This is a review that folks at Mitsubishi Canada will be partially happy to read. Over the last three years, I’ve done nothing but give the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV a hard time, stating that it’s a pointless exercise and that I don’t buy into the Plug-In-Hybrid cool-aid.
Now, although I’ve found some PHEVs to be to my liking, including the Honda Clarity and the BMW 740Le, the new 2020 Subaru Crosstrek PHEV does not fall in the “like” column. No, it joins the Outlander as a waste of money and effort. There is, however, a massive difference.
Quebec Only, For Now (And Probably For Ever)
The Subaru Crosstrek is a brilliant crossover. It’s got styling, capability, drivability, technology and more going for it. The regular Outlander offers but very little of these aspects. Where they both fail is in convincing me that they merit roughly $10,000 more of your hard-earned dollars.
Subaru Canada figured that this would be the case from the onset. Why else would they select to sell the Crosstrek PHEV in Quebec only? La Belle Province is known for its rather more conservative car-buying habits (size-wise mostly) and it was among the first territories to widely embrace electrified vehicles. Along with still generous incentives from the Provincial government, coupled to Federal incentives, the compact Crosstrek PHEV should sell well enough.
The Subaru Crosstrek Is Still Superb
And it probably will relatively-speaking because it’s a Subaru Crosstrek. Even though this small car now has a battery in the boot and an electric motor, it’s still very much a Subaru. The Limited PHEV’s got 220mm of ground clearance and importantly retains the Crosstrek’s styling which differentiates it from all other compact crossovers. Unique to the PHEV are the 18-inch wheels you see in the images, the shorter roof rails, rocker-rail cladding, badges and LED lights all around.
Onboard, it’s also all Crosstrek with tops in features and equipment. The seats are leather-covered, there’s an 8-inch screen through which satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Subaru’s Starlink connected services can be accessed.
Priced To Not be Worth It
So far, so good then. The tune changes when you learn that Subaru wants $42,495 for the Limited PHEV. The non-hybrid Limited Crosstrek retails for $33,895 or $8,600 less. This is the price of the electric motor and battery.
The advantage of a PHEV over a normal hybrid is the electric-only range. In the Crosstrek’s case, said range is 27km. Let’s consider the other costs, other than the $8,600 fee, that these 27km entail.
Electric Technology vs. The Weight
One, the Crosstrek PHEV tips the scale at 450lbs more than the regular car. Two, the 8.8 kWh battery sits in the trunk and takes up, on paper, 141 litres of useable volume rendering what remains no more useful than what you’d find in a subcompact car. And three and perhaps the most insulting of all is fuel economy. In the real world where there are highways, cold temperatures, snow, traffic, and whatnot, the 2020 Subaru Crosstrek PHEV’s returned fuel consumption average is 6.7L/100km, or about 1L/km less than the all-petrol Crosstrek.
Less important, for some, is that the Crosstrek is no quicker or more powerful than the regular car. Many hybrids boast better acceleration and power numbers than their non-electrified brethren. The Subaru Crosstrek PHEV is powered by an Atkinson-cycle 137-horsepower 2.0-litre Boxer 4-cylinder engine and a 118-horsepower electric motor for a grand total system output of 148-horsepower, or four less than the regular car. There’s more torque but there’s also lots more weight to lug around.
Subaru’s specs say that the Crosstrek PHEV reaches 100km/h in 9.3 seconds which equates to 0.4 seconds less than the non-PHEV. In other words, there’s no noticeable difference. When driving the PHEV, its extra weight is felt through the controls but the resulting heavier steering is far for unpleasant. The Crosstrek’s drive is also barely affected by the extra girth as the ride remains supple with plenty of wheel travel to deal with springtime potholes.
Keep Within The Plug-In Limits
The deal with the Subaru Crosstrek PHEV is that, like the Outlander PHEV, it must be driven with its limitations in mind at all times. There is a button on the center console that enables the driver to lock out the remaining battery charge for when it can be most helpful – the key is to remember to engage the battery save mode every time you’re about to get on the highway.
Recharging such a small battery is no big deal. It’s a five-hour charge on a Level 1 household plug or about two hours on a Level 2 wall unit. If you do keep your travels under 25km and plug in at every opportunity, you’re winning the PHEV game. If not, you’re losing.
Quite frankly, I would not bother with this PHEV, as is the case with most PHEVs. Hybrids, from Toyota (which happens to supply the Crosstrek with its hybrid technology), are as fuel-efficient, typically less expensive and in my opinion, will better hold their value in the medium run.