2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek

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, and it is available with Subaru's first-ever gasoline-electric hybrid drivetrain.

Recent Changes
For the latest model year, the XV Crosstrek gets a new base trim level and a host of minor updates inside and out.

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 'ute.

Under The Hood
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.

Buyers after increased fuel economy can opt for the XV Crosstrek Hybrid, Subaru's first gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle. The setup consists of the regular Crosstrek's 2.0-liter flat-four matched with a CVT, a 13.4-horsepower electric motor and a 13.5-kilowatt nickel metal hydride battery pack located under the trunk floor.

Thanks in part to a standard start/stop system, the all-wheel drive hybrid sips fuel at a rate of 28 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway.

Life Aboard
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.

Trim-Level Breakdown
Buyers can choose from base, Premium or Limited trim level Crosstreks.

The base trim level comes with a generous list of standard features including a rear-view camera, a 6.2-inch infotainment system, a tilt/telescoping steering multi-function steering wheel, power windows, door locks and mirrors, carpeted floor mats and a temperature gauge. It is exclusively offered with a five-speed manual transmission.

The Premium trim adds 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, welcome lighting, automatic climate control, an LCD audio head unit, a 7-inch infotainment system, turn signals integrated into the door mirrors and auto on/off headlights. A package combining both the moonroof and navigation is optional on Limiteds.

The Hybrid comes standard with a moonroof, extra sound insulation, 17-inch alloy wheels and heated seats. Leather upholstery and navigation are available at an extra cost, while bespoke trim inside and out set the model apart from non-hybrid Crosstreks.

Occupant Safety
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.

Buyers looking for more safety features can order the Crosstrek with Subaru's well-regarded EyeSight technology.

Key Competitors
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.