When it comes right down to it, there’s really nothing more practical than a station wagon for hauling people and things. The ride, handling, and efficiency of a sedan, but with extra cargo space in the back.
The problem can be that many people don’t think of wagons as cool, and coolness sometimes rules when it comes to automotive purchases. That’s why SUVs became the rage back in the 1990s, as the children of baby boomers wanted something that wasn’t a station wagon.
What if you could have a station wagon, but with some of the vibe of a sport utility vehicle? For the 2013 model year, you can. Subaru has introduced a vehicle that’s the best of both worlds, the XV Crosstrek.
Essentially, the Crosstrek is an Impreza 5-door wagon, which is a good thing. Recently redesigned, the Impreza is one of those great unsung heroes of the automotive world. It doesn’t always get the attention, but it almost always gets the job done. Special emphasis was placed on efficiency with the latest example, as most every buyer in the marketplace these days is watching those fuel economy numbers.
Add in a dose of ruggedness in the appearance department, and the Impreza becomes the XV Crosstrek. The ride height is lifted a bit, and there are tough-looking composite flares around the wheel openings. Up top is a burley set of roof rails to accommodate outdoor “lifestyle” equipment like kayaks and mountain bikes.
So the looks are covered, especially when you throw in a handsome set of aluminum wheels that look kind of modern and retro at the same time. The XV Crosstrek has a tough and chunky stance that the Impreza lacks.
But this is a truly civilized on-road vehicle at the same time, with the typical road manners of any modern Subaru. As a daily runaround and commuting car, it does very well, offering comfort and space in a tidy package.
Under the hood is the familiar Subaru “boxer” engine – four cylinders arranged in a flat configuration, like that of a Porsche sports car or the original VW Beetle. Displacing 2.0 liters in this instance, the engine puts out a modest 148 horsepower, which moves the Crosstrek very well. The payoff to the reasonable engine size is beyond-reasonable fuel efficiency. Subaru boasts that the 33 mpg highway figure is best-in-class.
The proof of whether a car like this is up to snuff is to fill it with people. I did just that one evening with my wife and another couple on board for a trip “over the hill” from the Valley toWest Hollywoodfor dinner. That meant putting the interior space and horsepower to the test, climbing through fairly steep canyons each direction. Plenty of room and plenty of power.
If you were to take the XV Crosstrek on a more adventurous journey off road, it should shine there too. Standard equipment includes Subaru’sSymmetrical All Wheel Drivesystem, which works with either the standard 5-speed manual or CVT automatic transmission. You wouldn’t take this little wagon over huge rocks and deep ruts, but it can handle snow or mud just fine.
Considering it has a fairly reasonable base price ($21,995), the little Crosstrek should sell pretty well. It comes with a lot of standard items (heated seats, for example) and can be optioned up with luxury things too. The high-end Limited model ($24,495) even has leather interior. My test car was the base model with the optional Moonroof and Navigation Package, which adds $2000 to either trim level, and includes other little nuggets of technology like a rear-view camera.
Subaru has carved out an interesting niche for itself with this wagon/SUV combination. The only other company offering something like it right now is Audi with its allroad model, but that’s about twice the price of the Subie. Look for XV Crosstreks to soon be traversing canyon roads near you.
I’ll see you down the road.
Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ pacbell.net Twitter: @dave_kunz, Facebook: ABC7Dave