Up: More ground clearance, fun color, sweet wheels.

Down: It should come with an option for off-road tires and big mud flaps.

Neutral: Even though it’s not an all-new car, it still reminds us why we love Subarus.

In the car world, the Crosstrek is kind of an anomaly. I mean, it’s not quite a car but it’s not quite an SUV either. It’s also no secret that Subaru just took one of their existing cars, lifted it up a couple of inches, slapped new wheels on it, and gave it some bright orange paint. So at it’s heart, the 2014 Subaru Crosstrek is just an Impreza, but does it have any soul?

Let’s get straight down to differences. The interior is the exact same as the Impreza and the exterior only holds a few deviations. First of all is the ride height. The Crosstrek has a ground clearance of 8.7 inches which is a full 3 inches higher than it’s counterpart. The plus side to the height is that you can navigate deeper snow, water, and mud without fear of bottoming out and getting stuck. Another benefit is the extra space in the wheel-well to throw on some big, meaty tires for those extra fun snow days.

Other changes include a slightly different, but cooler, front bumper, rugged-esque black fenders, unique alloy wheels, included roof rails, a gas tank that holds one more gallon, and some model-specific paint colors. I really like the Tangerine Orange Pearl that this one comes in and the Plasma Green Pearl that is commonly seen on the hybrid model. So while the changes are subtle, they give the Crosstrek enough pizzazz to set it apart.

2014 Subaru Crosstrek XV-1

What’s it like to drive? Well it feels exactly like the Impreza we drove a couple of summers ago and that’s a good thing. The Crosstrek was nimble and responsive and didn’t feel like it had an extra 3 inches of ride height when I was behind the wheel. I also didn’t notice any extra body-roll with the additional height either. The engine and transmission were plucked from the Impreza as well; I liked it then and I like it now.

One definite thing I loved, and I probable shouldn’t tell the owner this, is how much it likes to play in the snow. I found a nice big patch of of powder, turned the traction control off (located to the left of the steering wheel) and switched the transmission to manual mode so I could use the paddle shifters. I went up and down hills, spun donuts, and climbed uneven surfaces and the XV didn’t even break a sweat. I remember about midway through a controlled drift that the smile on my face confirmed that this was a true Subaru. It doesn’t matter what shape it takes, the boxer engine and symmetrical all-wheel-drive system never goes out of style.

2014 Subaru Crosstrek XV-5

So what’s with the $3000 premium over the Impreza if it’s essentially the same car? The best I could work out is it comes down to three of the primary features in the Crosstrek. The first is the included roof rails which is a $200 – $300 option, the second is the the additional 3 inches of ride height, and the third are the unique wheels. You could argue that the unique paint colors add additional value, but the XV also comes in the standard Subaru palette so there is no upcharge for them. In the end , it’s going to come down to what you’d rather see in your garage.

After an afternoon of fun, the 2014 Subaru Crosstrek XV reminded me of why I love Subarus. They’re simple, efficient, and, if you’re not an idiot, they’ll never get stuck. Even if the XV is basically an Impreza, it’s different enough to join the Subaru family with pride. And,  if I was the young, hip, and modern type, I would spend the extra $3000 just to have something a little more unique on, or off, the road.

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I am the founder and editor of Short Shift. My obsession with wanting to drive every car ever made me build a website so I could share my experiences with the world. I love cars, traveling, and my cats, Henry and Winston.