2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek
Price Driven: $27,290
Power: 148 hp, 145 lb-ft.
Engines: 2.0-liter DOHC Boxer engine
Fuel Consumption: 25 city/33 highway

It was a hilarious moment. I was driving along on the north shore of Oahu at the edge of a grassy green valley, the same site they filmed scenes from Jurassic Park, Godzilla, and Lost (yes, I was actually there for the picture you see above), following a caravan to an off-road course. As my driving partner and I pulled up in our brand new Subaru XV Crosstrek CUV, we passed a group of anxious four-wheeling tourists who were waiting to enter the same mountainside we were. The helmeted group received a lecture—presumably about safety precautions and how to handle the upcoming bumpy off-road trail—we received one simple instruction: “Watch for two-way traffic.” There was nothing about taking it slow or about avoiding big puddles or about getting stuck.

That’s because with Subaru’s signature all-wheel drive platform and the Crosstrek’s 8.7 inches of ground clearance, our off-road adventure was worry free.

The XV Crosstrek is essentially an altered version of the Impreza Sport. In addition to its lifted ground clearance, Subaru added sportier 17-inch wheels and dressed it up (or down) with more rugged plastic trim on the skirts, bumpers, and fenders. At first glance, it reminded me of the first-generation Pontiac Vibe with a lot more aggressive styling. Taking advantage of the growing crossover trend, the result is a tougher-looking CUV that plays well in the dirt while maintaining solid gas mileage on the road.

 

With Subaru’s signature all-wheel drive platform and the Crosstrek’s 8.7 inches of ground clearance, our off-road adventure was worry free.

 

As we navigated the tree-tunneled roads up the winding mountain, we were first able to experience the automatic lineartronic CVT. As expected from the symmetrical all-wheel drive, the thought of getting stuck was laughable; though had we been in the manual version, we might have kept the car in first or second gear and driven the RPMs up a bit higher in a couple situations. On the way down, taking a bit more stretched-out route, my partner had that opportunity, putting the 5-speed transmission to full test.

Keeping low to the ground with the boxer engine, the XV Crosstrek showed some spunk on the flatter dirt trails, in the few chances it was given. The manual definitely gave it more sport, though 8.7 seconds to 60 is nothing to brag about, and did an adequate-for-the-average-person job trying to imitate its WRX rally car heroes.

The interior of the Crosstrek is also essentially the same cabin as the Impreza. It’s not that multi-layered cushioned quality of a Cadillac (not that we’d expect that), but it’s not like an old Saturn that’s going to give you a unpleasant rattle after a year of driving. It’s a sound design that integrates new technologies, like a touchscreen, without sacrificing traditional ease of use. The 23 cubic feet of cargo room (with rear seats up) and 41 cubic feet of rear passenger space are adequate for the size of the vehicle, but seem low compared to the 34 and 49 in the Forester, which also sits 8.7 inches above the dusty gravel or slushy snow. That’s why it’s a youthful compact UV, after all. 

The Crosstrek sits in the top three of Subaru’s starting price lineup, beginning at $21,995, higher than the Impreza Sport’s $20,795 and the Forester’s $21,295 and below the Outback’s $23,495. How do you choose? Well, if you want a compact without the rugged personality, you want the Impreza. If you want the rugged without sacrificing size, you go with the Forester. If you want a rugged compact you grab the XV Crosstrek, and if you want a bigger rugged vehicle that keeps some styling, you go for the pricier Outback. That said, the Crosstrek fits well for a single dude that’s going to be stuffing surfboards, bikes, and rock climbing gear into his car rather than a baby. That leaves the front seat for your awesome, perfectly trained Husky.  

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