Car: 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek

The 2015 Crosstrek was my first introduction to owning a Subaru. At this point, we own three Subarus, so you can reasonably conclude we like the Crosstrek. Folks who know me have probably been taking bets on how long it’d be before the first Subaru review showed up at LLH. Well, here it is.

Subaru is one of the smaller automakers selling cars in the US, but the company’s growth over the past decade has been the envy of many other automakers. Subaru is the only automaker to see growth every year for the past 8 years. In fact, the chairman of Subaru has had to implement an affirmative plan to limit the company’s sales growth in order to ensure they protect their focus.

As part of that focus, Subaru has carefully crafted a reputation for caring about the environment. From “partial zero emissions” vehicles (sounds silly, but it’s official government-speak), to a zero-landfill manufacturing process, to sponsoring National Parks, Subie has earned this reputation the old-fashioned way. They put their money where their mouth is. Plus, they design their cars to allow you to reach pretty much any aspect of the outdoors; their phenomenal AWD system is standard on all cars, save the BRZ, which was a joint project with Toyota.

Subaru vehicles have a reputation for longevity. Subaru likes to point out that 98% of all Subies are still on the road after 10 years. They also are at or near the top in most categories for safety and reliability in publications such as Consumer Reports. Subarus also generally crush the crash tests. They have a reputation among some as “the poor man’s Volvo” because they are so safe.

Since poor men (and women) don’t necessary want to spend all their money on luxury vehicles, Subaru also keeps it affordable. But affordability has some trade-offs, so Subaru also has a reputation for bland styling, poor entertainment systems, and being noisy.

So, how does the 2015 Crosstrek stack up?

First, this is a compact cross-over SUV-type vehicle. Essentially, it is an Impreza that has been lifted, received a few extra exterior tweaks to give it a tougher appearance, benefited from a few engineering tweaks, and received a few minor interior upgrades at base trim. That’s not a bad thing; the Impreza is a relatively good compact car with tremendous safety ratings and surprising interior room. The Crosstrek follows suit, although I find the raised Crosstrek more attractive and stylish-looking than the lower-slung Impreza.

I’ll break the review down into a few categories:

Outside Appearance

The outside of The Crosstrek has more of a do-anything look than some competitors. With steep approach and departure angles, the little Subie looks like it could easily climb its way out of a mess. Indeed, it can. Otherwise, the car is relatively attractive, morseo IMO than competing products by Honda, Toyota, Ford, GM, and Nissan, although I’d have to say it’s less attractive than a Mazda.

The inclusion of integrated roof rails on all trim levels is appreciated and adds to the mini-macho look of the car. Subaru also includes some upgraded wheels with every trim level. The wheels look pretty good when standing still.

Note, the Crosstrek has 8.7 inches of ground clearance. This allows you to easily cross those little bumps in life.

Overall, I find the profile and appearance of the Crosstrek to be very attractive. When I first got it, a number of people would come up and ask me about it in parking lots. It has since become a very good seller for Subaru, so I see a lot more of them on the road now.XV Outside

Interior

There is a lot of room in the Crosstrek for a small vehicle, with especially good headroom and legroom. This was very important to us, as our teenage son is 6’6” and simply didn’t fit in some of the SUVs that were a larger category. For instance, he has more headroom and legroom in the Crosstrek than in the much larger 4Runner. As usual, there is a price to be paid; so although the Crosstrek has excellent passenger room, it has less cargo room than some competitors. I’ll take that trade-off every day of the week. And, for the record, we went for a week-long camping trip with 4 full-size people and tons of gear, and the Crosstrek handled it beautifully (admittedly, we did use a rooftop carrier). Of course, if you don’t have rear passengers, the rear seats split 60-40 and fold flat for extra room.

The controls are well laid out. Everything is clear and easy to reach. Visibility is excellent for a vehicle in this class. You can tell Subaru had been focused on improving over their historical record in terms of interior design.The Crosstrek actually seemed nicer on the interior than did the rival Honda HR-V. There is also a good amount of storage in the front seat area.

Overall, the interior significantly exceeded my expectations.

XV Inside

Comfort

The seats are decent, not the best in the word, but not terrible. They could be a little more supportive, and power seats would have been a nice option (the 2015 Crosstrek didn’t have power seats at any trim level). Heated front seats are included at every trim level, so that’s a nice plus. There is not option for heated rear seats. Also, there are no vents in the back, so rear passengers have to be content with whatever air makes it to them from the front seat area.

Driving position is good. You sit up a little high, so you get a commanding view of the road.

The 2015 model also included some updates designed to do a better job of controlling cabin noise. There is still a bit more road and engine noise than I’d like, but it’s not bad, especially among compact crossovers.

Overall, comfort is good, especially when compared to other vehicles in the class. This is especially true for taller folks.

Tech

Subaru has been steadily working on improving its tech game. While the 2018 models are finally making real inroads, the 2015 model still lagged just a bit. On the plus side, the optional EyeSight system is phenomenal; it includes adaptive cruise and autonomous front braking, both of which are helpful. A rear-view backup camera was also standard, although the base screen was only 6.5 inches and the upgrade was only 7 inches. The upgraded entertainment system was decent, and BT connectivity was standard across all trims. Note, for 2018, the car gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard. The 2015 Crosstrek lacked things such as blind spot monitoring, although that has also been remedied in later models. And all trim levels include integrated controls on the steering wheel for the stereo and cruise control.

Of course, the tech Subaru is most famous for is its terrific AWD system, which is standard on all trim levels of the Crosstrek. Of course, that AWD system also allows you to plow through inclement weather conditions more confidently than you otherwise might be able to. The AWD system also helps avoid the push or pull feeling you get in curves from RWD or FWD vehicles; you just feel glued to the road in all conditions. As a result, tight curves are more fun in the Crosstrek than in many competitors. It’s not a WRX, but it’s still fun.

Overall, the tech is good, mostly due to the AWD and the available Eyesight system; but the basic tech is also a significant improvement over the Subies of old.

Ride

Since the Crosstrek is based a car (Impreza), it has a comfortable ride. It’s not luxury level, but then again, you can confidently drive it about town, on the highway, or on a trail. When Subaru raised the height of the Crosstrek over the Impreza, they also included a heavier-duty suspension. That suspension upgrade pays off with a more compliant ride.

However, it is no speed-burner. With only one engine option, a 4-cylinder boxer that puts out only 148 hp, you won’t be tearing up the road. I read a lot of reviews that made overly-dramatic statements about the lack of power, but I accelerate well from a stop and easily went up and down mountains with a fully loaded car. I will agree that it lacks the oomph of some competitors and would benefit at passing speeds from another 25hp or so, but the lack of power is not as harsh as some reviews would have you believe. It is, however, one of my bigger complaints (which should tell you something, since I said it’s not really all that big a deal).

In terms of transmission, base levels have a manual option. I have not driven a manual Crosstrek, but I did drive a manual Impreza of the same year. Acceleration is about the same in both, but you feel like you’re going faster in the manual. Interestingly, gas mileage is better in the automatic, which is one of the best CVT units out there. Subaru does a nice job tuning their CVT to keep it from deadening the ride as much as other CVTs. You can get paddle-shifters with the CVT.

Overall, I was very pleased with the ride quality but wished for a little more power at times.

Safety

This is an area of excellence for the Crosstrek. It comes standard with stability and traction control, anti lock disc brakes, front side airbags and side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag, a rear view camera and active front head restraints. The Crosstrek received five out of five stars for overall crash protection in government crash tests, with four stars for total frontal-impact safety and five stars for total side-impact safety. The Crosstrek was also awarded the highest possible rating by The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in its small-overlap and moderate-overlap frontal-offset impact tests. Additionally, the Crosstrek achieved a “Good” score in the side-impact, roof strength and whiplash protection tests as well as a “Superior” rating with the the optional frontal collision mitigation system.

Overall, this is a very safe car.

Gas Milage

In town, I range between 24 and 27mpg. On the highway, I average in the low to mid 30s, but have had extended periods averaging more than 40mpg when driving about 60mph on flat roads for more than 100 miles.

Overall, I’ve been pleased with the gas mileage, especially since the drivetrain is AWD all the time (unlike many other “AWD” cars, which are really FWD that can shift to AWD in certain conditions).

Conclusion

Obviously, we really like the Crosstrek. We’ve since purchased a 2015 Impreza and 2017 Outback, and there is a good chance we’ll add either another Crosstrek or a Forester to the stable later this year. The Crosstrek is a comfortable, safe, reliable, roomy, AWD vehicle that gets good gas mileage and looks attractive. That’s a win.

Final: Love.

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