Subaru Crosstrek first drive: first XV, but now it's called something new

David Linklater
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The crossover/SUV version of the Subaru Impreza has had a number of lives. From the turn of the century it was called the Outback Sport in some markets, then the Impreza RV (which was sold in New Zealand for just a few months, prior to a 2012 model change), then the XV.

And now it’s the Crosstrek for Kiwi buyers, which sounds cooler and does in fact rationalise some of this global badging chaos; the XV Crosstrek name was used in the US and Canada from 2012, before becoming simply Crosstrek in 2016.

It’s not just the badge that’s new. This is a substantial model refresh and although the previous model’s platform and basic powertrains are essentially carried over, everything major you can see and touch has been reshaped.

It looks rather good, actually; Subaru has ramped up the chunky exterior plastic bits even more, including angular wheelarch flares that are very similar to those on the latest Outback.

The Hybrid is not necessarily a no-brainer over the standard petrol.

Inside, the new dashboard is dominated by an 11.6in portrait touch screen (Outback again) that’s the conduit for some new stuff like wireless phone projection (wire mobile charging is standard, too) and, on the higher-spec models, a four-camera panoramic parking assistant.

It’s 2023, so hybrids now dominate the range. The price-leading model from the previous lineup is gone; the entry point is now the $46,990 Crosstrek Hybrid (aka “e-Boxer”), with a 2.0-litre 110kW/196Nm engine, 12.3kW/66Nm electric motor, Subaru’s Lineartronic continuously variable transmission with 7-step mode and AWD with Subaru’s X-Mode drive settings.

Subaru NZ argues genuine off-tarmac ability still sets the Crosstrek apart from rival compact SUVs.

The petrol-only model is now stuck in the middle: the Crosstrek Premium is $48,990 and offers the same 2.0-litre engine, but with 115kW/196Nm and an 8-step Lineartronic setup.

Then comes the Hybrid Premium at $51,990: same powertrain as the entry model and same equipment level as the petrol Premium.

The entry Hybrid is hardly lacking, with Subaru’s latest Eyesight safety system that doubles the field of vision compared with the previous model, and sporting new features like lane centring and front-side radar.

But the pair of Premiums add a number of desirable equipment items including a fancier dual-level X-Mode system, Front View Monitor, self-levelling LED headlights with cornering function and High Beam Assist, Side View Monitor, heated mirrors, sunroof, 18in wheels, leather upholstery with heated front seats and power lumbar, and a gruntier Harman Kardon audio system. It’s a fairly impressive step up, even for the $5000, ahem, premium for the Premium model.

The Hybrid is not necessarily a no-brainer over the standard petrol. Based on experience of the previous model we’d argue it’s a better drive (we haven’t yet tried the new Crosstrek Hybrid, only the regular petrol), but it’s $3000 more and the fuel economy gains aren’t massive, based on the NEDC figures supplied by Subaru NZ: 6.5l/100km compared with 7.2l/100km for the regular 2.0.

Both powertrains are currently in the Clean Car Discount zero band (so no rebate/fee), but after July they’ll both attract penalties.

There’s been slightly more early interest in the Hybrid, says Subaru (60 per cent), but the company has better supply of the petrol.

We’ve had a quick spin in that model and as with the previous XV, it’s a great mix of supple ride and a chassis that’s very responsive to the throttle. Lineartronic is one of the best of the continuously variable transmission breed and the 8-step mode works really well on winding roads.

Subaru NZ argues genuine off-tarmac ability still sets the Crosstrek apart from rival compact SUVs; we didn’t head off the sealed stuff on our preview drive (well, not on purpose), but on paper the 220mm ground clearance and bespoke X-Mode drive settings certainly look like good support for the Subaru’s adventure-credentials.

It's a pretty big deal for Subaru NZ. There's a pretty substantial carpark of XVs in the country: around 7000 Kiwi-new cars and more like 20,000 if you count the used imports.

To answer another potential question, the closely related Impreza hatchback is indeed alive and well, albeit now an infrequent visitor to Kiwi showrooms. There’s a new model, with similar styling cues to the Crosstrek, and it will potentially be sold here in future months, albeit in small batches (as Subaru NZ has done with the model in the past) and sans petrol-electric tech. But it’s an SUV world and a hybrid world... maybe.

ENGINES: 2.0-litre boxer petrol four or 2.0-litre e-Boxer with hybrid system and electric motor
POWER: 115kW/196Nm (2.0) or 110kW/196Nm petrol plus 12.3kW/66Nm electric (e-Boxer)
GEARBOX: Lineartronic continuously variable transmission with 8-step (2.0) or 7-step (e-Boxer) mode, AWD
CONSUMPTION: 7.2l/100km (2.0) or 6.5l/100km (Hybrid), all figures NEDC
PRICES: $46,990-$51,990


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