Subaru Crosstrek is solid low-cost hauling option

Subaru Crosstrek is solid low-cost hauling option
![Subaru XV Crosstrek]( XV Crosstrek
Subaru’s new crossover, the XV Crosstrek, is an attractive vehicle that splits the difference between sedan, wagon and crossover, with many of the good characteristics of each.

But the Crosstrek, which rides on the compact Impreza platform, is underpowered, so keep that in mind if you plan to haul four people or a load of stuff under its roomy hatchback.

Crosstrek has 8.7 inches of ground clearance, but looks more like a tall hatchback than a true crossover or SUV, now a dying breed as most truck-based SUVs have switched to car chassis. But, like a Subaru sedan, this is easy to drive and handles well, with a moderately light steering feel from the electronic power-assisted steering system.

Best of all, it’s useful. Not only will four adults fit in the Crosstrek, but you can haul a load of stuff in back, with its 22.3-cubic-foot cargo bay. Fold the split rear seats flat and it’ll haul 51.9 cubic feet of your best stuff, just like a wagon. And it has AWD, like an SUV.

Yet, you won’t feel like you’re getting to your destination very fast, due to the underpowered 2.0-liter four-cylinder boxer engine that Subaru has used for years. It has 148 hp, but in a 3,164-pound car, that seems on the soft side, especially when hooked up with Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT.

That’s a continuously variable transmission and its aim is to save gas, which according to the EPA it does. This is rated a healthy 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway. You won’t find many crossovers and even fewer SUVs that get such ratings, unless they are hybrids.

But the transmission simply revs this tightly wound engine up and holds it at 3,000-3,500 rpm to create quite a racket until the car gets up to speed. This is especially noticeable if you push the gas pedal to hit the bottom of a highway entry ramp at 55 mph. Naturally, the harder you press that pedal, the less mpg you get. I managed just 20.3 mpg while the trip computer was insisting on 21.9, still not great in about 60% city driving.

Ride is on the choppy side, as the car’s suspension seems too tight over our sharp city street bumps and frost heaves. Crosstrek rides on a 103.7-inch wheelbase and my experience is that you need 105 to 109 inches to spread out the bumps smoothly.

There is Subaru’s famous all-wheel-drive system, a bonus in sloppy weather. During a recent snowstorm, it certainly was sure-footed. Also standard are traction and stability control.

Now, this isn’t a fancy luxury crossover, so you may be able to overlook a few of my concerns. The base XV, or crossover vehicle, the Crosstrek Premium, starts at $21,995. The Limited, which I test drove, starts at $24,495.

The Premium model has the same engine, but instead of the CVT, uses an older five-speed manual that only provides an EPA rating of 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. A six-speed would seem more appropriate in today’s market.

The tested silver Limited added a $2,000 navigation package that also includes a moon roof. The navigation system is displayed on a small touch screen in the middle of the center instrument stack. The screen also controls the radio and all the buttons are almost impossibly small to use while driving.

All told, the test crossover came to $27,290, still well below most crossovers and small sport SUVs. So value remains a Crosstrek advantage.

The conservative interior reflects that. This one was all black with leather seats and a textured dash and doors. The seats had white stitching and the roof liner was gray to lighten the interior up a bit. Seats are fairly flat, with mild contouring on the seat backs. Front seats are manually adjusted with a pump lever on the side to raise and lower the driver’s seat. When the engine calms down, the interior is relatively quiet too, with little tire and wind noise.

Controls and gauges are easy to see, but plain. Under the radio/navigation screen are three large climate control knobs. Those are easy to see and use, but you’ll need to leave the fan at fairly high speeds to warm your feet.

There are automatic lights, push-button entry, power mirrors and windows and a manual tilt/telescoping steering wheel with radio, phone and cruise controls on the hub. Best of all is the rear backup camera. The Limited also comes with two-speed seat heaters. Those seat buttons are poorly located, well behind your elbow in the center console, almost hidden under the front edge of the center storage container.

Under the hatch is a thick rubber cargo tray, which I found useful, and the crossover comes with a retractable cargo cover. Overhead is the moon roof with sliding cover to block the sun or cool winter air seepage. Sadly, the sun visors don’t slide or offer extenders. Up on the roof are cargo rails, so if you’re an outdoorsy type you could strap a kayak or bike to the roof easily. The hatch also features a wiper.

I like the Crosstrek’s looks, augmented by sporty distinctive five-spoke wheels, but its lack of power and tiny radio/navigation system are drawbacks. But, if you need low-cost hauling with AWD, this could be a viable option. An Outback would be my choice, but it costs considerably more.

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