A Great Amalgamation | 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid

December 2014/January 2015 View more

14CL_XVH_3C_AF35692_020718_800pxSubaru and all-wheel-drive have always gone together like peanut butter and jelly. Back when pick-up trucks and large SUVs were essentially the only vehicles that transferred power from the wheels that slip to the wheels that grip, Subaru was your choice if you wanted a car that offered “the technological vanguard in road-hugging protection.”

Given the demographic that has long been attracted to a Subaru, many of the company’s customers, over the past 15 years or so, would probably have liked a hybrid power plant to go along with their all-wheel drive systems. But for most of the Prius era, Subaru has remained a curious holdout on that front.

Until now. The Venn diagram of Subaru buyers and hybrid buyers has finally intersected with the Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid—the company’s first gas/electric hybrid. The car comes complete with an electric motor to supplement the standard Crosstrek’s four-cylinder engine, regenerative brakes to capture energy during coasting or braking, and a start-stop system to cajole a bit more range out of each tank of gas.

DL_PRN_13032756422428393626_800pxThe Crosstrek’s small hybrid battery pack is tucked below the cargo hold. It is so well packaged that this model’s cargo area and passenger room are virtually identical to the gas-only version.

Along with the hybrid and all-wheel drive checkmarks, the Crosstrek also brings another automotive trend into the mix: the crossover label. Coming from a company that has proudly produced wagons for as far back as most of its customers can remember, this seems like a bit of a stretch. But Subaru can be forgiven, because these days crossover seems to apply to just about anything with four doors, a hatchback, and a bit of ground clearance.

In truth, the Crosstrek is more like a small, high-riding wagon, built on the impressive Impreza platform and raised up to almost nine inches of ground clearance. That sort of clearance should pay real dividends when the snow begins to drift.

The Crosstrek Hybrid comes only with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which integrates the hybrid electric motor. Subaru’s many manual transmission aficionados will need to decide whether a clutch pedal outranks a hybrid engine on their automotive wish lists. Acceleration is smooth, seamless, and adequate. If you feather the accelerator away from a stop in a parking lot, you can also keep the Crosstrek in electric-only mode at very low speeds.

Like the crossover label, the Crosstrek’s hybrid label may not live up to some buyers’ expectations. The EPA estimates the car’s fuel economy at 29 miles per gallon in the city and 33 on the highway—good numbers, but not in the same realm as the most fuel efficient hybrids, and not much higher than the less expensive, gas-only Crosstrek.

14CL_XVH_3C_AF35693_020718_800pxOn the plus side, the Crosstrek handles well. Its regenerative brakes work beautifully, with little of the grabbiness found in some other hybrids. And the start-stop function brings the engine back to life quickly and without much shuddering.

The Crosstrek’s interior, like that of the recently redesigned Impreza, is a step up in class. Well-designed seats, sporty gauges, easy-to-find HVAC controls, and good sight lines create an instantly comfortable cabin. Fold-down rear seats boost the Crosstrek’s functionality quotient, as well.

The 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid has a base sticker price of $25,995, compared to $21,995 for the gas-only model. A Hybrid Touring model adds a big sunroof, leather seats, navigation, and an upgraded stereo for $29,995. Delightful, eye-popping orange and green paint choices are a no-cost option.

Photos courtesy of ©Subaru of America, Inc.