Subaru has always boasted solid eco-conscious credentials, from its zero-landfill factories to its partial-zero emission vehicles. Everything fits neatly into an image of a conscientious company creating efficient cars that help drivers to commune with nature. You just need to forget about the crazy fun WRX STI for a second.
Up to this point, however, Subaru has not been known for its robust alternative-fuel powertrain offerings. They’ve dabbled in hybrid and electric technology in concept vehicles and production models for the Japanese domestic market, but the only hybrid the company ever brought to America was the underwhelming 2014 Crosstrek Hybrid, which lasted all of two years.
For 2019, Subaru gets a little more serious about alternative powertrain technology with the introduction of a Subaru Crosstrek with a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) powertrain the company calls StarDrive. Subaru doesn’t emphasize the plug-in part, either, simply referring to this vehicle as the Crosstrek Hybrid.
Baby Steps, Subaru
The Crosstrek Hybrid is based on the Crosstrek 2.0i Limited and shares its impressive 8.7 inches ground clearance. Combined with standard all-wheel drive, clearly this is a plug-in with real adventuring potential.
What separates the two is the Crosstrek Hybrid’s StarDrive powertrain. It pairs a gas-fired 2.0-liter 4-cylinder “boxer” engine with two electric motors to make an estimated 148 total horsepower.
The electric motors, powered by an 8.8-kWh lithium-ion battery, allow the Crosstrek Hybrid to travel up to 65 mph on electricity alone, and for a total of 17 miles. The official EPA rating is 90 MPGe in combined driving.
If you know PHEVs, then you know these are unimpressive numbers. Subaru collaborated with Toyota on the hybrid tech, and in the Prius Prime the system suffers similar speed and range limitations. So, baby steps, Subaru, baby steps.
But they are steps nonetheless. In spite of swapping the standard Crosstrek’s 16.6-gallon gas tank with one supplying 13.2 gallons of capacity, the automaker claims Crosstrek Hybrid will provide up to 480 miles of range on one tank of gas and a fully charged battery. And if you’re like me, you hate stopping at gas stations more than is necessary.
There are several ways to drive a Crosstrek Hybrid. For example, you can save battery power for use at a specific time and place. Or you can use the battery power and switch to Battery Charge Mode, directing the gasoline engine to constantly replenish the battery, which provides a 33% charge in about 30 minutes. Or you can drain the battery in electric mode and then operate the car as a hybrid, enjoying a bump in fuel efficiency. The battery also captures energy when the vehicle is braking and coasting.
To get a fully charged battery, though, you’ll need to plug the Crosstrek Hybrid in. That will take about 5 hours using a Level 1 120-volt power source, like a typical household electrical outlet. With a Level 2 240-volt charger, Subaru says it will take 2 hours to obtain a full charge.
Plenty of Creature Comforts
Because it is based on the Crosstrek’s top-level Limited trim, the Crosstrek Hybrid is full of standard comfort and tech features, such as leather upholstery, automatic climate control, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot.
Subaru also supplies a Charge Finder app that helps you locate nearby public charging stations, and to check rates, charge-port compatibility, and hours of operation.
Safety and Subaru are synonymous, so you also get a full array of active safety technologies gathered together under the EyeSight umbrella. They include adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist.
Additionally, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and a reverse automatic braking system are included with every Crosstrek Hybrid. An option package adds a heated steering wheel, a power sunroof, navigation, and a Harman Kardon premium sound system.
If there is a downside to the Crosstrek Hybrid, aside from its price tag, the battery system reduces cargo capacity compared to a regular Crosstrek. Behind the rear seats, volume decreases from 20.8 cu.-ft. to 15.9 cu.-ft., while folding the rear seat gets you 43.1 cu.-ft., down from 55.3 cu.-ft.
Price Hike, and Price Drop
Choosing the Crosstrek Hybrid will cost an extra $7,800 more than a comparably equipped, conventionally powered Crosstrek 2.0i Limited, starting at $35,970 (including the $975 destination fee). But government freebies help to take some of the sting out of the sticker price.
The federal government gives people who buy the Crosstrek Hybrid a tax credit of up to $4,500, and various states and municipalities might offer additional rebates. California, for instance, will kick in an additional $1,500. Subaru also estimates that you’ll save about $350 per year in gas, so hey, this little SUV will ultimately save you money…eventually.
Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a small, all-wheel-drive, crossover SUV with a plug-in hybrid powertrain, you have two choices for 2019: the Mini Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 and the 2019 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid.
For serious adventuring off the beaten path, the choice is clear.