Review: Subaru XV Crosstrek – Long Term Update

Opinion

Crosstrek XV is gaining popularity among mountain bikers as illustrated by this photo yesterday at a trail head in Belmont, CA.

Update: March 20, 2014 – Long Term Update

Our Crosstrek XV is about a year old now with more than 13,000 miles. It has performed flawlessly on several road trips, off-road adventures and daily errands around town. There have been zero issues with it and the only maintenance trips so far are for oil changes.

The motor has a bit of a rough idle when cold as it seems to shift between 1000 and 800 rpm a bit. It also has more knocking during acceleration when cold. So it’s best to warm it up and wait for the ‘blue’ icon on the dash to go away before pressing hard on the accelerator. And this car is really best when one cruises at a relaxed pace around town or on the freeway. It gets up to speed with little noise and effort. Mash the accelerator hard and the car makes all kinds of groaning noises with its engine and transmission.

The car really displayed its core strength during a three-day test ride in Soquel Demo Forest in Santa Cruz, CA. We gained access to some steep fire roads and the Crosstrek felt right at home on the rutted and loose fire roads. It seemed to pivot and dance around corners with control. With four bikes and five adults loaded, it tackled a 1000 foot climb and 10% grades with no problem. Descending the steep fire road too was fully controlled and actually fun.

So there is the continuing saga of the Crosstrek XV. At the trail head yesterday, there were two other Crosstreks parked beside us. We chatted with the owners and they were almost as excited talking about their cars as they were with their bikes.

Update: October 8, 2013 – Long Term Update

I have 5000 miles on the Crosstrek now and I’ve fielded many questions at the trailhead from folks asking about the car. So this seems like a good time to update this review.

Bike Hauling Abilities

Bottom line, this is what the car is for and it has performed the task admirably. I either use a Yakima HoldUp rack or a 1UpUSA hitch rack and the car works well with either one. Since the Crosstrek is high off the ground, the rack is elevated too and has no issues bottoming out whatsover on steep parking lots or rough dirt roads.

Currently, I actually prefer the Yakima HoldUp since it is so compact and it is easier to use. The Yakima pretty much folds to 3/4 its normal size with the collapsing wheel tray. It is smooth with no sharp edges and it’s very easy to fold up, down or tilt to open the hatch. Plus it’s got a bolt through the 1 1/4 hitch mount for a more secure connection with the car.

The 1UpUSA delivers a cleaner, stealth look and the license plate is actually visible even with two trays. It is easier to install/remove from the vehicle since there’s no bolt to thread through the hitch. It works with a ball cam system that tightens with a special wrench. However, this kind of system is not as secure and the cam can loosen over a period of time or when driving on very rough roads. And this will cause the hitch and the bikes to fall from the vehicle.

I opted for a 1 1/4 instead of a 2 inch receiver hitch to make it less visible under the car. The trade-off here is the hitch racks can only take a max of two bike instead of four. Also, the bikes will have more movement when in rough roads with the 1 1/4 hitch.

When transporting four bikes, I opted for the Thule roof mounting system which has strong rubber straps that latch on to the factory rails. These seem to work very well but getting bikes up there is always a bit of a struggle as the vehicle is high and there’s no perfect place to place your feet when climbing up.

Four adults, four bikes and all their gear fit perfectly in this vehicle as long as no one is a pack rat. A road trip with this many folks will be a struggle.

What About the Power?

Or lack of it? I’m happy to report that Crosstrek with 146 horses has enough power for me with the CVT transmission. The Crosstrek has a great tranny and it seems like the power is always there the second you step on the gas. We thought the car was quick around town and it really is as 0-30 acceleration is very lively. Midrange power is no good under heavy load getting up to around 70 mph. After that, it settles in and drops in to a high gear as it seems to cruise with ease.

So it’s quick and easy to drive around town. But if you mash the pedal and look at the 0-60 times of 9.8 seconds, you will be disappointed. But we’ve taken the car, fully loaded up the Grapevine I-5 and I-80 to Tahoe and it had no problems cruising up at 70 mph. The CVT transmission can get loud under load but the car just finds the right gearing and climbs away. But if you live in the high mountains or have to do a lot of passing on two-lane roads, this may not be the car for you. There’s enough power at sea level to get this car around. But if you’re looking for thrills or a fun car then the Subaru Crosstrek cannot deliver. And since there are no engine options, buyers may need to look somewhere else.

Mileage?

The mileage claim of 33 mpg is legitimate. You can do better than that or worse than that depending on conditons but that is pretty much spot on in our opinion. 27-28 on the city is confirmed as well. And since this is not a fast accelerating car, that’s pretty much what you’ll experience in terms of real-world mileage. See, the Crosstrek is fun and capable when you just cruise around without mashing the throttle. And that’s when you’ll see the best economy. The big variable on the highway is speed. When you get close to 80mph and beyond, the mileage dives pretty severely. The RPMs of the motor climb quite a bit and the bad aerodynamics and height of the car get the best of it. On several runs on I5 averaging 82 mph, our highway mileage dropped to 27 mpg.

Off Road Ability and Handling

With 8.7 inches of ground clearance and the Subaru drivetrain, the Crosstrek has had no issues so far with the terrain we’ve thrown at it. It’s had no issues at all with dirt roads and rough, dirt lots we’ve taken it to.

Handling is surprisingly good for a car of this height. There’s a little body roll at the limit and the tires will let their presence known under hard cornering. At freeway speeds, the car can be a little fidgety and the driver has to focus a bit more than other cars to keep it centered in the lane.

Bottom Line

We love this car and it will stay in the family til the next generation.

Continue reading for how to put a hitch rack on, an initial review, video and full photo gallery »
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About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.


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  • BikeBert says:

    I fell in love with this car when I saw first sketches.
    Now I know why :)

  • Roger says:

    “And we have unique auto needs.” really, who’s we? It’s like the 29ers and 650b’s

    People’s bikes cost more than their vehicle’s that transport them these days!

    Ride more, drive less…sad to say this is not a Mt. Biking site anymore.

    • LarryJ says:

      Seriously? Surely you can’t be that out of touch with reality. Do you really think that everyone has the same needs/wants as you? Sadly, we don’t all live within riding distance of a trail, nor do we want to ride just trails that we can ride to. Please, spare us your sanctimonious attitude.

  • Kyle says:

    I have an older impreza which shares the same engine as the Crosstrek. It gets about 8 L/100km on mixed highway/city use, but it’s completely gutless. Get three people and all their gear inside/on-top and you’ll be constantly shifting down to crest any hill. I can imagine it’ll only be worse with the Crosstrek given its a number of pounds heavier.

  • mackai81 says:

    10x better looking than a forester?! This thing looks a lifted car (hideous). The forester has twice the cargo volume, achieves the same ground clearance without looking like a lifted car, actually has room to sleep in (which you claim is important for a mtn biker), and has more power!!! wow

  • Willie says:

    Seems like a pretty cool car. I’d definitely get the manual over the CVT anyday. The gas mileage is definitely impressive; it’s just too bad this car doesn’t come with a turbo.

  • Tom says:

    I wish it had more power,a better transmission, and the electronics were more “modern”.
    I’d buy this car right now, but for the things i listed. I hope next years model will make these changes.
    I love the look, and am willing to make the switch from Land Rover to Subie, but i need those improvements.

  • Pinkrobe says:

    I’ll stick with my WRX wagon and STI hatch, thanks.

  • Willis24 says:

    Too bad they no longer sell Skoda’s around here. You could get a Skoda Yeti to haul your Yeti. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eePGDLyIoKU

  • Matt says:

    I thought the pictures of the author struggling to reach the bikes on top summed this up perfectly for me. I just don’t see the point of this car – most cars can get up logging/ fire roads to trail heads and if you want to go anywhere a standard sedan or hatchback can’t go, you’d need something far tougher than a jacked hatchback with rubber bumpers. All you end up with is no more space or practicality than the donor car (Impreza), although the rubber boot liner is nice, but worse aero (hence economy) and handling. Seems more of a fashion statement than anything else, which is fine if that floats your boat, but I wouldn’t make it out to be anything better than a standard Impreza (or even a 12yr old Focus wagon, which does just fine :)).

    I just wish there were more wagon options in the US, that’s really where it’s at if you want to haul a lot of stuff with good mileage.

    • joe says:

      I second your opinion on 12yr focus (hatch) – plenty space inside for fs 29r, will go off road (dirt roads and even a creek not an issue) and up to 40mpg average (stick of course), may be even faster (less sh.. to haul around for ~power).

  • Paul Wagner says:

    Francis- what tires are on your cross bike? Nice review of the Subaru!

  • derby says:

    This Crosstrek is a good looking car, WRC style. Sporty, with good 4WD off road clearance and mpg.

    The only problem is easily loading a bike or two inside, safe and out of sight. I considered buying this car new, but opted for a clean used 2010 Outback Premium for $15500 before trade-in, for the ability to easily load my bike and surfboards inside, and ability to sleep in the back when traveling and car camping. The Outback rides bumps real nice, corners pretty well, sits high with good visibility in traffic, good power and great mileage for 4WD and its size, the CVT transmission is so smooth with quick power response and has manual “gear” control when wanted, minimal maintenance requirements, good sound system, heated seats. I imagine the Crosstrek is similar, but less power and less space for road trips and fitting bikes inside without removing wheels.

  • stripes says:

    You’re aware that this is just a rebadged Outback Sport, right? Subaru’s branding is horrible.

  • Steve says:

    Mileage unaffected by hitch mounted bikes? No. Unless the author meant just by the rack itself.

    • Francis says:

      >>Mileage unaffected by hitch mounted bikes? No. Unless the author meant just by the rack itself.

      Good point. Any data on this when there are two bikes on the hitch rack?

      • Steve says:

        I love Subies so I’m definitely not criticizing the car, just that they’re fairly small vehicles and having objects strapped on to the exterior is going to hurt your mileage.

        We haven’t done enough long trips for real numbers, sorry, but our 2008 Outback gets noticeably (3-5 mpg?) less when we have a couple of bikes behind it. On the roof is even worse. Without bikes, on 55-60 mph roads we get 28-30 mpg on our car; but that drops to mid 20′s at 75 or 80 mph. The Crosstrek is starting out at a better MPG so Crosstrek + two bikes might be as good as an Outback with no bikes, I don’t know.

        Good review in any case!

  • Francis says:

    >>Francis- what tires are on your cross bike? Nice review of the Subaru!

    Those are Continental Top Contact 32c reflective tires. Just awesome tires for road and trail.

    http://www.everybicycletire.com/shopping/pc-2407-1-700-x-32c-continental-top-contact-reflective-622.aspx

  • Denis Nolan says:

    I have a Subaru Liberty (called Legacy in markets other than Australia) Type R wagon with the 3.0 litre 6 cylinder petrol engine. Two Thule bike racks on the roof and a 2 bike Thule rack for the towbar if needed. With back seats folded, a bike fits inside without removing wheels. It’s bigger and better than my previous Forester GT. Why not the XV? First, it’s gutless. Second, based on the Imoreza floorpan, it’s too small. Third, I’m short and, like the Forester, it’s tall. That makes putting bikes on roofracks and taking them off a pain, plus it reduces the clearance under low roofs, bridges, etc. I just don’t get what most SUVs have to offer over an old-fashioned station wagon, particularly when built on a small floorpan.

  • Denis Nolan says:

    Re Tom’s comment about “modern” electronics: As a smallish manufacturer, Subaru has less to spend on R&D and I think is better for it. My experience is that more electronic gadgetry is just more stuff to go very expensively wrong. Old cars used to rust into oblivion; new ones get scrapped because the electronics go haywire and are prohibitively expensive to repair as the car ages and loses value.

  • Mike says:

    I bought this car less than a month ago. Don’t even have a thousand miles on it yet. I agree with everything in this article. My Mount Vision and my Talon 1 will make it look even better when they are on the roof and I am pulling into Allegrippis. Yeah I have the Orange one and I haven’t heard anyone say abad thing about it yet. Except for my step-son , he doesn’t like the color. His teenage opinion doesn’t count.

  • Mike says:

    P.S.
    BIKES need to be FAST. CARS need to be SLOWED. This car or any car does not need a turbo. DRIVE slower and SAFER and live to ride your bike FAST.

    • Francis says:

      >>BIKES need to be FAST. CARS need to be SLOWED. This car or any car does not need a turbo. DRIVE slower and SAFER and live to ride your bike FAST.

      AMEN brother. A safe, capable and economical car like this will get you to the the trails safely in all conditions.

  • Sylvain vanier says:

    Pontiac Vibe? Our Matrix doesn’t look much different but obviously it’s not lifted. Still looks nice. I’ll keep my Taco though…

  • Brian Barton says:

    I will stick to my modified and lowered 03 WRX! even with it lowered I have no problem with the fire roads getting into where the trail work is and It is easier to put bikes on a roof rack when they are not way over head! Also I like the 340 ponies to the wheels when I feel the need to pass someone on the hwy!

  • pepelepau says:

    I would call that an updated orange PONTIAC VIBE. I am a big fan of MTBR but in this case thumbs down for the car and the review.

  • si says:

    Any vehicle which requires you to carry bikes on the OUTSIDE is not an ideal mountainbikers vehicle. plus there is no where to get changed. A panel van beats this hands down.

  • Tomek says:

    Cool looking car, but Subaru should’ve installed nice XTR drive train, so you can help the poor car get up to speed. While merging onto freeway you will get grey ether from how much time it takes, or how scared you will be with other cars passing you, and drivers showing you their fingers. Otherwise it is awesome car.
    I test drove one not long ago, still looking for THE car.

  • Walt says:

    I ride, snowboard, hunt, fish and hike. I should have a truck to do all that, but I don’t. I have a Subaru (2011 Imp 5-door). This new model makes sense if you ignore the butt-ugly aesthetics… which I can do. But why would anyone buy it with an automatic? You want an auto, get a Buick.

  • DJ says:

    New Forester is way more comfortable and quieter and has a nicer interior to boot. Choices, forget the kids keep the Cooper!

  • Pattongb says:

    Ok article and this is definitely a vehicle im interested in. That being said, if your going to write an article about a cx car for mountain bikers (or bikers in general) you need to include a lot more information. Vital to any decision to a buy a vehicle to support MB’ing are items such as: AC plugs (120V)? Power plugs (the old cigarette lighter kind). Internal heating and lighting options, add on camper tailgate options (if offered), etc etc. Many of us use these vehicles as a transport/camper on excursion and/or racing weekends.

  • eremitt says:

    I bought this car a week and a half ago in Orange, and I love it! Yes, a little more room in the back would have been nice but not worth the $5000 extra dollars to upgrade to a Forester with same add-ons (and besides, there’s no Orange Forester!). I’ve received many jealous looks from other Subaru owners and most guys say it’s “bad ass.” No turbo engine, and no 0-60 in 5 seconds but honestly, I care more about the mpg than how fast it can go. Handles awesome in mud, snow, and bumpy fields – yes I’ve been in all 3 already. Very happy with my choice.

  • eremitt says:

    PS: If you know how to drive it you can accelerate just fine – put it in manual and the car has power.

  • Zachariah says:

    Anything for Audi wagons?

  • jimL13@yahoo.com says:

    needs a bigger motor- especially up here in higher altitudes. Bought a forester instead with a 2.5 liter motor. Sure that Subaru will change powerplants for the Crosstrek in the future

  • honkinunit says:

    Hanging a bike you care about on any bike rack is stupid. Not only is it hammered by the weather (ESPECIALLY hitch racks which get crud kicked off the road onto the bikes), but the risk of theft is simply not acceptable. Here in Boulder bikes are ripped off of car racks all the time, often with damage to the vehicle. Add to that the risk of someone rear ending you with a hitch rack, or bikes being cleaned off a roof rack by a tree, garage, or simply loosening.

    This reality makes a vehicle like this toy a no go. You have to remove the front wheel even from a road bike to fit it inside, and a DH bike simply won’t fit.

    Better to get a pickup with a shell. Lock the bike to the tiedowns in the bed. Alternatively, a 4Runner, Pathfinder or other large SUV is the way to go. Put the bike inside, and LOCK it to a grab handle or secure point inside. Many cars have fold down rear seats now, even sedans. Anything is better than a bike rack that screams “steal me”!

    • Willie says:

      20 years of using bike racks and our family has never had a bike stolen or damaged on the bike rack. Reasons why a hitch rack is a good idea over putting them inside a car:

      1. Keeps a dirty bike out of a clean car.
      2. Leaves space inside the car for storage of other items.
      3. Easier to load.
      4. Can hold more bikes.

      And many others…

      Also, a car like this has better handling and fuel economy than a big SUV.

      • honkinunit says:

        If you have a pickup or SUV, you have plenty of space for “other items” in addition to bikes, and a tray or bed mat catches any dirt. I submit to you that rolling a bike into the back of my 4Runner or pickup is easier than putting it on any rack, and I can carry three bikes layered with cardboard and three people in the 4Runner or five bikes upright in the bed of my truck and FIVE people with no problem. And the “racks” cost me exactly $0.00, have no impact on handling and cause no fuel economy hit. An XV with four bikes on a hitch rack and four people inside is going to handle like crap and get at least 25% worse gas millage. With four people inside, you’ll be lucky if you can fit your helmets and camelbacks in what is left of the cargo area, let alone gear for a weekend trip.

        You’ve never had your bike rained/snowed on? I went to Moab one April when I had a hitch rack. I had to remove the BB when I got there to relube the BB and empty out the water.

        Try parking your car with a rack full of bikes anywhere on the front range of Colorado overnight. If they are still there in the morning, you’ve won the lottery. Locking the bikes to the rack is not a solution, because thieves here will either rip the rack off the car or cut the bars with a sawzall and deal with the lock later. An SUV or pickup allows you to leave your stuff in them overnight without fear of weather or theft, and you don’t have to hunt for a hotel that allows you to bring your bikes inside.

        Hitch racks are good if you don’t mind loading and unloading your bikes four times a day, don’t ever park outside, and never see any weather.

        • Dave says:

          ^Flawed logic there honkie. Anyone who’s going to use a grinder or sawzall on your locked bike/rack isn’t going to give a second thought to breaking your car’s window to unlock a door/hatch and remove your bike from inside your vehicle. Thieves break windows everywhere to steal freakin’ iPods, why would your bikes be any different?

  • Mark says:

    Francis, not sure where you ‘researched’ hitch options, but subaruxvforum has extensive info on hitch receivers. The general favorite (for those who don’t mind the added price) is the torklift eco hitch, which nicely integrates w/ the subaru cut-out on the rear bumper so you get a clean look and added ground clearance. The Curt is a more generic receiver hitch that positions the bike rack lower to the ground and farther out from the car.

    • Francis Cebedo says:

      >>The general favorite (for those who don’t mind the added price) is the torklift eco hitch,

      Now you tell me Mark!!! How much is that?

    • LB412 says:

      Send a note to the guys at Etrailer… they will provide you with several hitch options.

    • Ash says:

      After seeing this post, I research and eventually had this hitch installed on my Crosstrek and it’s awesome! You wouldn’t even know it’s there when the bike rack isn’t on it. Why sacrifice ground clearance when you don’t have to??
      Thanks for the tip.

  • Sylvain says:

    You should have put a 1up USA in ano black. Better than anything else out there…

  • Wayne Ignacio says:

    i have the 2013 impreza sport model… I just followed the video instructions on the Curt website but instead of enlarging the holes, I used a file to grind a portion of the hole big enough for the bolt head and plate to go in. coming from a roof rack, this is more convenient and better gas mileage.

  • jake says:

    are you guys saying that 1up usa is unsecured? need to know that, i’m on market now and that was my first choice (2nd kuat nv core)

  • Mark says:

    I have a 1up USA rack and a 2 inch Torklift Eco receiver on my Crosstrek. Works very well. However, if I know I’m going to be driving on a rough dirt road, I do get out the allen wrench to make sure the expanding ball-lock is nice and tight on the rack mount. BTW the 1up USA instructions suggest attaching a small velcro strap between the hitch and the rack to further guarantee that the rack won’t slide out. Having owned rack w/ bolt-thru-hole and racks with camming/expansion mounts, I prefer the latter.

    • LB412 says:

      Get both with the Kuat NV

    • JP says:

      Mark, I installed the Torklift Eco receiver on my Crosstrek. I’m considering the 1upUSA rack. DId you have to cut the stinger on the 1upUSA?

      Also, do you have the 2″ receiver? If so, does the 1upUSA 2″ adapter work well?

  • Mark says:

    The Crosstrek is a bit underpowered if you are driving steep grades at high altitude. Mine gets regularly driven at 8,000+ ft, and it works fine if you don’t have 4 occupants. I’ve been able to hit 35 mpg on some tankfuls but more typically I’m getting 33 hiway mpg. Surprisingly good for mild off-roading and eroded USFS ‘roads’. The upgraded brakes (from the WRX) are great.

  • minh says:

    the comment about the 1up rack being “not as secure” needs some data to back it up. and “a friend had one fall out” is an anecdote, not data.

  • dude says:

    Very much is underpowered, with me very much disappointed. No getting around it.
    Was all ready to trade in for this (what seemed) awesome car, and after one test drive….no way in hell.
    If you won’t give us the turbo diesel like Europe gets Subie, at least give us the turbo flat four from the Forester. WTF.
    Instead, you have miserably failed, and gone with a hybrid version that gets little-to-no better mpgs, and will end up slower due to increased weight.
    WHAT ARE YOU THINKING SUBARU??? Sigh.

  • LB412 says:

    I have had mine for four weeks. Dropped down from a 2011 Explorer. I have to say I do not miss the bigger car. Last week I loaded myself, wife, 3 10 year old girls, and 5 bikes (Kuat NV 4 bike hitch rack and Vagabond X roof). The car handled it with ease. One note, using a basket style roof rack gives you space for two bikes as well as an extra bag or two (up to 150 lbs). I even loaded 3 bags of mulch up top on Sunday… very useful addition and it did not impact my mileage.

  • Will says:

    I don’t know if you mentioned it, but why did you go with the CVT over the manual?

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