The Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid is a high-line model with a starting price of 0,120.

 

MAYNARD’S GARAGE

One of the more enlightened automotive-marketing decision goes to Subaru for adding its first hybrid powertrain to the XV Crosstrek. A plan so logical in automotive marketing is uncommon, yet this plan is a natural. Subaru wagon/crossover owners, particularly those who favor the nature-loving upgrades to the Crosstrek, are outdoorsy types who value fresh air. Now their vehicle — which is built in a zero-landfill plan in Gunma, Japan — fits even better into their lifestyle.

The Hybrid’s 2.0-liter “boxer” four-cylinder engine is integrated with an electric drive motor and nickel-metal hydride battery, which is stowed below the cargo area. Under light acceleration, the Subaru-engineered hybrid system uses the electric motor for initial acceleration and then starts the gasoline engine once underway. The electric motor can also provide motor assist for acceleration with the gasoline engine and there is an EV mode for use in low-speed situations.

It is a simple, effective Subaru-engineered system that delivers considerably more power and a nimbleness in daily driving over the gasoline model. The hybrid system boosts total power to 160 horsepower with 163 foot-pounds of at 2,000 rpm, which compares to the gasoline model’s 148-horsepower and 143 foot-pounds torque at 4,200 rpm. Hybrid fuel economy is 29 mpg city, 33 highway and 31 mpg combined (on 87 octane) versus 25/33/28. 

The Crosstrek is based on the Impreza five-door hatchback but gets unique styling and modifications. Differences include its own front and rear bumper styles, a raised suspension for 8.7 inches of ground clearance, beefed-up suspension pieces, vinyl wheel-arch over-riders, roof spoiler, roof rails, 17-inch wheels and dark-tint side glass.

The standard all-wheel drive system can vary power almost infinitely front to rear. And its Vehicle Dynamics Control system applies all-speed traction control and a rollover sensor.

The compact hybrid system barely intrudes on rear cargo space and there is still full function of the folding seatback for loading bikes or gear.

The Crosstrek Hybrid is the well-equipped of the Crosstrek line and is sold in two trim levels. Pricing starts at $26,820, including the $825 freight charge from Japan. That’s about $3,000 more than the gasoline version. The Hybrid Touring tester was $30,120, with no options (and none needed).

The 2015 model will get some changes, which could mean pricing bargains on 2014 models.

The expected hybrid features are in place, including regenerative braking and active grille shutters to reduce air resistance. The air conditioning system uses a temperature and humidity sensor to optimize operation for reduced draw on engine power. Soundproofing elements include thicker floor sections, under-floor covers and more sound insulation.

The Crosstrek is a low maintenance car to enjoy, maximizing Subaru’s keep-it-simple format. And it may be one of the few new cars that look good with some dirt and trail pinstriping. There is lots of black interior plastic, but it’s appropriate for the mission. The leather upholstery on uplevel models looks like vinyl, but it also appears durable.

The ride height is three inches taller than the Impreza, which gives a good view down the road. And the small 34.8-foot turning circle is an asset off-road or on.

The driver area is uncomplicated, almost minimalist, with large, readable knobs for fan-temp-AC. The navigation-phone-audio unit is compact and multi-tasking, and my phone connected on the first try. There are plenty of cup holders and storage places for phones and other devices and a locking glove box. The visors are large with covered mirrors and there is a grab handle at every door. 

The back seat has adult leg and footroom at the window seats, a comfortable seatback angle and door-panel cup holders. The Limited’s fold-down armrest will be useful if there will be frequent back-seat passengers.

Ride quality is quite settled and responsive for an off-roader and the cabin is surprisingly quiet at highway speeds. Subaru says liquid (hydraulic) engine mounts (with the CVT) help damp out vibration. The double-wishbone rear suspension has pillow ball bushings, which are a home run of comfort, stability and agility.

The cargo area opening is 37 inches width by 30 inches tall, which is generous for loading bikes and gear. Roof rails are standard, but it takes the $200 crossbars to tie down a surfboard. The back seat folds to form flat cargo space and there are tie-down hooks and grocery bag hooks in the way back.

Mark Maynard is online at mark.maynard@utsandiego.com. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage