TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR
SUVs, hey? They’re everywhere, and only growing in popularity as more of us swap out of traditional, low-slung passenger cars and into the high-riding wagons.
As one of the better performers in the small SUV sphere, this major makeover of the XV is an important one for Subaru as it takes on the likes of the all-conquering Mazda CX-3, the grandpa’s axe that is the Mitsubishi ASX, Nissan’s well-equipped Qashqai and the fresh-faced Honda HR-V and Toyota C-HR.
The high-riding XV is based on the Subaru Impreza, but as you’ll find out that’s no bad thing.
- It’s roomier than before. The Impreza platform has vastly increased passenger and load space, and the XV shares in all of that.
- It drives better than before. The Impreza’s new underpinnings make it a fun, driveable, well-controlled car, and by extension that also applies to the XV. Even on loose gravel surfaces, the XV feels sure-footed and planted.
- It has real off-road cred in a tiny package. The XV is always in all-wheel-drive mode, so it doesn’t matter if you happen to be driving on bitumen or gravel. There’s 220mm of clearance, which means it can more easily tackle the rough bush bashing that would stop a faux soft-roader in its tracks. It has the same X-Mode traction control system as used in the highly off-road capable Subaru Forester that can help it scrabble up steep gravel inclines.
- It also has hill descent control that can walk the XV downhill while you just worry about steering.
- The engine now includes direct fuel injection. This is a fuel-saving measure that also has the benefit of increasing performance ever-so-slightly.
- It looks better. The XV formula hasn’t changed much, but the exterior design seems to fit the shape a lot better than before.
- It adds automatic city braking to all but the entry-level model. Subaru’s version of this technology is called Eyesight, and it’s fitted on all but the cheapest 2.0i.
- The cloth seats are quite comfy. We can’t say the same for the leather-trimmed ones, which are a bit firm and slippery – you’ll notice that most while off-road or going around corners.
- The XV is more expensive. The entry-level 2.0i model is $1250 more than the model it replaces, starting from $27,990. That’s because Subaru has dropped the six-speed manual version of the XV in favour of a continuously variable transmission.
- Under the boot there’s a temporary space-saver spare, while in the previous generation there was a full-size alloy. You don’t want to be stuck in the bush with a puncture and a limp-home tyre.
- The XV has porked up considerably. It now weighs more than 1400kg where the previous generation tipped the scales well under that.
- Because it weighs more, the performance of the mediocre 115kW/196Nm four-cylinder engine is dulled. Join a fast-moving freeway and you notice the engine needs more oomph.
- The 17-inch low rolling resistance Yokohama tyres fitted to the entry-level model are much noisier on coarse-chip roads than the Bridgestones fitted to the 18-inch alloys on the more pricey models.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
Toyota’s C-HR is a huge leap forward for the brand, driving impressively, challenging perceptions with its design and generally looking like the newest, coolest kid on the city block. The Mazda CX-3 has also had a largely under-bonnet makeover to make it a much better package than before, and it’s not the segment’s best-seller without reason. The XV’s forte, though, is its off-road ability. For that, you’d need to look at something like a Suzuki Vitara or a Jeep Renegade, both of which possess similar off-but-not-too-far-off-the-beaten-track ability.
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