bright color choices. But does this well-dressed, late arrival have the moves to mix on the floor? Um, not so much. In our test, we got no better gas mileage in Subaru's hybrid than we got it in larger non-hybrid competitors, like Ford’s Escape and Toyota’s Rav4.

We have long been fans of Subaru’s all-wheel-drive, unique styling, and rugged value-reliability combination. But, this little Subaru feels like it’s in over its head as a hybrid—especially when we considered the sticker on our tester nearly crested the $30,000 waterline.

Officially, government regulators report that the XV Crosstrek Hybrid earns 33 miles for every gallon on the highway, and 29 in the city. That’s great for a vehicle with almost 9 inches of ground clearance. The bummer for us was that our real-world driving did not match those numbers. We found ourselves getting the same mileage we have gotten on larger, non-hybrid crossover competitors. And we couldn’t help but notice that the XV Crosstrek Hybrid is smaller.

If you like the size and look of the XV Crosstrek, you might consider the non-hybrid model. It costs about $3,000 less and only earns 3 mpg less in city and highway driving. 

With aggressive styling, the XV Crosstrek looks ready to bound over the curb and off onto the road less traveled. Pop the hood, and there you find the modest hybrid-electric system. Not one, but two 12v batteries and a stamp on top of the 4-cylinder gasoline engine that labels it a hybrid system. The only other major change is the lack of spare tire, replaced with a third, 0.6-kWh nickel-metal-hydride battery pack. Altogether, the modest electric and gasoline engines create a combined output of 160 horsepower and 163lb-ft of torque. That’s not a lot of power by today’s standards, which explains why the XV Crosstrek is not a lot of car.

The XV Crosstrek’s interior does not scream luxury, but it does has a feeling of durability. The small multifunction center stack screen is adequate and more intuitive than some competing systems. The non-hybrid XV Crosstrek (on which this hybrid is based) has a cheap-feeling interior, so Subaru added a bit of sound-dulling insulation to make the hybrid feel sturdier. It sort of works, but the XV Crosstrek Hybrid (still not sure what to call it for short) feels like a lower quality vehicle than Subaru’s Forester and Outback. This just wasn’t the big hybrid launch we had hoped for--from one of our favorite auto manufacturers.

Loyal Subaru fans should be sure to test the new XV Crosstrek Hybrid—if they are hungry for a couple more MPG. However, if you’re considering a Subaru for the first time, we would recommend you first drive the Forester or Outback—both of those Subaru’s have better build quality and interior feel. The Forester and Outback are two Subaru’s we can highly recommended.

© 2014 John Dickerson and John Kehlenbeck, Horsepower Auto Reviews