Thursday, March 28, 2013

Subaru's new XV Crosstrek a good first effort

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website – via the “GALLERY: Reviews of new cars” link at

Sacramento, California – Well, I couldn’t miss it, not with a seemingly glow-in-the-dark “Tangerine Orange Pearl” exterior paint color that was bright enough to turn the heads of passersby on the sidewalk.

It in this case was the all-new-for-2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek. Mine was the cheaper of two trim levels, a 2.0i Premium edition with a continuously variable transmission and starting at $22,995. A moonroof/navigation package and a $795 destination charge pushed the window sticker’s bottom line to $25,790.

It’s the do-or-die rule of auto making: If you’re going to make something new, make it eye-catching.  And wow, that was the case with this XV Crosstrek, with Impreza hatchback DNA and stepping in for the Subaru Outback Sport.

Seventeen-inch alloy wheels look good.  Ground clearance is nearly nine inches. Besides the saucy paint scheme, the exterior look of the car is likewise pretty scrappy-looking.  This five-door, five-passenger crossover sport-utility vehicle looks ready to dart off the pavement and take on some gritty off-road terrain.

Naturally, all-wheel drive (with a sweet split torque feature) is part of the package, so yeah, buyers should not be shy about getting their Crosstrek a little dirty.

Inside the black cloth-trimmed cabin, things were certainly comfortable and convenient.  The necessary power features are there, and there are plentiful cargo-carrying options inside and out -- roof rails, cargo tie-down hooks, a removable cargo tray and a retractable cargo carrier.  The maximum seats-down interior configuration produces about 52 cubic feet of open space.  Nice.

Subaru rightly touts the exceptional fuel mileage numbers of 25 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.  Given the price of gasoline, it makes sense to promote good mileage over oomph.

But understand that there is a trade-off here.  Mashing the accelerator on the freeway entrance ramp produces seriously loud engine noise … and very little propulsion.  In fact, it takes a long time to get up to freeway speed, even with the throttle mashed flat to the floor.

Enough time passes to make you say, “C’mon baby, let’s go.”

Simply put, the 2-liter boxer-4 engine (rated at 148 horsepower) has a loud bark but relatively little bite.  If good gas mileage is your goal, you’ll be little affected by this.  If you routinely drive up and down steep hills and dice in speedy commuter traffic, you might want to think things over.

Otherwise, the Crosstrek steers easily and will be a snap for suburban drivers who rarely go off-road but run daily errands involving kids, sports teams and groceries.  Four-wheel disc brakes are good and grippy, providing an extra measure of security.

For a first effort, I’d give this ride a solid grade of “B.”

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