On the surface it seems as if the 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid might be analogous to a favorite catchphrase from the Monty Python’s Flying Circus television comedy series in the early 1970s -- “And now for something completely different.” After all it’s the first Hybrid to wear a Subaru name tag.
‘Completely different’ it’s not, however – it’s still the same solid, all-wheel drive dependable Subaru we’ve come to expect from the spunky car company.
No longer merely a niche brand, Subaru has stepped out dramatically during the last few years of the ‘car crisis’ posting record sales gains even when other brands were crashing. We think part of the reason for that success is that Subaru marches to the beat of a different drummer, producing dependable and innovative products reflecting Subaru’s unique point of view, not merely following the crowd.
While other companies might have dropped all-wheel drive or gone to a more traditional in-line four-cylinder engine in the effort to stretch fuel economy numbers, Subaru maintained the technologies that have brought it success.
Developed from the popular XV Crosstrek, the Hybrid is every bit as rugged and capable as the gas model maintaining all the characteristics that set it apart from competitors including their famous Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. It even has 8.7 inches of ground clearance allowing the hybrid to really get off-road. For example, when was the last time you saw a Prius ford a stream, an Insight climb a mountain or a C-Max charge through deep snow.
Competitors will post higher MPG numbers, but the XV Crosstrek doesn’t compromise the lifestyles of its active customers. The Crosstrek Hybrid builds from the same 148-hp four-cylinder Boxer engine, but integrates an electric motor into the continuously variable transmission (CVT) bringing the total system horsepower up to 160. That means more horsepower to all four wheels giving it more power to performance.
The engine is equipped with some new technologies like the auto Start-Stop system to shut down the engine while waiting for traffic signals. The 100.8V, 13.5kW nickel-metal hydride battery, which is mounted under the rear floor area, is recharged through regenerative braking.
The Hybrid system adapts to conditions and is capable of using only the electric motor (for short distances up to 25 mph) or the gasoline engine or both. When it’s in the electric-only mode, there is a warning system which creates a sound from a speaker mounted below the right headlight to warn pedestrians. The starter and alternator are the same unit so there is no starter grinding and a smooth start up.
Other than the engine shutting down at stop lights, and the acceleration a little quicker, the Hybrid Crosstrek drives about the same as the gasoline only model. The Lineartronic® CVT is more positive than some models we’ve driven, and we like that it has steering wheel mounted paddle shifters for better driver control.
The Hybrid rides on low-rolling resistance all-season tires to improve fuel economy, but we thought they were noisier than average on some of Washington state’s rough textured pavement. It also has a new Active Grille Shutter system that closes off much of the grille area making the Hybrid more aerodynamic.
The Hybrid fuel economy numbers are 29 mpg city, 33 mpg highway and 31 mpg combined. That compares with the gas version of 25/33/28 mpg -- not a massive increase, but an increase.
The 2014 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid is available in two trim levels. The base model, which has a starting price of $26,820, including the destination charge, has a good selection of features like cruise control, rear vision camera, keyless entry/start and even heated seats. The upper level Touring version jumps the price to $30,120, but adds leather seating, power moonroof and navigation system. The navigation system includes a premium audio with Sirius XM satellite radio, and a long list of connectivity features. The system’s Aha® smartphone integration system adds internet radio stations and newsfeeds along with features like audio books. Non-hybrid versions of the Crosstrek range in price from $22,820 to $25,320.
The interior of the base model we tested was quite utilitarian with not a lot of bling, but comfortable and well organized. The gauges are large and easy to read, and we appreciated the multi-function display mounted under a visor on the top of the dash. Many drivers will like slightly higher ride height, which not only provides a better view of traffic, but it makes the Hybrid a near perfect height to get into – no having to drop down into the seat, merely turn, sit and swing your legs in.
Hybrid batteries eat up interior space in some cars, but the low placement under the rear of the XV Crosstrek Hybrid uses less space than the average briefcase. With the rear seatbacks in place, cargo space is still 21.5 cubic feet and 50.2 cubic feet when the seat backs are folded. The cargo space also has a standard cover and a removable waterproof tray.
Someone shopping for a super high mileage hybrid should shop elsewhere, but for someone that wants to get good mileage, clean emissions and have a vehicle that will still do all that fun, down and dirty, active lifestyle driving….the 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid may be your perfect car.