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Subaru lifts an Impreza in an apparent effort to steal sales from itself. - CarAndDriver.com

For years, Europeans have ridiculed American buyers for their SUV addiction, but small-SUV sales are booming on the Continent right now. The new XV Crosstrek was conceived as a way for Subaru to capitalize on the trend, its tidy dimensions making it ideal for tight European roads. When U.S. dealers saw the XV, though, they loved it and convinced Subaru brass that it would be a hit with young urban families stateside. Here, it will be known as the XV Crosstrek.

Jesse James has called the Teutuls of Orange County Choppers fame “cake decorators,” alleging that their products are just flashy eye candy and not true customs. He might level the same barb at the XV’s engineers, as the model is really just a lifted Impreza hatchback with new bumpers, some fender cladding, and unique wheels. That’s the same basic formula Subaru followed to create the Impreza-based Outback Sport.

Mooom! He’s Stealing My Sales!

Subaru’s own Forester is 4.1 inches taller, 4.3 inches longer, and no wider than the Crosstrek; the latter’s success likely will depend on how many sales it can cannibalize from the former. The XV will cost a bit more than the Forester, but it will get better fuel economy from its 2.0-liter flat-four than the larger car sees from its 2.5. EPA figures haven’t been finalized—the car isn’t due in showrooms until the fall of 2012—but expect its ratings to be very similar, if not identical, to the Impreza’s. That car is rated at 25 mpg in the city and 33 on the highway with a five-speed manual and at 27/36 with the optional CVT. That’s quite a bit better than the Forester’s 21/27 mpg (of course, the turbocharged Forester gets even worse fuel economy, at 19/24 mpg).


The Crosstrek’s interior being identical to the Impreza hatch’s, it packs the same 23 cubic feet of cargo volume with the rear seats up. Here, the Forester has a clear lead, with 34 cubes. The larger car also betters the XV’s passenger space, with two more cubic feet up front and a significant eight more—49 to 41—in the back. Both the base Forester and XV boast 8.7 inches of ground clearance, or three more than a regular Impreza. Three inches make a big difference when fording the deep snow often found in Subaru-heavy markets such as the Northeast, the Northwest, and the Rocky Mountain states.

Yup: Like a Taller Impreza

As in the new Impreza, the XV’s flat-four is a letdown. With only 148 horses, acceleration is tepid. Plus, the XV transformation adds 50 to 100 pounds to an Impreza wagon. We expect a quarter-mile sprint of 16.8 seconds with the five-speed manual; add a few 10ths with the optional CVT. If the engine were a torque monster, you wouldn’t need to downshift to climb slight grades. But with 145 lb-ft at 4200 rpm, it isn’t, and so you do.

The weak engine lets down a fairly athletic chassis. Like the Impreza, the XV turns in eagerly and is competent when hustled. Raising the body, and thus the center of gravity, does not alter the handling too much. There are a little more body roll and a touch more dive under braking, but these are expected side effects of the loftier ride height. The brakes even took a steep mountain descent without showing signs of fade. Aside from the minimal feedback through the electrically assisted steering, the XV’s chassis is well tuned, and its ride quality falls on the firmer side.


Outside the Subaru showroom, the XV has few natural competitors. The five-door Suzuki SX4 also offers all-wheel drive, but its starting price of $17,764 is a good deal lower than the Crosstrek’s will be. Other all-wheel-drive cars are few, meaning the Crosstrek will primarily battle the equally inexplicable Mitsubishi Outlander Sport and, to a lesser degree, small SUVs such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.

If There’s Nothing Below It, Is It Still Premium?

Cost will be a key component of the XV’s success. For 2012, a base Impreza hatch is 18,745, a base Forester is $21,370. Both are offered in three trim levels, but Subaru tells us it will likely offer the XV in just the two upper trim levels, Premium and Limited. At about $22,500, the XV Premium will be a couple grand more than the equivalent Impreza and a bit less than the Forester 2.5 Premium.

Subaru also let us sample the diesel XV it will offer in Europe. Like the gas engine, the oil burner is a 2.0-liter flat-four, but this one gets a turbocharger. The compression-ignition version only gives up three ponies, but torque soars to 258 lb-ft at 1600 rpm. It’s a sweetheart. Plus, it delivers fuel economy that is roughly 25 percent better than the gas 2.0’s. If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, tell your dealer. Apparently, he has Subaru’s ear.
http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/2013-subaru-xv-crosstrek-first-drive-review
 

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Car and Driver has another article on the XV here:

http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/2013-subaru-xv-crosstrek-20i-test-review

Aside from a passel of Jeeps, the odd Toyota, and a few hulking pickups, the population of new vehicles that traffic in off-pavement readiness right off the showroom floor is limited. Except, that is, at the Subaru store. In 2012, the company’s sales accounted for barely two percent of the U.S. market; that’s a profitable, 267,000-vehicle sliver of the market that Subaru has been cultivating for years. Its succession of cars, wagons, and semi-SUVs have earned reputations for being solid, dependable, kind of different, and fashionably anodyne. Think of Subaru as dishing up the comfort food of the car biz, sort of mom’s meatloaf with all-wheel drive.

Every so often, Subaru spices up its menu with something more appetizing than its usual bland-but-filling fare. The rear-drive BRZ sports coupe is the most exciting of these in recent memory, but the new XV Crosstrek 2.0i fills the bill, too, although in a diametrically opposite way. Originally conceived as a downsized (relative to U.S. dimensions) SUV for the European market, the Crosstrek is based on the Impreza Sport five-door hatchback. Its silhouette is conventionally crossover, with a tapering tailgate as opposed to the more squared-off, wagonish style of the Forester. It’s a bulldoggy look accentuated by flat-black wheel surrounds and rocker panels, black-and-silver 17-inch wheels, squinty headlights, and a stubby nose.

All-Weather Plodder from the Clearance Rack

What really gives it rough-road cred is 8.7 inches of ground clearance, 2.9 inches more than a regular Impreza. All-weather capability is a traditional Subaru attribute that helps account for its popularity in the sleet-and-snow states. In normal, decent-weather driving, the high stance doesn’t influence ride or handling much—the jacked-up XV’s lateral skidpad grip was a respectable 0.81 g, just .04 less than the street-level Impreza Sport and stickier than a Honda CR-V we tested. The Crosstrek’s handling is essentially transparent; it goes around corners and in a straight line without making either a negative or positive impression, although it is capable enough to handle aggressive driving. The electrically assisted steering is accurate if somewhat uncommunicative, the braking is without drama, and the ride is closer to that of a family sedan than a four-wheel-drive soft roader.

At 8.1 seconds to 60 mph, the XV’s accelerative talents are about what you’d expect from a 2.0-liter flat-four making 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque. And while the 0–60 number isn’t likely to inspire confidence in a green-light face-off or while merging onto an interstate, it makes this Subie a tad more spritely than heavier compact crossovers such as the CR-V (8.5 seconds) and Mazda CX-5 (9.2). Like they say, it’s all relative. Our test car had a five-speed manual. Weak though it may be, there is a plus side to this 2.0-liter engine: Subaru claims that (with a CVT) it yields among the highest fuel economy of any all-wheel-drive crossover in America, with EPA ratings of 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway. The estimates for our five-speed manual test car are 23/30.

Butched-Up and Ready to Go

Perched on a 103.7-inch wheelbase, the Crosstrek’s body offers more than ample interior space. With lots of head- and elbowroom and comfortably upright seating, the ambience is one of airy roominess. Rear-seat legroom is a generous 35.4 inches with ample hiproom for three. With the standard 60/40-split rear seatbacks folded, there’s 52 cubic feet of flat-floor carrying space. With the seats up, there’s still enough utility to handle the usual day-to-day impedimenta.

The driver faces a well-proportioned steering wheel and views a cluster of instruments lettered with off-white numbers against a black background, which are easy to see except when wearing polarizing sunglasses. The center stack is conventionally contemporary with easy-to-use, three-knob climate controls and sufficient space for electronic detritus such as cell phones and iPods.

We tested the entry-level Premium model, which comes equipped with heated front seats and sideview mirrors, a roof rack, stability control, Bluetooth, cruise control, and power windows and door locks. The $22,790 as-tested price isn’t bad for what is ultimately a useful and practical car, particularly in places where the weather can become a hazard. It’s open to discussion, however, as to whether the XV will expand the universe of off-pavement-ready small crossovers or steal sales from Subaru’s other all-wheel-drive wagon offerings. The XV slots in at $1200 more than the Impreza 2.0i Sport Premium (which goes without the extra ground clearance and SUV styling cues) and $1500 less than the larger, Legacy 2.5–based Outback wagon. That may be slicing mom’s meatloaf a little thin, but then again, Subaru’s ability to find multitudinous ways for buyers to drive over the river and through the woods is well established.
Specifications >

VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, 4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 5-door wagon

PRICE AS TESTED: $22,790 (base price: $22,790)

ENGINE TYPE: DOHC 16-valve flat-4, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injection

Displacement: 122 cu in, 1995 cc
Power: 148 hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 145 lb-ft @ 4200 rpm

TRANSMISSIONS: 5-speed manual

DIMENSIONS:
Wheelbase: 103.7 in
Length: 175.2 in
Width: 70.1 in Height: 61.8 in
Curb weight: 3073 lb

C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 8.1 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 9.8 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 16.5 sec @ 83 mph
Top speed (drag limited): 118 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 174 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.81 g

FUEL ECONOMY*:
EPA city/highway: 23/30 mpg
*C/D-observed fuel economy is not available
 
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