The Scoop
Subaru has been selling cars in Canada since 1978, but it was really around 1995 that they started to see sales trend much higher with the introduction of their Outback crossover vehicle.

We hear a lot today about crossover vehicles, a design that is built off a car platform and morphed into a more rugged looking utility vehicle. (The earliest example was the AMC Eagle, a car that was about 20 years before its time.)

What Subaru achieved with the introduction of the original Outback was to take an existing, albeit a rather dull Legacy station wagon, and modify the suspension to sit a little bit higher, attach rugged-looking body cladding, include all-wheel drive as standard equipment and call it a crossover capable of light off-road duties.

The Outback has been so successful that Subaru stopped selling the Legacy wagon altogether.

Well, Subaru is at it again with this all-new XV Crosstrek, taking the capable and comfortable Impreza hatchback and injecting their crossover treatment.

The Skin
At the launch of the XV Crosstrek here in the Collingwood skiing community north of Toronto, the XV looks right at home. The ground clearance is 220mm, which provided excellent off-road clearance for navigating some rough and washed-out gravel back roads in the area. Subaru claims that the XV Crosstrek has more clearance than a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Standard black, alloy wheels with polished spokes certainly provide a level of attitude that fits the go-anywhere Subaru image. Speaking of image, there was a lot of talk about appealing to younger Generation Y buyers who might consider this vehicle for daily city duty but require the added ground clearance for trips to places like ski hills or mountain bike trails. While the two-tone cladding and wheels help with the design, the conservative approach that Subaru uses on most of its cars is still front and centre. The dimensions of the XV, compared to the Impreza it is based on, are almost identical; the major difference is the steeper rake of the rear window and slightly shorter wheelbase.

The Cockpit
Before talking about the inside of the XV, it should be pointed out that the latest Impreza is a fantastic basis from which to start.

The four passenger doors are large and open wide for easy access, including back seat passengers.

The rear hatch is not power operated but this is common at this price point. Inside the XV is the same interior found in the Impreza. Soft-touch materials are placed on all the touch-points of the cabin including the dash. This simple, yet easy to understand dash and centre console might look basic but I applaud companies that keep clutter to a minimum. The Canadian XV comes standard with a high-mounted screen in the centre of the dash for car information and customizable calendar.

The base XV Crosstrek starts at $24,495 and includes standard heated seats and Bluetooth connectivity. The Sport package includes a sunroof, leather wrapped steering wheel and shifter along with HID headlights for $26,495.

The $28,995 Limited trim adds a navigation unit, backup camera and satellite radio.

The Ride
Carmakers are trying to balance the needs of today’s drivers but also keep an eye on fuel consumption. The same 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine used in the Impreza carries into the XV with mixed results. It is rated at 148 horsepower and has improved torque, compared the Impreza, at 145 lbs. -ft. However, in the 5-speed manual version I drove, the engine lacks bottom end punch for launching the vehicle. After a while the driver adapts but the throttle needed for better off-the-line performance will impact fuel consumption. The continuously variable transmission might be the way to go as it has a wider range of gear ratios, helping to move the XV away with purpose. The ride is surprisingly smooth and compliant, especially over rough gravel roads; it really is very comfortable. The flip side is the soft suspension isn’t the most inspiring for pavement cornering; the top-heavy feel of the raised body might amplify this. The electric power steering is rather vague feeling but does contribute to improved fuel efficiency.

The Good, The Bad
Good: Good size and practical all-wheel drive capability
Bad: The regular Impreza might be a better buy.

Zack’s Verdict
When Subaru introduced the latest Impreza last year, it made big changes to the design that justifies the small premium to buy one, over other compact cars. This is especially true when you factor in Subaru’s impressive resale value. The base XV Crosstrek should be compared to the Impreza Touring 5-door, which starts at $22,595 — roughly a $2,000 premium for the XV over a similarly equipped Impreza. Both come with standard AWD, 2.0-litre engine and well-designed interior. The XV adds a bit of attitude and ground clearance that might be missing from the base Impreza, especially if younger buyers are trying to be engaged by Subaru. If history is any gauge, the XV should do well, Subaru has been taking their regular models and modifying them into a crossover for 17 years.

The Lowdown
Power: 2.0-litre turbo 4-cylinder with 148 hp
Fill-up: 8.2L/6.0L/100 km (city/highway)
Backup: 3-year/36,000 km
Sticker price: $24,495-$28,995

Photograph by: Zack Spencer

Copyright 2014 ZoomerMedia Limited

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by:
Zack Spencer, Vancouver Sun