2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek: First Drive

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Every auto journalist has biases; ours is a predisposition to Subarus, of which we've owned four.

So we were eager to test the 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, a new model this year.

It's essentially the Impreza compact five-door hatchback, with larger wheels and tires, higher ground clearance (8.7 inches), more aggressive trim, larger front disc brakes, and a bigger gas tank.

That's more or less the same recipe that turned the meek Legacy wagon into the enormously successful Outback crossover in 1995, but applied to a compact hatchback.

And, of course, like all Subarus sold in the U.S. (except the limited-production BRZ sports coupe), the Crosstrek comes with standard all-wheel drive.

It nominally competes with high-volume compact crossovers, but it's smaller and easier to maneuver than the likes of the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, and Subaru's own successful Forester.

But in reality, it's more likely to be cross-shopped against the regular Impreza, the oddly styled but fun Nissan Juke, and the Mini Cooper Countryman--along with the soon-to-launch Fiat 500L.

Green AWD

Along with its Impreza sibling, the Crosstrek is one of the greener all-wheel drive cars on the market.

Both cars use a 148-hp 2.0-liter flat-four engine, with either a five-speed manual gearbox or Subaru's Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT), which delivers better mileage.

2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek

2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Enlarge Photo

Our 2013 Subaru Crosstrek with the CVT was rated by the EPA at 28 mpg combined (25 mpg city, 33 mpg highway). If you get the manual, that falls to 26 mpg combined (23 mpg city, 30 mpg highway).

The Impreza does better, at 30 mpg combined for the CVT and 28 mpg combined with the five-speed.

The Crosstrek comes in 1 mpg lower than the rating for the Juke with CVT, but we found that in real-world usage, the all-wheel drive Juke delivered disturbingly low fuel efficiency: about 22 mpg.

While the XV Crosstrek is also 2 mpg lower than the combined rating for the Mini Cooper Countryman with six-speed manual, it's better than the Countryman's automatic model, at 27 mpg, which is likely to be the better seller. (Gas mileage for the Fiat 500L hasn't yet been rated.)

Good CVT

Over a lengthy test drive of 700 miles, two-thirds of it at speeds of 50 mph or higher, our 2013 XV Crosstrek returned an average of 30.3 mpg under some hard driving.

That's impressive for a non-hybrid AWD vehicle. And with its larger 15.9-gallon gas tank, that gives it a range of almost 500 miles.

2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, upstate New York, Dec 2012

2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, upstate New York, Dec 2012

Enlarge Photo

We also liked its around-town handling, the upright seating position (with a height-adjustable driver's seat), the good visibility, and the general mountain-goat adroitness of the small crossover.

Subaru has tuned its CVT to deliver punchy acceleration off the line, before letting the engine speed rise higher for best efficiency. This may be the least annoying CVT we've driven.

Given the small engine in a car saddled with the extra weight of a mechanical all-wheel drive, the Crosstrek runs out of steam on the top end--just as we found the Impreza did as well.

Nervous and noisy

What we hadn't expected, after two different test drives in the Subaru Impreza (including a First Drive last year), was the Crosstrek's radically different road feel at speeds above 60 mph.

The Subaru VX Crosstrek was, simply, one of the most nervous--and hence least enjoyable--cars we've driven at freeway speeds in the last few years.

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Comments (11)
  1. The red Crosstrek doesn't come with black interior. Did you review a pre-production model? I was fearful of the road noise in this vehicle, but have driven it for a few weeks now at 70-80 average on the turnpike and the road noise is not bad at all. Also, the car doesn't seem nervous at all at high speeds.

  2. @David: Hmmmmmmmmm. Thanks for this comment. I've gone back to Subaru to try for an answer to that question. Appreciate the alert.

  3. I have to agree with David on this one. I have owned the Crosstrek Limited loaded similar to the one test driven for about two weeks. We do a fairly even split of highway and city driving. This vehicle handles like a champ compared to what we had before. We also find it to be much quieter than our previous CVT with better acceleration too. I also have found the highway handling to to be perfectly comfortable compared to the other crossover/SUV CVTs that we have owned. The other plus of this model's CVT on the highway is the smoothness of changes in the CVT when on cruise. Sounds like you need to go do another review of an off the lot model.

    XV Crosstrek Limited
    Crystal Black Silica / Ivory Leather
    Popular Package #1

  4. I have almost 6k on my 5 speed M/T XV. Not only does it handle well at highway speed but the mpgs at those speeds are underrated. I've yet to achieve under 30 mpg whether driving city, highway or a combo of the two. This has been a very pleasant surprise. I live in a flat part of the country (Chas. SC) but often drive to the mountains where the AWD serves tremendously well. My one complaint would be the unexplained "rattles" that come from the underside of car while decelerating in gear. The passenger side A pillar has its own intermittent case of NVH related tremors. Maybe early build quality issues? All in all, I m mildly satisfied with my first ever "RubySue". If service can track down the shakes, I'd tick that rating up a notch.

  5. The only person to ask about a car is an owner. Professional car reviewers have something going on with the certain manufacturers so they are biased. Non-owners who comment are not even worth bothering with.
    I own a Subaru XV CVT and it's brilliant!
    I have owned in my time all the major makes of car so I have some experience.
    I have owned three Subarus the last being a Forester Turbo Auto.
    When it came to buying a new car at the price range I had several choices. Mercedes new A and B Class, BMW 1 series, Mini Countryman, Skoda Yeti, VW Golf and a few others. The Subaru was better than all of these. The new Mercedes B class is still very much "old lady". The new A class looks as though it has been sat on with a crease down the sid

  6. Just bought a Subaru Cross Trek 2 weeks ago after driving a honda civic since 1996 (my honda still ran just fine after 206000 miles, but it got totaled in CT blizzard) .... my biggest priority in purchase this time around was winter safety ... so subarus made sense. while I hate losing my old car to an accident.... I hate to admit, I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE my Subaru! I'm not an aggressive driver so horsepower is not a concern for me. I don't feel like I'm driving a tank but I feel secure and safe in this vehicle, now I just hope it has the longevity of my Honda.

  7. I agree with Jennifer, I LOVE LOVE LOVE my new Subaru Crosstrek. It's so much fun to drive and looks sooo cute. My last car was a 2004 Forester and the new Crosstreks are just more sporty looking.

  8. Since it's a mild hybrid and the non-hybrid CVT version gets 25/33, I'll estimate the mild hybrid version will get 30/34MPG.
    Notice that if it was a full hybrid the city # would very likely be larger than the hwy #, as well as the hwy# being bumped up because of a better engine.

  9. @Daniel: Just to be clear, this comment applies to a newer post on the 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid, which can be found here:

  10. Have had my Crosstrek since early November. It is my 4th Subaru and overall I like the car as it has many features I love; however, I have had a series of problems with it which have not been resolved. One is unexplained "rattle noise" that come from the underside of car while decelerating in gear. The dealer I bought it from said all of the Crosstreks make that sound. NONE of my other Subaru's made this sound, not even close.... I mainly drive the car on interstate at speeds around 60-75 mph. At around 4500 miles, the oil light came on and dealer discovered it was a quart low. They also agreed the sound was strange but have been unable to resolve it. The car handles fine but am very concerned that there is something amiss here.

  11. "At around 4500 miles, the oil light came on and dealer discovered it was a quart low."

    This is a problem related to the new 2.0L engine in these cars, the '12+ Impreza's are having the same problem. Haven't seen a TSB/fix yet, but this one reason is what is keeping me from buying an XV Crosstrek right now.

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