While the rugged and reliable Subaru brand has become positively ubiquitous in snowy lands since the 1970s, there’s been one alarming trend: The cars have become less and less weird in recent years, much to the dismay of iconoclastic tweakers with their Mad River Glen bumper stickers.
Fear not: Suby knows that its core audience likes to stand out from the crowd. Its new XV Crosstrek—a modified Impreza you started to see last winter, optionally outfitted in a blazing pumpkin-orange paint job—certainly fills the bill. And at just under $23,000, it’s totally affordable, especially compared to equally strange bedfellows such as the very spendy Mini Paceman and Countryman.
The Crosstrek is winter-lifestyle motoring at its finest. That starts with higher clearance—8.7 slush-busting inches. There are new, cool-looking silver-outlined wheels, standard roof rails, and a list of body modifications, including almost pontoonlike bumper pads on the corners.
The aggressive styling might suggest that there’s a pavement-smoking WRX STI engine under the hood. But no, it’s just the Impreza’s regular, rock-solid, 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter Boxer four-cylinder, so long, uphill slogs like Loveland Pass will require low gears and plenty of juice.
But the Crosstrek is no slouch in deep snow—or on summertime dirt-road camping jaunts—where its symmetrical all-wheel drive keeps it well grounded. And, on the whole, it cruises along more comfortably than, say, a gangly four-door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited.
Later this fall, Subaru promises a hybrid version of the Crosstrek with an electric motor and a nickel and metal-hydride battery helping to push mileage way past its already admirable 33 highway mpg.
» Subaru XV Crosstrek
Base Price: $22,790
Highway mpg: 33
Ski-trip nicety: Easy to spot in crowded lots