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GOING GREEN: Subaru selects XV Crosstrek for its first-ever hybrid system

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Subaru prides itself on being just a little offbeat.

Consider these examples: All of its engines are “boxer” style as opposed to inline or V-configurations. Subaru claims this permits a lower center of gravity for improved on-road stability.

All of its cars (with one exception, the BRZ sport coupe) are all-wheel drive. If you’re going to take the road less traveled, best have the security of power going to all four wheels.

This latter example readily plays into the carmaker’s marketing strategy of focusing on outdoorsy types and folks living in snow country. A recent trip through the Colorado mountains certified the success of this approach: Every street in every town was clogged with Subarus.

In a continued effort to cement the brand’s enviro image, Subaru has taken its popular compact crossover, the XV Crosstrek, and hybridized the powerplant to create the firm’s first hybrid vehicle, cleverly called the XV Crosstrek Hybrid.

The addition of an electric drive motor, integrated into the continuously variable automatic transmission, bumps up the XV’s power by 12 horsepower and 18 pound-feet of torque over the standard gasoline-only vehicle’s fairly tepid output. Maximum torque, though, is available at 2,000 rpm compared to 4,200 in the gas-only version, so the Hybrid does seem a bit more sprightly.

The Hybrid’s battery pack and attendant equipment add nearly 310 pounds to the regular car’s curb weight. The added poundage does function to give the little crossover a bit more of a planted-to-the-road feel and a smoother highway ride.

174607As for fuel economy, would-be buyers expecting Prius-like parsimony might be disappointed: At 29 mpg city and 33 highway, the Hybrid gains a mere 4 mpg in town while matching the gas-only version’s 33 mpg on the open road.

And the nearly $4,000 premium over a gas-powered Limited needs to be considered: $4K will buy a lot of regular-grade fuel.

Still, the XV Hybrid brings a lot to the table, from its all-wheel-drive capabilities to its surprising utility in a small, nimble package. Add in its comfortable interior, superb visibility, top-notch safety ratings, cheery styling and excellent build quality. And if the “hybrid” badging and unique trim details don’t hammer home the environmental message, the available Plasma Green paint should.