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No Frills... No Problem

The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Some of us (me included) are becoming more and more dismayed with many of the products available in the North American automotive market these days. I’m not saying take me back to the 1960s when just about everyone’s car had roll-up windows, manual seat adjustments, 14- or 15-inch wheels, and accident crumple zones that often went all the way to the back seat.

No. The safety stuff is great, although with some cars it seems to be getting to the point where the car does too much of the looking-out for you. In driver-ed they taught us: not to tailgate—now there’s adaptive cruise control that slows you down if the car in front is too close; how to parallel park—now there are vehicles that do it for you; and to check behind and to the side before changing lanes—now there’s a lane departure warning which lets you know if you’re wandering over the line.

So not only does all of this stuff add to the cost of the car, it also makes drivers even lazier than they already are and opens up more opportunities for stuff to break down.

Enter today’s test car: the 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a throwback to another, simpler era, but I was pleasantly surprised to climb in, sit down, and not face a dashboard which could only be deciphered with an owner’s manual. This compact crossover greeted me with a radio that I already knew how to use just by looking at it. The HVAC controls worked the same way as the ones on my 1998 Mazda Protege—a fan switch, a temperature dial (blue = colder, red = warmer), and another dial for where to direct the conditioned air. Thank you, Subaru. When I went to move the driver’s seat back to stretch my legs, I reached down on the side of the seat and found…nothing. Reaching underneath the front of the seat, there was the familiar mechanical lever, which I lifted and proceeded to simply slide the seat. These are things that when I was selling cars had a high appeal level for many buyers.

The XV is a thoroughly modern car, though. Climbing in to the Marine Blue Pearl example at Northtown Subaru, I slid onto the Ivory cloth driver’s seat and noticed that the leg, hip, and head room were all excellent. The shifter in the center console was handy (a five-speed manual is standard in the base model only, while a CVT is a $1,000 option), and the ever-important cupholders were abundant for the two front seat passengers, with one each in the console and each door. The somewhat high beltline didn’t seem to hamper outward visibility much, and although it was easy climbing in the front, the wheelwell takes up a large chunk of real estate in the rear door openings. The hatchback is easy to open and close, and the rear cargo floor is almost level with the opening, making loading and unloading rather simple.

Styling doesn’t break any ground, but isn’t objectionable. I don’t care for the rather busy-looking wheel design, though. I will however, give kudos to a couple of the color choices: a rather vivid Tangerine Orange, and a very rugged-looking Desert Khaki.

All XV Crosstreks are powered by Subaru’s legendary Boxer engine (where the pistons travel horizontally instead of up and down), which drives all four wheels via Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive system. EPA estimates are 25/33 miles per gallon city/highway, and Subaru claims that this makes the XV “the most fuel efficient AWD Crossover in America.” XV starting prices are $21,995 for the Premium series and $24,495 for the more upscale Limited.

Back to the 1960s? Hardly. But a nice respite just the same.

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Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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