In early May we took possession of our new car, a 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek. Touring trim, manual transmission. In tangerine orange. (Yes, the colour is Jennifer’s fault.)
We’ve had the new car for three months now, and have put 7,000 km on it. What’s it been like so far? And how does it compare to our previous car (a 2004 Subaru Forester)?
But before I get into that, let me explain what exactly it is that we have. First released for the 2013 model year, the XV Crosstrek is a compact crossover based on the Subaru Impreza hatchback. In most respects it is an Impreza: it shares the same powertrain, interior and general shape. It has 75 mm more ground clearance (220 mm vs. 145 mm), has some mechanical changes that among other things allows it to tow 680 kg (Imprezas can’t tow), and some distinguishing fancy alloy wheels, roof rails and body cladding. The trims and colours are different, too.
Anyway, it’s much more like a car than the Forester, which is built on the same platform; it is to the Impreza hatchback what the Outback is to the Legacy wagon (which isn’t sold in North America any more). It’s proved quite popular, and is now Subaru’s third-best-selling vehicle in North America. We see more and more of them on the roads all the time.
The XV Crosstrek is smaller than the current Forester, but, the Forester having grown over the years, it’s close in size to the 2004 Forester that it replaces. (They’re almost exactly the same weight.) But they don’t have the same interior space. On the one hand, the cabin is less cramped, and there’s considerably more rear-seat legroom. But on the other hand, there’s less headroom. There’s not enough headroom for me in trims that come with a sunroof, so the base Touring trim is the only one we could get.
There’s less cargo space too, but most of the time we don’t need it: in the nearly six years we had the Forester, I can think of maybe three occasions where an XV Crosstrek’s cargo space would have been insufficient. In such cases a roof-top carrier, or paying to get something shipped, would be cheaper than paying more for more vehicle.
In the meantime we get a more efficient, more car-like vehicle. The XV Crosstrek is much more fuel-efficient than the 2004 Forester, but that’s not saying much: the Forester’s 2.5-litre boxer four was about as efficient as a V6. While it made that Forester rather fun to drive (though first gear was a little wild), we didn’t get a lot of range. On our drives this summer we have been regularly surprised at just how far we can go on a tank of gas. On hilly highways where the speed limit is 80 to 90 km/h we can get 6.4 litres per 100 km (36 mpg). (It’s fun having a trip computer.) On freeways like the 401 it’s more like 7.2 litres per 100 km (33 mpg) — the lack of a sixth gear makes freeway driving, where the engine is running above 3,000 rpm, less efficient. For an all-wheel-drive crossover with a manual gearbox, this is surprisingly good.
(Note: we don’t do much city driving, so I can’t give you numbers on that.)
The tradeoff to get that fuel economy is less power (148 hp vs. 165, 145 lb/ft vs. 166); the XV Crosstrek’s 2.0-litre boxer four doesn’t have a lot of power below 2,500 rpm. Those of us who drive manual must make sure we don’t shift out of the engine’s relatively narrow power band. You need to downshift on hills, and rev the engine higher when accelerating. Opting for the continuously variable transmission would no doubt help ameliorate this: they’re supposedly good at getting power out of small engines by keeping them in the power band.
Oil consumption might be an issue. On our way home from Detroit last month, at just past 6,000 km on the odometer, a warning light came on and we had to add another quart of oil. This is simultaneously normal (as per the owner’s manual, which considers one litre per 2,000 km excessive) and a known issue: a class action lawsuit was launched last month against Subaru in the U.S. as a result of excessive oil consumption in the newer FA- and FB-class engines. I hope it’s not a regular occurrence: 0W-20 synthetic oil is not particularly cheap.
Subarus are not known for having lavish interiors, but then we were going from a 10-year-old Subaru to a new one, so even if Subarus lag behind other car makes, they’ve still gotten better in the meantime. The seats feel a bit more comfortable, and the controls seem well organized (getting the base model means avoiding some of the complexity of higher-end models, with dual-zone climate control or touchscreen infotainment systems). My elbows do hurt during long drives, after resting for hours on rather hard plastic surfaces. It’s a functional cabin, not a luxurious one.
At the outset my muscle memory was messing with me: the mist and wash controls on the wiper stalk were flipped relative to the previous car, and the electric power steering was weighted a little differently. Definitely lighter. For a while I had a hell of a time hitting the centre of parking spaces.
In general, though, we’re very happy with it. It’s our first new car, and a car 10 years newer should be measurably better on several fronts. Which this is. The outrageous orange colour doesn’t hurt, and looks even better when the car is washed — which encourages us to keep it immaculate.
(For another take on XV Crosstrek ownership, see this owner’s perspective, which echoes a lot of what we’ve observed.)