WHAT IS IT
This is Subaru’s second shot at a small SUV spun off its Impreza hatchback, but this time around with some genuine off-road ability built in.
WHY ARE WE DRIVING IT?
The Impreza has made the jump to the all-new Subaru Global Platform with impressive results. The XV, basically a high-riding Impreza, blends the platform’s newfound poise with the off-road ability endowed to the Forester, so we’re expecting great things.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
We’ve already driven a version of the XV in Japan and come away impressed, but remained mindful of how it would perform in Aussie conditions. Those doubts, as it turns out, were unnecessary, with the XV handling both the dirt and bitumen with confidence that places it at the pointy end of the class. If only it had the engine to match, though.
PLUS: More handsome exterior proportions that keep a connection with the old model; better active safety in all but the base model; roomy; surefooted handling on dirt or bitumen; smooth drivetrain
MINUS: Road roar from cheaper eco rubber; base model lacks forward and reverse auto braking; engine and off-road ability don’t match; no manual version
THE WHEELS REVIEW
THE wake of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake wasn’t a good time for Subaru to launch its long-awaited small SUV. Hit with supply problems that limited sales early on, the original XV stood on shaky ground.
It’s good to see, then, that a second generation of the Impreza-based XV is built on a rock-solid footing; the all-new Subaru Global Platform. There’s a lot that’s familiar from Impreza, particularly its roomy interior, but outside XV is a handsome mix of metal, chrome and black cladding.
Weight has increased over the previous generation, but that’s because Subaru has added a spirit of adventure to every XV. Every variant lifts the off-road biased X-Mode system from the Forester that electronically adds grip to the wheels that lack it, as well as a system that works the brakes for you on slippery downhill runs. Both work well, if not noisily in the case of the descent control.
On dirt, the XV is confident and sure-footed. Our run from Jindabyne in the Snowys down to the coastal resort that is Merimbula involved a large run on unsealed roads where the XV felt solid and planted, even when a kangaroo jumped out in front. On the larger 18-inch alloys clad in Bridgestone Dueller H/P Sport fitted to our 2.0i-S, the suspension would occasionally crash over the larger washouts and bumps despite the extra travel afforded by 220mm of clearance.
The Symmetrical All Wheel Drive system never feels front- or rear-biased, but instead appears to apply its power evenly over the axles.
The XV’s suspension is slightly more compliant on the smaller 17-inch wheels fitted to the entry-level 2.0i (and shared with the 2.0i-L), but the eco-focused Yokohama BlueEarth rubber they use is much noisier on the bitumen than the Bridgestones.
That healthy dose of off-road surefootedness translates to the road where, just like its city cousin, the XV impresses. Body roll is well contained via MacPherson struts up front and double wishbones down the back. Torque vectoring sits the XV at the pointy end of the dynamics class.
It’s a shame all that ability isn’t backed up with some fire under the bonnet. Direct injection lifts power 5kW to 115kW, but torque remains the same skin-off-custard 196Nm. And because there’s no manual option, drive is sent to all four wheels via a continuously variable transmission. It makes the most of the engine’s mediocre performance, but straight-line acceleration is best described as stately rather than sprite.
Subaru has endowed the new XV with something resembling a spirit of adventure. It’s something of a shame, then, that it didn’t also gain some fire in its belly.
Model: Subaru XV 2.0-L
Engine: 1995cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v
Max power: 115kW @ 6000rpm
Max torque: 196Nm @ 4000rpm
Transmission: CVT, AWD
On sale: Now