2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid, the Iceland experience: Motoramic Drives
In Iceland, there’s a legend of men (and a couple of women) who came from far away to seek adventure, driving cars up volcanic slopes and into frozen rivers. Subaru summoned us for this task, and we answered like a herd of mountain sheep. We flew to the island inside great metal birds, soaked in hot springs like happy trolls, ate whale and horse, and, more than once, almost drove off a mountain during a blizzard.
The cars were all-new XV Crosstrek Hybrids, the first hybrid model made by Subaru. Frankly, the hybrid Crosstrek could have just as easily been showcased at a Colorado off-road park or Dallas mall parking lot, but Subaru’s enjoying a great sales boom in North America, and felt like celebrating someplace exotic. They thought Iceland would be a fun place to showcase the Crosstrek’s all-wheel-drive versatility.
The drive was supposed to occur in September, but the cars weren’t ready yet. October passed, and still the Crosstreks didn’t appear on Iceland’s shores. Then, two days before we were scheduled to arrive, during the first week of November, Iceland got its first major winter storm, setting the scene for a treacherous voyage into the heart of an icy doomscape that even the most arrogant explorers would have avoided.
But on the trip’s first day, the weather held, more or less. The Arctic winds blew at a modest 40 mph through the moss-covered lava flatlands. This offered our best chance to evaluate the actual strengths and weaknesses of the vehicle, which was, putatively, the reason that we’d flown halfway across the Atlantic.
We drove our Crosstreks along dirt and gravel roads cut out of lava fields, dumping fuel and rubber into a low-flowing river that we crossed at least two-dozen times. It was only moderately harsh off-roading, but the Crosstrek’s AWD system handled everything smoothly. The Crosstrek offered modest amenities, an average rear storage capacity, and extra fuel economy thanks to a small, 0.6 kWh nickel-hydride battery, which were popular in Toyota Prius hybrids ten years ago, but now seem dated compared with the lithium-ion industry norm.
These small vehicles are inexpensive by current car industry standards, starting at $25,000-plus. Fully-loaded, they’ll run a little more than $30,000, which is a little more than they should cost. Subaru promises they’ll get 29 mpg city/33 mpg highway, which seems possible. That would put them at the top of their narrow hybrid sub-segment, though at the bottom of the hybrid segment overall, and only about 2 mpg more combined than the non-hybrid Crosstreks.