Ottawa Citizen

New Subaru shows why own­ers are loyal

Crosstrek of­fers sure foot­ing, sassy styling

- DEREK MCNAUGHTON

Subaru drivers are some of the most loyal cus­tomers in the car busi­ness, the prover­bial Golden Retriev­ers of the brand. And the more time I spend driv­ing a Subaru, the more I come to un­der­stand why.

The warm and fuzzies of­ten start with an agree­able start­ing price. The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek I re­cently drove, for ex­am­ple, starts at $24,495 for the Tour­ing model. That price in­cluded some de­cid­edly sassy styling — an Im­preza WRX on steroids, if you will — plus a sprightly 2.0L 4-cylin­der boxer en­gine and Subaru’s sym­met­ri­cal AWD sys­tem. It also came with 17-inch alu­minum al­loy wheels, heated cloth seats and some of the big­gest side mir­rors I have ever seen in small car.

Those mir­rors only served to make the Crosstrek one of the eas­i­est cars I have driven in a long while, its long, rak­ing front wind­shield and plenty of side glass pro­vid­ing ex­cel­lent vis­i­bil­ity all around. And the raised height of the Crosstrek (70 mm higher than a reg­u­lar Im­preza five-door) made it not only easy to see traf­fic ahead but easy to climb in and out of — some­thing all of us with sore backs can ap­pre­ci­ate.

While the man­ual trans­mis­sion might be bet­ter at a ma­nip­u­lat­ing the Crosstrek’s 148 horse­power 2.0-litre en­gine — and of­fer an in­fin­itely more en­gag­ing drive — the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion, Lin­eartronic Con­tin­u­ously Vari­able Trans­mis­sion makes the car feel plenty quick off the line. The CVT also gets a so-called “man­ual mode” with pad­dle shifters. It’s good enough that man­ual mode seemed re­dun­dant in spir­ited driv­ing as the CVT kept the rpms mostly where they ought to have been, but it is still a CVT with an elas­tic feel and con­tin­u­ous drone. TO SEE more 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek pho­tos and road tests, go to

The other ben­e­fit of the CVT is that it gets cou­pled to an AWD sys­tem that au­to­mat­i­cally and seam­lessly ad­justs the torque to the front and back ac­cord­ing to need. The man­ual model gets a dif­fer­ent, lim­ited-slip cen­tre dif­fer­en­tial that splits power 50-50 front to rear and can lock dur­ing wheel­spin.

While the streets were snow-free the week I drove the Crosstrek, I did take it out on some gravel roads where it wasn’t hard to feel like rally boss Se­bastien Loeb rip­ping past the tall pines. Steer­ing is quick with good feed­back. The ride can feel firm and al­most jouncy over rough patches, but the Crosstrek cor­ners like a champ, much bet­ter than its higher ground clear­ance would sug­gest. There is a no­tice­able amount of en­gine noise un­der hard ac­cel­er­a­tion, and some wind noise at speed, but the car feels light and toss­able, able to ne­go­ti­ate rough ter­rain with­out much fuss. The trac­tion con­trol sys­tem is sen­si­tive, though, en­gag­ing with even the slight­est wheel slip. Still, I have zero doubt this Subaru could han­dle a 30-cen­time­tre snow­storm with­out as much as a shrug.

Step­ping up to the Sport Package, which in­creases the cost by an­other $2,000, seems well worth the ex­pense. The package pro­vides a sun­roof, leather-wrapped steer­ing wheel and Xenon HID light­ing, among other things. While the base model we drove had head­lights that proved ex­cep­tion­ally bright, the base model rub­ber steer­ing wheel would it­self make me want to spend more for the up­grade. It feels cheap and out of place with the rest of the car.

The rest of the in­te­rior is util­i­tar­ian enough. There’s good stor­age space and most con­trols are easy to op­er­ate, with the ex­cep­tion of an overly com­pli­cated multi-func­tion dis­play reg­is­ter­ing fuel econ­omy and other facts that’s not easy to tog­gle through. The same dis­play houses tem­per­a­ture and air­flow set­tings in a less than so­phis­ti­cated dis­play. The stan­dard au­dio sys­tem doesn’t de­liver spec­tac­u­lar sound ei­ther. The cloth seats seem ex­cep­tion­ally durable, how­ever, and Blue­tooth au­dio and phone is stan­dard, as is au­to­matic cli­mate con­trol, plus a me­dia hub in the cen­tre con­sole for the iPod.

The cargo hold, while ex­pand­able to 1,470 litres with the 60-40 split seats folded flat, can be a bit snug with the seats up. While I was able to just squeeze in two kids’ hockey bags, it took some shov­ing, leav­ing zero room for any­thing else. Roof rails are stan­dard, though, so a Thule box would seem pru­dent for skiers and snow­board­ers given the lim­ited cargo space. Rear seat room isn’t ter­ri­bly tight, and the front seats had am­ple travel.

Fuel econ­omy was rel­a­tively good in city driv­ing, not stray­ing far from 8.8 L/100 km, while high­way driv­ing saw a sus­tained av­er­age of 7.8. While I was ex­pect­ing a lower high­way rat­ing, the city rat­ing showed the ef­fi­ciency of the CVT — and I was not be­ing overly gen­tle with the Crosstrek.

That’s prob­a­bly just how most Subaru own­ers would drive their Crosstreks any­way — putting them to work day af­ter day un­der a va­ri­ety of con­di­tions and get­ting back an equally hon­est re­ward. No won­der their loy­alty is so strong.

 ?? DEREK MCNAUGHTON/POST­MEDIA NEWS ?? The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek’s Con­tin­u­ously Vari­able Trans­mis­sion mates well with all-wheel-drive.
DEREK MCNAUGHTON/POST­MEDIA NEWS The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek’s Con­tin­u­ously Vari­able Trans­mis­sion mates well with all-wheel-drive.
 ?? DEREK MCNAUGHTON/POST­MEDIA NEWS ?? The stylish 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek should have no prob­lem han­dling a 30-cen­time­tre snow­storm.
DEREK MCNAUGHTON/POST­MEDIA NEWS The stylish 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek should have no prob­lem han­dling a 30-cen­time­tre snow­storm.

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