Category Archives: Crossover

Tough and Solid as a Subaru – Just a Geeky Middle Kid – The Crosstrek

Check out our YouTube Video of this Subaru Crosstrek.

Subaru Crosstrek PHEV at the Washington DC Auto ShowSubaru has a long history of being a go-anywhere, tough roadworthy car brand. From the early days as DL and GL and before, well maybe not as far back as the tiny 360.  Today, Subaru has any number of choices from sleek sports cars to full-size SUV’s, a Sedan and a choice of  Station Wagons.  All with symmetrical all-wheel drive, which along with their boxer engine are Subaru staples.

 

Subaru CrossTrek PHEV Plugin Hybrid
Subaru CrossTrek PHEV Plugin Hybrid

Then there is that middle child, the Crosstrek. An SUV is a smaller size with plenty of what most people want in an all capable vehicle, large enough on the inside for most uses, in a small footprint.   And this middle kid can get even geekier in the Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) which we had the opportunity to experience for a week driving around for a weekend on the streets of Washington DC.

Subaru Crosstrek PHEV Plugged IN

While the PHEV Crosstrek is more hybrid than EV (Electric Vehicle,) it still provides an intro to the EV lifestyle. Without the range anxiety that a full Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) may give you.  In my use, it provided 15 miles all-electric on a 110v overnight battery charge from my garage outlet.  After the battery was depleted it seamlessly transitioned into gasoline-powered hybrid mode.  What I liked most is that you had your choice of EV or hybrid mode at the push of a button.  Allowing it to be operated in all EV mode or go hybrid, with the gasoline engine engaged. Personally, I like to save the EV driving for someplace special such as in a park or other peaceful place.

Subaru is known for UTILITY

Subaru Crosstrek PHEV Battery under the rear cargo floor
Subaru Crosstrek PHEV Battery under the rear cargo floor

And the Crosstrek is utilitarian, while still being well turned out, tech-forward, and comfortable. Don’t expect plush in any Subaru. Though the Crosstrek has a lot of nice touches like the use of quality materials and the overall interior design. And being a PHEV, there are lots of iridescent blue highlights on the inside, letting you know this is not just any powertrain you are piloting.

Subaru CrossTrek Interior
Subaru CrossTrek Interior with blue accents and stylish seating.

Anything with four-doors and a hatch is all about utility. The Crosstrek carries the battery under the rear cargo area, elevates the hatch floor about four inches from where it would be in a non-PHEV version.  The downside here is that the second-row seatbacks are at a lower point than the hatch floor. Not one long uniform cargo floor when the 2nd-row seats are folded down. The battery takes up space, so if you had a tall box, you could

Subaru Crosstrek loaded with pet supplies
Subaru Crosstrek loaded with pet supplies

have some problem fitting it in the cargo area.  For our use, the higher floor did not impede loading the cargo area. Though we can see it could be taking up valuable space when you really needed those extra inches.  With doors that swing open wide access for loading items through the rear doors is easy.

 

 

 

Driveability

Subaru Crosstrek with items in the cargo area
Subaru Crosstrek with items in the cargo area the rear seats fold down lower than the cargo floor.

When colleagues drove this car, they complained about the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), it did not bother me in the least bit. While in the old days a CVT may have been an issue, being whiny and not very responsive, today Subaru has made it pretty seamless in operation. The Crosstrek had plenty of power in both PHEV and hybrid mode, enough power to propel it down the road and up hills.

Subaru Crosstrek rear seat
Subaru Crosstrek rear seat

Driver and passenger room are plentiful. In our tester, the seats are leather-trimmed in contemporary design and exciting hues. The use of leather may not be what a buyer of a “green vehicle” would choose. Though for pet owners, as Subaru owners tend to be, it tends to be the right choice as other seat coverings can get damaged with claws and nails, as well as troublesome to clean.

Subaru Crosstrek Cockpit
Subaru Crosstrek Cockpit

Crostrek’s interior design is functional and well-tailored. Buttons are where they need to be, and the three screens, the center, the top center, and dash provide plenty of information. The top center screen offers a visual of the hybrid functionality and is an extension of the actual dash screen. While the other screens provide the necessary information that you expect from them.

 

What’s Not To Love

Subaru Crosstrek PlugIn Port
Subaru Crosstrek Plug-In Port

Subaru has a marketing campaign based on Love, so finding things that go against that is not too easy. First of all, the Crosstrek is not plush, while not spartan, it is all Subaru, simple, and to the point. The Crosstrek at times rides like a truck and in our unit, with 9K miles on the odometer, it was a bit noisy, though we expect that noise is a part of the Crosstreck’s character. And yes, the hybrid engine function sometimes sounds like a wood chipper hard at

Subaru Crosstrek dash switches
Subaru Crosstrek dash switches

work.  If you are expecting a more turned out experience the Outback or Legacy or even Forester might be a better choice. Though those models do not come in a battery-powered version. Though we expect they will in the future, as everyone really likes the higher fuel mileage hybrids offer.  Like any Subie, you will get the same experience if you are seated in the front or the rear. This brand creates a complete cabin experience, and not just a nice space up front for the driver, forgetting anyone else is going to ride in the vehicle.

 

Is this EV Drive A FAD?

Subaru Crosstreck PHEV Plugged in at home to a 110v outlet
Subaru Crosstreck PHEV Plugged in at home to a 110v outlet

While the Crosstrek is the only hybrid or EV variant available in the US from Subaru, we doubt that it will be the only one for very long.  EV powertrains are quickly evolving, and the Crosstrek PHEV is an excellent step in the direction.  Especially for those who want to tread lightly on our planet and not burn gasoline to do so. Electric Vehicles can be earth-friendly when not using fossil fuels to produce electrons.  With the ever-growing wind and solar power, it can be a great option for charging. We agree that battery production is hardly earth-friendly.

Subaru Crosstrek Pluged In at a public charger
Subaru Crosstrek Plugged In at a public charger

If you rely on EV Charging stations alone, and not have the hybrid backup, there is that concern of range anxiety. Worrying about where will the next plugin will be, and will it be operational. With the hybrid, you can pretty much find a gasoline station throughout the land.  Having the best of both worlds does give EV ownership a better feel.

 

Why you should buy a Subaru Crosstrek

Subaru Crosstrek PHEV engine
Subaru Crosstrek PHEV engine

EV side, this is a significant step for those looking to upgrade from a smaller hybrid econobox. As this is asymmetrical (which is Subaru’s term) all-wheel drive. If you are looking for a vehicle that is surefooted, rugged, and spacious, this is a good option.

Subaru owners love their cars and return to buy them time and time again.  After passing down their high mileage cars to a friend or family members, or doing a properly reviewed adoption to someone who is also a fan of the brand.  That kind of long-term owner commitment is something that means something.  Ask any Subaru owner, and they will tell you how they will always own a Subaru.

Subaru Crosstrek Engine Oil Filter
Subaru Crosstrek has a gasoline engine which means an oil filter

If you want more room but less attention to detail on the interior check out our review of the Mitsubishi PHEV Outlander.

We thank Subaru and NAV’s for the opportunity to spend a week in this vehicle. Neither provided any compensation other than the loan of the vehicle and the first tank of fuel.

 

Words an images by William West Hopper (unless otherwise noted)

William West Hopper, VIP Tour Guide at the 2019 Washington DC Auto Show. Photo by Bonnie M. Moret
William West Hopper, VIP Tour Guide at the 2019 Washington DC Auto Show. Photo by Bonnie M. Moret

Wiliam West Hopper is a life-long automotive enthusiast who thinks of cars as both an extensions of one’s personality as well as a utilitarian device.  Mr. Hopper has served as local, regional and national leader of the Mercedes-Benz Club of America, and currently serves as President of the Washington Automotive Press Association, a professional automotive media organization based in Washington DC. Mr. Hopper also writes on travel as well as interior design. And is known for an eye for a great consignment or thrift shop, thus authoring a no out of print guide to Washington DC area second-hand stores.

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Cute Perky Fun To Drive – The Nissan Kicks

Nissan Kicks SR Premium
Nissan Kicks SR Premium

Little cars are back in a big way, be it because people do not want to spend a lot, or they do not need much more than fun transportation.  The New Nissan Kicks is now on sale and steps in a field of outdated competitors with a lot of safety, looks, and room for the price.

 

Nissan is known for Sport Utility Vehicles and Crossovers from the larger than life Armada, family hauler, Pathfinder, classic Cross over’s Rogue, Murano and Rogue Sport. Now a little brother has joined the lineup for 2018, the new Nissan Kicks. It is new, and not a replacement for the recently departed Nissan Juke, which is still available in other world markets.

 

What is new with the Kicks?

Nissan Kicks white roof, blue body and blacked out B and C pillar.
Nissan Kicks white roof, blue body and blacked out B and C pillar.

Smart styling and expressive design, with colors that POP out in a quick little four-door hatchback. We love it that automakers are bringing back COLOUR as a major part of the styling of their vehicles. The Kicks has bright, expressive color choices, blacked out pillars and the option of five different two-tone contrasting roof color choices, which brings this small crossover to life. Add Nissan’s Color Studio options which bring about even more excitement to the exterior.  Built on the Versa Note platform, with the signature V-Motion Grill, boomerang lights, and floating roof, this may be a little car on the outside, but on the inside, it is very spacious, even in the back seats with front passengers, and has an amazing amount of cargo room.

 

Intelligent Driving

Nissan Kicks 7 inch screen with an all around camera.
Nissan Kicks 7 inch screen with an all-around camera.

Standard on all trim levels of Nissan Kicks is Automatic Emergency Braking, which you will not find on other small CUV competitors even as an option. Available as an option Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Alert, and Intelligent All-Around View® Monitor, a 360-degree camera option. All safety items you can afford are worth the investment.

 

Nissan Kicks fits the engine in with plenty of room to spare.
Nissan Kicks fits the engine in with plenty of room to spare.

Kicks is a front-engine, front wheel drive platform with Nissan’s 1.6- Liter DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder engine with continuously variable valve timing. Producing 128 horsepower @5800 RPM, 115 lb-ft of torque @ 4000 RPM connected to Nissan’s Xtronic transmission®, a continuously variable transmission (CVT) provides Kicks with class-leading fuel mileage with 31 city, 36 highway, and 33 combined.

https://www.nissanusa.com/experience-nissan/news-and-events/xtronic-cvt-continuously-variable-transmission.html

Independent strut front, multi-link independent rear suspension, both with twin tube shocks and a stabilizer bar provide Kicks a solid ride for a short wheelbase vehicle. All Kicks come with ventilated front disc and rear drum brakes with ABS, Electronic Brake Force Distribution and brake assist.

 

What Drivers and Passengers Will Appreciate & May Not

  • No question the Kick’s easily accessible and visible 7” touchscreen to control the audio. Large symbols make It is easy to read. Some of the drop-down menus can be confusing and hard to find again. To prevent finger smudges a screen protector on the glass, as you can apply to a tablet would be a helpful addition. (This should not be hard to find an item in a local electronics store, custom cutting, installing, and fitting it is the hardest part.)
  • Standard Bluetooth streaming audio with available Apple Car Play and Android Auto is almost a necessity today in any vehicle. Only the front USB port (there are three easily accessible USB ports in the Kicks,) direct wires into that desirable technology.
  • Nissan Kicks Bose Personal AudioBose® Personal Plus Audio System with 360 degrees of immersible sound, available on SR Premium Package. (While it was good, only the driver’s headrest has the built-in speakers. You may want to explore the Rockford Fosgate® Audio System for $595 as an option.) I was not enamored with the Personal Plus’s sound quality, for a Bose system, while it is pretty darn good, I expected it to be a bit better. I did not get to experience the Rockford Fosgate®; the large rear cargo area-mounted sub-woofer is where the optional $195 Cargo Load Floor may interfere with it.
  • While the standard seating upholstery has a diamond pattern stitched in, the more upscale Perma-Tex™ seats have little decoration. To many, the diamond stitching can be perceived as a higher level of trim.
  • The expansive back seat and cargo area is a big plus in a small car; I would want to add $200 interior accent lighting, or the $555 interior electronics package, as it is hard to see the interior door handles and lock and window switches at night with a black interior.
  • While the driver’s seat has a fold-down center armrest, the right front passenger seat does not, nor do we see a spot for an optional one to be attached to the seat back.
  • Closed compartments are not a Kicks thing, there is a glovebox, but the openings on the doors and trays on the center console are open, while you can get $45 optional rubber mats for those.
  • No spare tire, while there is a well under the cargo, it is filled with a Styrofoam block that holds the jack and inflator kit. Weight reduction and quality of the modern Firestone Tires are no doubt a consideration in not providing a spare.
  • The optional $211.29 rear cargo cover and $195 cargo load floor are handy but seem easily damaged or could end up as part of the stash of junk in the garage. Though turning over the cargo load floor it looked useful to hold shopping bags in place, but not if you had the sub-woofer in the back.

 

Money Talks

Nissan Kicks RearThe Nissan Kicks is made in Mexico and the basic model, the S starts at $17,990, $19,690 for the SV, $20,290 for the SR (more of a sports package), and $21,290 for the SR with a premium package that includes the Bose® Personal Plus 8-Speaker sound system, Perma-Tex™ appointed seats, heated front seats, and a security system. A $975 destination charge, taxes and tags. Minus any incentives, you may be offered from the dealer or through an organization you belong to such as AAA, Costco, USAA, or a buying service. The SR Premium model I found most desirable with optional rear sonar, and interior ambient lighting came to $23,720. Build a Nissan Kicks for yourself.

In Conclusion

Nissan Kicks LRKicks are all about fun; this little four-door is a great get up and go vehicle.  While its trendy styling may be more youth-oriented, Fun Grannies and Grandpop will be attracted to this easy to drive, economical, roomy, small crossover. We found it light and easy to drive, with plenty of power and pickup, tight turning radius and great visibility.  The Kicks is a very light vehicle at 2672 lbs curb weight, while it handled well on a hot breezeless summer’s day, I would want to try it on the interstate during a Spring wind.

Check out the Nissan Kicks in person at your nearest Nissan dealer.