Drive: Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid impresses

Is Subaru’s latest entry in the hybrid segment, based on the 2019 Crosstrek compact hatchback, more desirable than the conventional Crosstrek? With gasoline prices creeping above $3 a gallon, it just might be. For drivers with relatively short commutes and occasional treacherous weather, the all-wheel-drive Crosstrek Hybrid’s assets make it the Crosstrek of choice.

To begin with the math questions, the lavishly equipped Crosstrek Hybrid costs nearly $8,000 more than the similarly loaded Crosstrek Limited. But Uncle Sam provides a $4,500 tax credit, and Connecticut’s rebate program chips in $500. So the hybrid price premium drops to less than $3,000.

Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid

Meanwhile, the conventional Crosstrek is rated at 29 mpg; the plug-in hybrid, 35 — and 90 miles per gallon equivalent when driven in electric-vehicle (EV) mode. A short commute and a light foot, coupled with the presence of a charging station near the workplace, can add up to virtually no gasoline consumption for weeks at a time.

We were unable to exploit the plug-in system’s maximum benefit. After charging the Crosstrek at home overnight, we were able to drive the first 15 miles to work in EV mode…as long as we didn’t go above 65 mph. (The gasoline engine kicks in at higher speeds.) Although we were unable to recharge the car at work, we exceeded 40 mpg for the round trip, even with the return trip conducted mostly in hybrid, not EV, mode.

The base Crosstrek Hybrid starts at $34,995. Our test car had a sticker price of $38,470 because it came with an option package that included a power moonroof, heated steering wheel, navigation system, premium audio system and more. With a long list of standard safety and comfort features, the Crosstrek Hybrid was not far short of luxury status.

Subaru may not have long experience in the hybrid sector, but its engineers have done a good job of removing the quirks some hybrids exhibit. For example, the Crosstrek Hybrid has regenerative braking, but the feel of the brakes is entirely conventional, and they stop the car straight, short and true. The gasoline engine comes into play with a smooth purr, not a roar or a jerk. And the car’s interior materials and overall feel did nothing to imply the manufacturer was trying to keep the weight down, something we’ve noticed in other hybrids we’ve driven. Instead, the Crosstrek Hybrid felt solid and substantial throughout.

On the minus side, the hybrid version has significantly less cargo room than the conventional Crosstrek because of the space taken by the lithium-ion battery. The Crosstrek’s considerable off-road capability is diminished by its lack of a spare tire. Instead, it has a tire-repair kit. Also, we noticed road feel — especially on the highway, when the front wheels are centered — is practically nonexistent, causing us to overreact to small deviations in the road or the car’s path.

The similar 2018 Crosstrek was rated a Top Safety Pick Plus by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

2019 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid

Price: $38,470

Engine: 2.0-liter horizontally opposed Four with two motor generators, combined 148 horsepower, 134 and 149 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: Lineartronic continuously variable automatic

Drive: all-wheel

Weight: 3,726 lb.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, double-wishbone rear

Ground clearance: 8.7 inches

Wheels: 18-in. lightweight alloy wheels, black with machine finish

Tires: 225/55R18 H all-season

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 15.9 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 43.1 cu. ft.

Towing capacity: 1,000 lb.

Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons

Fuel economy: 35 mpg/90 mpg

Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline; 120V or 240V electric recharge

Steven Macoy (semacoy@gmail.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel.