Subaru has very successfully carved out a niche as the maker of tough, long-lasting cars and CUVs with the bonus of proven all-wheel-drive.
It has made this a virtue that people know and appreciate resulting in constant market growth.
For instance, August saw record sales. Subaru feels confident it can hit three per cent market share in Canada, something that was dream just a decade ago.
And to do this, Subaru wants the brand also to be seen as fun in addition to safe and solid. This aim started earlier this year with the BRZ sporty coupe.
Considering it already had all the ingredients in the part bin, Subaru is arriving a bit late in the exploding compact CUV segment.
Subaru says it has had time to think about what buyers in this market want and have concluded ‘fun’ is missing.
Subaru will sell the XV Crosstrek in three trim levels: the XV Crosstrek Touring, Sport Package and Limited Package starting at $24,495/$26,495/$28,995 respectively.
Standard equipment includes: tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio and Bluetooth control switches, power windows, door locks and body coloured side mirrors, 4.3-inch colour multi-function display with fuel economy information, automatic climate control and heated front seats, auto on/off headlights, outside temperature display and carpeted floor mats.
Additional standard creature comforts include heated front seats, heated exterior mirrors and a windshield wiper de-icer.
There is one engine, two transmissions and standard Subaru Symmetrical Full-time All-Wheel Drive.
The 2.0-litre ‘Boxer’ or horizontally opposed four-cylinder DOHC engine with direct injection is the same as found in the Impreza, here producing 148 hp and 145 lb/ft of torque.
There is a transmission choice of a standard five-speed manual or Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT with six-speed sequential manual mode. Both come with hill holder mode and an ECO gauge to help the driver be as fuel efficient as possible.
The CVT adds $1,300 to the price of the XV.
With the CVT in manual mode, steering wheel paddle shifters allow the driver to control the transmission via six pre-set ratios. The transmission also allows ‘second gear’ starts in order to limit the likelihood of wheel spin on slippery surfaces.
With the CVT, fuel consumption numbers are 8.2/6.0/7.2L/100 km city/highway/combined and 8.9/6.7/7.9L/100 for the manual.
Another standard feature is the Vehicle Dynamics Control system that monitors and analyzes driver inputs. If the vehicle approaches the limits of stability, the AWD torque distribution, engine output and brakes at each wheel adjust automatically to assist in keeping the vehicle on course.
Canadians will appreciate that the ‘off’ switch allows the driver to negotiate slushy roads, deep snow or very loose gravel by deactivating the system’s torque-reduction control while the ABS and traction control remain active.
In normal conditions, torque split on the manual is 50:50 and on the CVT 60 per cent goes to the front and 40 per cent to the rear.
Turn the key and you hear that classic, muffled Boxer engine sound peculiar to Subaru and Porsche.
With the five-speed (as with the six-speed BRZ I drove earlier this year), the best way to drive is with the revs up using the gears to maintain your pace.
With 145 lb/ft of torque to work with, challenging terrain defeats many small CUVs specially those with front-drive only.
Part of the drive route south of Ontario’s Blue Mountain area was rock strewn back roads with large, ominous signs warning the surface was not maintained in winter.
With the five-speed, holding it in second or third was the trick and I could actually feel each wheel dig as it passed over an outcrop.
Helping was 220 mm of ground clearance, one of the highest in the segment and better than some SUVs.
This, I thought, is why people buy a Subaru. In that one great snowstorm of the year, or the driving rain or just when you need it, knowing there is a proven AWD system on your side is worth it.
With the CVT, the best thing to do was leave it in Drive and let it seamlessly and silently go about its business. On the drive route, I experimented with the paddles but about the only time I’d use it would be second gear starts in snow or third/fourth gears in road drenching rain where it would be handy.
As for the fun part, the Crosstrek will never be a STI or BRZ, but by keeping the revs up, the potential is definitely there.
The interior was very Subaru being simple and uncluttered. The two XVs I tried both had the coal bin black interiors Subaru is so fond of but there is an ivory offered as well.
On the exterior there are the usual hues but also a tangerine orange and a khaki that were both quite attractive and, with the orange in particular, making the Crosstrek stand out.
Cargo space is what CUVs buyers want and the XV has it with 632 litres (22.3 cu ft) behind the second row 60/40 split fold second row seat. That’s enough for three golf bags or a mountain bike with both wheels attached.
It will tow 680 kg and carry another 68 kg on the roof.
Subaru arguably invented the crossover utility vehicle (CUV) with the first generation Forester sold here starting in 1998.
Based on the Legacy sedan, the Forester and the Crosstrek have a lot in common. For instance, the Crosstrek is based on the Impreza sedan. Both share the same architecture of Boxer engine and AWD that can be traced back some four decades.
Subaru Canada won’t like me comparing the two as the Forester is its bread-and-butter seller and they see Crosstrek as very much a standalone vehicle, not son-of-Forester.
Either way, what the Crosstrek does is offer all the attributes of the Forster but in a smaller package while retaining the rock solid core Subaru design/build qualities.
It worked for Forester ã and Outback for that matter ã and I’ll bet it works for Crosstrek.
Subaru XV Crosstrek 2013
Body Style: Compact crossover CUV.
Drive Method: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive
Engine: 2.0-litre, horizontally opposed DOHC four-cylinder (148 hp, 145 lb/ft)
Fuel Economy: (Regular) CVT automatic, 8.2/6.0/7.2L/100 km city/highway/combined; five-speed manual 8.9/6.7/7.9L/100 for the manual
Cargo: 632 litres (22.3 cu ft)
Tow Rating: 680 kg, roof limit, 68 kg
Price: Manual/CVT: Touring, $24,495/$25,795; Sport, $26,495/$27,795; Limited, $28,995/$30,295