When we had the opportunity to try the 2019 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid on the rocky, dusty trails above Santa Monica, it had us excited to try it on our crumbling Michigan roads. Luckily, the arrival of Subaru's first plug-in vehicle to the Autoblog office coincided with a powerful snowstorm followed by subzero temperatures, and then some serious freezing rain to cap off our week with it. Perfect Subaru weather.
The new Crosstrek Hybrid may share a nameplate with the discontinued conventional hybrid, but this one features a plug-in hybrid powertrain borrowing technology from Toyota. It features two electric motors — one to propel the vehicle, the other acting as a starter/generator. Together with its 2.0-liter, four-cylinder boxer engine, this PHEV gets a combined 148 horsepower, and is actually a full second quicker from 0-60 than the ICE-only Crosstrek. With an 8.8-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, it offers a modest 17 miles of all-electric driving, but an overall range of 480 miles.
Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore: This is a solid execution of the modern hybrid. The price is reasonable. The range (17 miles of EV travel) is usable. Go where you need to go. Charge up. You're good. It's attractive, inside and out. I love the Lagoon Blue Pearl paint. The cabin is comfortable and laid out nicely, and the blue stitching and pleasing leather elements dress things up.
As expected, the Crosstrek is solid in the snow and ice. I had no trouble navigating the messy roads when much of the rest of the world was snowed in. The infotainment is smart. It's part of a $2,500 option that also adds the moonroof and heated steering wheel. It's worth it. I already like the Crosstrek. If it were my money, I'd go for hybrid variant.
Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder: A night and a morning in the Crosstrek Hybrid on Michigan roads only confirms what I decided when I drove it in California two months ago: I dig this car. It's quiet, it's economical, it's capable, it's good-looking. There are only two downsides that I see.
First is the cargo area behind the rear seats. It's pretty small. The battery pack raises the load floor a few inches above the bumper height. That doesn't seem like a lot, but when you realize how high it already is, taking out those few extra inches means it's not only harder to fit large items back there, it's harder to load and unload them at that height.
I love the @subaru_usa Crosstrek Hybrid, but here's one of the drawbacks of the plug-in powertrain. Is it really that bad, though? See for yourself. @therealautoblog @AutoblogGreen pic.twitter.com/r8Ttm808Fl — John "The Detroit Moustache" Snyder (@jbeltzsnyder) January 17, 2019
The second drawback is that it's not quick. I had trouble getting up to highway speeds in it. Then, if I wanted to pass someone, I had to wait for a pretty big gap in the left lane to make my move, lest I slow down others behind me as I clamber up to passing speed. Luckily, partway through my drive home, I remembered the 'S' button for the SI-Drive, which is essentially a sport mode. Hit that, and the car feels a lot less sluggish, and far more responsive. Back in town, to save energy, I hit the 'I' (for Intelligent) button, and there's ample oomph for zipping around town mostly under electric power.
Associate Editor Joel Stocksdale: I really love this thing. It's not necessarily the best in any one particular category, but it's a thoroughly great all-around car. The powertrain is pretty smooth, particularly when transitioning from electric to gas power. It rides smoothly and quietly with refinement unusual for this class. It has quick steering and a nimble, if slightly roly-poly chassis. The interior is really spacious with great visibility, and there are lots of adjustment for seating whether you want to sit high or low. I love the available colors, too, such as the pearl blue paint and navy blue and gray leather. It also looks genuinely attractive, and not just compared with other hybrids and EVs.
My only real complaint with it is the cost, particularly weighed with its efficiency. Before a federal EV tax credit of $4,500, the Crosstrek Hybrid starts at $35,970. For that money, you get a small crossover that will go 17 miles on electricity, and get 35 mpg on gas. Its most direct competitor is the Kia Niro PHEV small crossover, which starts at $29,495 before incentives. It can go 9 miles farther on electricity, and it gets 11 more mpg on gasoline. It doesn't feel quite as refined, but it's arguably sportier feeling.
The Subaru's price tag also puts it in competition with efficiency heavyweights, the Clarity PHEV and Volt. The Clarity starts at $34,320 before incentives, and it will go 48 miles on a charge while getting 42 mpg when switching to gas. The Volt starts at $34,395 before incentives and will go 53 miles on electricity with the same gasoline economy as the Honda. Both are quite refined, too.
Even so, for its well-rounded nature and styling that anyone can love, the Crosstrek is well worth consideration. Plus, it's the only vehicle of those I mentioned to have all-wheel drive. So if that's a necessity, you've found your option, and it's a nice one.