Monday, 15 September 2014 17:00

Subaru Hybridizes the XV Crosstrek

The 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid hatchback (here in Plasma Green Pearl) in its natural habitat. The 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid hatchback (here in Plasma Green Pearl) in its natural habitat. Southwest Daily News

Subaru has released a hybrid version of the XV Crosstrek. The new donor Impreza hatchback handles better on the road (because it sits lower), allowing the driver to navigate through overgrown terrain and flooded roads, while remaining environmentally friendly.

The Crosstrek is all-wheel-drive, with the same compact, low-profile "boxer" engine that all Subaru carry. The distinguishing factor is the 10-kilowatt electric motor, drawing power from a small battery pack at the rear.

Together, both motors provide up to 160 horsepower and 163 pounds-feet of torque. If its batteries are topped up, the Crosstrek Hybrid can creep along under voltage alone, but not very far and not very fast.

The Hybrid also has stop-start; the gas engine shuts down automatically when it isn’t needed—at stop lights, for example—and then wakes up again when the driver hits the throttle or the electric generator has to be spun up. As in all hybrid cars, a computer decides from moment to moment which parts of the system have to drive the car or recharge the batteries, and the driver can keep an eye on what’s going on via a screen in the dashboard.

The result of all this technology is a modest increase in fuel economy ratings, from the gas-only Crosstrek’s 25/33/28 mpg (city/highway/combined) to the Hybrid’s 29/33/31 mpg, when driving automatic. The Hybrid is available with a 5-speed manual transmission, which would increases the numbers more.

Arguably, the best part about the Subaru XV Crosstrek is the starting price-$26,820. And that's including its abilities to accommodate kids and dogs, camping gear and groceries, and surfboards and mountain bikes (on the roof). 

However, some believe the Crosstrek Hybrid should cost even less. Acceleration is modest at best, and the extra torque of the electric motor arrives late to the party. The shift paddles on the steering wheel let the driver do his part, but the CV transmission is noisy. The stop-start feature is unnoticeable when it shuts off the engine, but every restart sends a shudder throughout the car. For that matter, all the transitions, from go to stop and back to go, coasting or accelerating, are awkward. The drive-train abruptly telegraphs its choices of gas or electricity, and the brakes seem to be continually trying to decide between friction and power regeneration.