Click to enlarge picture2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid (© Rod Hatfield)

Subaru has improved the feel of the Crosstrek's interior, adding better hood insulation and damping material in the footwells, but cargo room and a spare tire are unfortunate victims of the compromise known as hybrid technology.

Inside there's enough room for five and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat enables the Crosstrek to gobble up all your outdoor gear. That folding rear seat could come in handy; storage drops by 0.8 cubic feet to 21.5 cubic feet with the rear seats up, thanks to the space required for the hybrid system's battery packs. Another casualty of the battery is the spare tire, which is replaced by a tire repair kit.

A cloth interior with heated seats is standard for the base trim, while the Touring receives a nice swatch of leather. Even with the leather treatment we found that some of the interior plastics feel a little cheap, but we're not complaining for a $25,000 car.

On the road
We tested the XV Crosstrek Hybrid in Iceland in the most rugged terrain you could ever picture a Subaru wagon. The all-wheel-drive system performed admirably, though we almost wished for a locking differential for even more aggressive off-roading. At times we found ourselves hood-deep in icy water crossings, and despite the 10 test cars on hand, none flooded. This kind of terrain really put the 8.7 inches of ground clearance to use, and we were happy for every inch.

Subaru had wanted to deliver excellent acceleration; unfortunately, it did not. But then, the non-Hybrid XV is no hustler either, with an 8.1-second zero-to-60-mph time. That's quick enough for the Crosstrek XV to get out of its own way, and you're not buying it to win any drag races, anyway. Still though, a hybrid CVT is depressing when you get on the gas — and this model is no exception.

Bing Videos: 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid

Much of the less than earth-shattering acceleration is attributed to the weight gain of the hybrid system and the noise-reduction actions taken. How much weight does it gain? The changes tipped the scales at 304 pounds, with 200 of that coming from batteries alone.

To compensate for the increased weight Subaru had to beef up the suspension a bit. Luckily, the changes didn't result in a harsher ride. One noticeably pleasant surprise behind the wheel was quicker steering than the gasoline-only variant. In fact, the steering rack is actually quicker than that of Subaru's rally-inspired Impreza WRX STI.

Using the electric motor alone, you can travel about a mile with a top speed of 13 mph. You can actually travel a little faster in EV mode if you're coming down from speed and coasting — it'll kick in at around 25 mph. The transition from EV power to gasoline power is seamless, and the power boost when passing is appreciated, if not necessary. To keep inattentive pedestrians aware of the car's presence when on EV mode, an artificial sound is generated and the pitch and volume change with speed.

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Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy figures come in at 29 mpg city and 33 mpg highway. While the highway numbers (where the hybrid system is seldom used) are no different from the gasoline-only XV, the hybrid shows a 4-mpg jump when driving around town. Highway range drops 70 miles, though, thanks to a smaller 13.7-gallon fuel tank, with around-town range remaining unchanged.

Right for you?
The XV Crosstrek Hybrid base trim will set you back $25,995, with the Touring starting at $29,925 (neither price includes the $825 destination fee). The XV Crosstrek Hybrid is certainly one of the greenest cars you can take off the beaten path, and one that won't leave you stuck when the snow starts falling. And as long as straight-line performance isn't high on your priority list, this could be the car of choice for eco-friendly weekend off-road warriors.

(As part of a sponsored press event, the automaker provided MSN with travel and accommodations to facilitate this report.)

James Tate cut his teeth in the business as a race team crew member before moving to the editorial side as Senior Editor of Sport Compact Car, and his work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Automobile, Motor Trend and European Car. When not writing, Tate is usually fantasizing about a vintage Porsche 911.