The XV Crosstrek is essentially a butched-up version of Subaru's compact Impreza hatchback. Underneath its SUV-themed exterior, the Crosstrek retains the Impreza's well-tuned chassis, efficient engine and attractive cabin.
Following the recipe for success established by the successful Outback wagon/crossover, the Crosstrek is decked out with rugged cues, including black side- and wheel-arch cladding as well as truck-inspired front and rear fascias. The Crosstrek also features 8.7-inches of ground clearance to go along with a stiffened suspension and standard all-wheel-drive, all of which adds up to more off-road capability than the average cute ¬Ďute.
Aside from the tough-looking visual elements and suspension changes, the Crosstrek is virtually identical to the Impreza. That means it features responsive handling that belies its SUV pretensions, along with a fuel-thrifty 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder. The mill serves up 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque and is capable of returning 25 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway with an optional continuously variable transmission. A standard five-speed manual lowers efficiency to 23/30 mpg.
Of note, while manual-equipped Crosstreks feature a simple permanent 50/50 split AWD system, CVT models receive a more sophisticated variable system with an electronic clutch.
With plenty of soft-touch materials and a simple, cohesive overall design, the Crosstrek's cabin is a pleasant place to ride out long journeys. Crosstrek-specific upholstery is the only interior change from the Impreza. Stowage space is an ample 22.3 cubic feet with the rear seats raised, while a full 51.9 cubes are available should one fold the rear perches flat. Standard cargo accouterments include a cover that can be pulled into place or removed, a removable waterproof cargo tray, tie-down hooks and grocery bag hooks.
The interior's only significant downside is a cumbersome optional navigation system that's overly fussy and best skipped for an aftermarket unit.
Buyers can choose from Premium or Limited trim level Crosstreks.
The Premium trim comes standard with A/C, power windows and locks, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD sound system with iPod integration in addition to USB and AUX ports, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and 17-inch alloy wheels. The manual transmission comes standard, while options include the CVT, a sunroof, and the aforementioned nav system that comes bundled with a rear-vision camera.
The Limited trim features the CVT as standard and also adds leather upholstery, automatic climate control, an LCD audio head unit with a backup camera and auto on/off headlights. A package combining both the moonroof and navigation is optional on Limiteds.
All Crosstrek models feature dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to a driver's knee airbag, traction and stability control systems and a brake override system.
The Crosstrek is essentially a wagon with a lift kit and SUV-like styling. If that sounds familiar, its because it's essentially the definition of crossover vehicles like the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Nissan Rogue, all of which could be considered rivals to the Subaru.