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A hybrid SUV doesn’t have to be boring

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2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid

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Leave it to Subaru to turn the fun-killing combination of a hybrid power plant and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) into a vehicle that won’t have you pounding the steering wheel in frustration after tagging the gas pedal and getting a “are you serious?” response.

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New for 2014, Subaru’s XV Crosstrek Hybrid features the Japanese automaker’s first stab at the gas-electric combination, and the result is what you might expect from the quirky company that can turn innocent little sedans like the Impreza into performance monsters like the WRX and WRX STI.

The Crosstrek Hybrid may not send neck-snapping jerks up the driver’s spine at takeoff, but it doesn’t have to be nudged awake first before answering the call for some more oomph. And it doesn’t emit the customary hybrid whine when slowing to a stop either.

The hybrid version of the crossover combines a 2.0-liter, horizontally opposed or boxer four-cylinder engine with an electric motor that boosts horsepower to a total of 160 or 12 more than in the model introduced for 2013. Torque is up to 163 (18 more than the gas engine alone) with max torque kicking in at just 2000 rpm.

When it comes to passing or maneuvering through urban traffic, the Crosstrek Hybrid, then, is more than up to the challenge. To enhance response, the driver can “shift” the CVT, using paddle switches to keep the transmission essentially operating in a “lower gear” with higher revs.

That power, however does come at a cost. EPA mileage figures for the Crosstrek Hybrid are 29 city, 33 highway and a combined 31. With the CVT, the non-hybrid Crosstrek is rated at 25/33/28, a mere 3 mpg difference.

Of course, the drivetrain isn’t the only thing the Crosstrek Hybrid has going for it.

As customary with the Subaru lineup, the Crosstrek comes with the company’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system that gives the Hybrid some off-road capability, as demonstrated at the media introduction of the vehicle over the terrain of Iceland. The Hybrid retains the 8.7-inch ground clearance of the non-hybrid Crosstrek, which also helps it handle off-the-pavement treks.

When it comes to creature comforts, the Crosstrek Hybrid is quieter than its gasoline predecessors and features a lot of nice standard touches such as a automatic climate control, rearview camera, and an all-weather package that features heated front seats and outside mirrors and front-wiper de-icers.

The Crosstrek Hybrid Touring model adds leather seats, a power moonroof, and a navigation system.

Both the Crosstrek Hybrid and non-hybrid Crosstrek models seat five passengers, and the Hybrid offers slightly less cargo space than the gas model. With the second-row seats are folded in the Crosstrek Hybrid, max stowage is 50.2 cubit feet to 51.9 in the gas model. With the seats up, the Hybrid’s cargo volume is 21.5 cubic feet, the gas model’s 22.3.

Pricing for the Crosstrek Hybrid starts at $26,820, including the destination and delivery charge, and the extra features in the Hybrid Touring model jacks that up to $30,120. The standard XV Crosstrek starts at $22,820 (with a five-speed manual transmission) to $25,320 for the top-of-the-line Crosstrek Limited with a CVT.

For a glance at the Crosstrek Hybrid and some more specs, check out the slide show.

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