Track Quickie: Subaru Impreza XV Crosstrek

Does the XV Crosstrek have any chops on the track? Well, maybe some.

In 2012, the Subaru Impreza got a cousin, a close sister if you will. A tall, do-it-all, stilted machine to fight alongside its car-in-every-way brethren. That car was the XV Crosstrek. You get everything you have in the regular Impreza (all-wheel-drive, hatch, wheels of some sort), but lifted and beefy-lookin’ (and more standard kit)! Like a Japanese Volvo Cross Country.

But, hmm, yeah, not quite. The XV Crosstrek took an already slow Impreza and made it slower, the CVT transmission means no performance intention ever, and interior space is identical. “Okay, but Alex, this car is easier to get in and out of!”. Yes! It is! Anything more than that is moot. The nearly $5,000 premium over the Impreza gets you three inches of ground clearance and a little more standard equipment. That $5,000 premium could put you in many better cars that are easier to get in and out of than the standard Impreza, but that’s none of my business.

My business was how the XV did around a small track. I mean small. Like 30 seconds long small. But, indicative of how the car reacts nonetheless. The first thing I noticed about this Subaru was what I didn’t notice. The transmission. Yes, that CVT unit. It kind of falls into the background like a MacBook that isn’t running any intense processes at the time. And, like that MacBook, when the going gets tough, the transmission gives us its all. The XV’s paltry 148 hp 4-cylinder feels slower than it does on paper, granted it has 3,207 lbs. (1455 kg) to haul around. And yet, the CVT does a great (no sarcasm) job of keeping every inch of useable power at your disposal. And then we started turning…

Steering feel is… numb. Numb steering doesn’t have to be the end of the world, though. The steering in my Mustang is not numb, it’s plain dead, and it still does a solid job. The XV’s steering doesn’t provide as much feel as a Nissan Juke or a Mazda CX-3 (hint, I drove those on this same course), but it is definitely tighter than either and gets the car turning with less effort. For city driving, then, the XV receives a plus. It even was the easiest to get around the track in a hurry, as far as steering input was concerned. Even with tires that were, well, shot, the XV did an impressive job of keeping the line. Even with tons of tire squeal, there was no noticeable loss of grip. Brakes were more suited to city driving than any track work, of course.

The seats on this car were decent, I didn’t feel like I was sliding around all over the place during hard cornering. The interior is drab and dull, which is expected of a Subaru such as this one. While I realize how dumb it sounds putting this car on the track and expecting it to perform, I’ve always had a higher expectation from a Subaru (disclosure, this is my first Subaru drive other than a totally destroyed 90s Legacy wagon for about 100 feet). Oh well. Kind of wonder what the “mild” hybrid version is like. You shouldn’t be hearing those words come out of my mouth…

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Alex is an automotive journalist from Montreal, Canada since 2008. He is certifiably addicted and doesn’t think of anything but cars. Driving is his drug. He also occasionally suffers from bouts of afro hair.