Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek Sport

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

We here at autoTRADER have a soft spot in our hearts for the Subaru XV Crosstrek. Its tidy size, nimble handling, surprisingly good fuel economy and, of course, legendary flick-the-bird-at-winter symmetrical full-time all-wheel-drive saw it win top spot in our 2013 Mini-SUV shootout.

In the world of small crossovers, the Crosstrek is an interesting specimen. It’s more car than SUV, being an Impreza five-door wagon, jacked up 75 mm for bad-road duty and sporting some attitude-altering plastic body-cladding. Factor in those funky 17-inch alloys, an integrated roof rack along with a palette of interesting colours, and suddenly the innocuous Subaru Impreza hatchback becomes the characterful Crosstrek XV.

I drove an XV Crosstrek in the depths of winter and found it to be like a Malamute puppy – all frisky and joyful in the white stuff.

Its swagger is more than skin deep, too. I drove an XV Crosstrek in the depths of winter and found it to be like a Malamute puppy – all frisky and joyful in the white stuff. The clever all-wheel drive, in tandem with its alert and communicative chassis, made for a mighty confidence inspiring winter drive. And fun too, as the XV is quite flickable and not adverse to a bit of oversteer when provoked.

The 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek starts at $24,994 for the base Touring model. It comes with five-speed manual transmission, heated front seats, back-up camera and a new-for-2015 6.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system with USB and Bluetooth streaming. Move up to the Sport Package ($26,995) and we get a sunroof, leather-wrapped steering wheel, rear spoiler and HID headlights.

The $29,295 Limited adds leather, dual-zone climate control, aluminum pedals, powered foldable heated door mirrors with integrated turn signals and a fresh 7-inch touchscreen with navigation. The XV Crosstrek Hybrid runs $30,495.

New for 2015 is the availability of Subaru’s impressive EyeSight driver assist system on the Sport and Limited models.

Here we’re looking at the $29,495 XV Crosstrek Sport Package with Technology Option. The latter includes Eyesight, steering-responsive fog lights, proximity key with push-button start and Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT (continuously variable transmission) with paddle shifters. CVT-equipped Crosstreks also benefit from liquid-filled engine mounts, a sound insulated hood and a more advanced AWD with an electronically controlled multi-plate transfer clutch (MPT), as opposed to the viscous-coupling limited-slip centre differential that comes with the manual transmission cars.

So this $2,500 Technology Option gets two big thumbs up for value.

All 2015 Imprezas (remember, the XV is a butchy Impreza) benefit from an intensive effort to quell road, engine and wind noise within the cabin. An area where this compact Subaru needed attention.

To that end, Subaru has added thicker windshield and side glass, thicker window sealers, foaming agents inside the cross rails and pillars, added sound insulation in the floor and wheel wells, and sound absorbing material in the roof trim.

Additionally, the insulating cover on the tranny was reshaped, the oil pump is quieter, and both the torque converter and main case get thicker walls with added ribs.

Indeed, these measures go a long way in reducing the tinny feel of the Impreza, imparting the car with a more solid and refined demeanour. Still, it ain’t no Rolls-Royce. Engine drone underscores the experience when mashing the throttle, and wind noise on the highway is now acceptable… just.

Power for the XV Crosstrek comes from a 2.0L flat-four that makes 148 hp and 145 lb-ft at 4,200 rpm. Around town this tester feels quite zippy, certainly helped along by its brisk throttle tip-in that seems to be a trademark of Subarus fitted with CVTs. Here, it’s not overly dramatic though.

The XV’s tall-boy ride height doesn’t seem to hamper handling much, but the longer wheel travel does mean this little tyke soaks up road imperfections with relative ease. I found the fabric seats quite comfortable, the two-stage heaters nicely judged (no sautéed backsides here, thank you) and the stellar outward visibility a welcome change from the increasingly claustrophobic interiors of most crossovers. Credit those thin A-pillars, cute quarter windows and mirrors that are mounted back a bit from the cornering sightlines.

Overall, the interior is well designed, straightforward and benefits from the new 6.2-inch touchscreen interface (lifted from the Legacy/Outback) that gives the proceedings a slicker presence. Sadly, it gets washed out in direct sunlight.

Above that screen is a smaller 4.3-inch colour multi-function display showing fuel data, eco-guide, vehicle dynamics monitor, clock, outside temperature gauge, maintenance reminder and customizable settings. This one has a hood over it, and doesn’t get washed out.

The trio of big rotary controls work an effective HVAC system.

I will take issue with the quality of plastics on the lower dash and console, and the six-speaker audio is nothing to get excited about either.

Here’s a suggestion. Replace those cheapo hard plastic recessed interior door pulls with nicley padded puppies and the perception of this car’s interior quality will leap. It’s all about the touch, and something you come into contact with every time you get out of the car should get a high priority.

That said, I never tired of driving this spunky little crossover. The steering has good feel and it accurately directs a well-balanced chassis. It’s hardly a powerhouse, but it’s fast enough, and once on the highway the XV settles into a relaxed cruise.

EyeSight uses a stereo camera mounted at the top of the windshield to monitor what’s going on ahead. As such, it delivers pre-collision warning and braking, lane departure warning and a well-calibrated adaptive cruise control with full stop.

So often with adaptive cruise control the responses are too abrupt – unnaturally aggressive braking and throttle applications. Subie’s system is a smooth operator, flowing nicely and not causing undue stress. And isn’t that the whole idea of adaptive cruise?

Another thoughtful feature bundled into EyeSight is the polite little beep that alerts you when the car in front has moved away if you remain at a standstill. It saves you from being “that guy” at a traffic light, tuning his radio station when the rest of the world has moved on.

Since the cameras only look forward, there is no blind-spot warning (BSW) with EyeSight in the XV Crosstrek. BSW is available on the Legacy and Outback.

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety gives any Subaru with EyeSight its highest rating of Top Safety Pick+.

Back seat accommodation in the XV Crosstrek is fine for all but the tallest of adults, and with its increased ride height, sliding in and out of both front and back seats is a breeze. The 60/40 split rear seat folds flat and included is a retractable cargo cover.

The XV Crosstrek is tow rated for 680 kg (1,500 lb) and the roof rack will hold up to 68 kg (150 lb). For those who care about such things, this little scrapper has an 18-degree approach angle and a 28-degree departure angle.

It’s a pretty sanctimonious fuel-sipper too. My week concluded with a reading of 8.0 L/100 km, although it should be noted much of that was highway and secondary roads.

In this business, we drive a lot of vehicles – some hit the right notes, some don’t, and some are forgotten as soon as they leave the driveway. This funny little hatch on stilts never fails to make me happy. Granted, the XV Crosstrek is not particularly fast nor refined, and the stereo kinda’ sucks, but it is eager, extremely capable, comfortable and very user-friendly. It’s an honest critter with no pretenses, bags of character and an urge to please. Like that Malamute puppy.

3 years/60,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 3 years/unlimited distance 24-hour roadside assistance

Model Tested 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek Sport
Base Price $26,995
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,650
Price as Tested $31,245
Optional Equipment
$2,500 (Technology Package: Eyesight, steering-responsive fog lights, proximity key with push-button start, CVT with paddle shifters)