SUBARU’S NEW BABY SOFT-ROADER

Se­date and com­fort­able in the city, the XV has rugged tal­ents too

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - BILL McK­IN­NON

Long be­fore other car mak­ers knew what an SUV was, Subaru had worked out how to make a good one. Its new, sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion XV is the only com­pact SUV with all-wheel drive as stan­dard, so it’s as ca­pa­ble and con­fi­dent on a dirt road as it is on the bi­tu­men.

As with the orig­i­nal, it’s a jacked-up Im­preza hatch, tough­ened up with Tonka Truck body­work and a re­fresh­ingly loud pal­ette. Prices start at $27,990. To­day, we’re in the top­spec XV 2.0i-S, at $35,240.

VALUE

Up front, you get heated, power-ad­justable, leather-faced seats with stitch­ing colour­matched to the car’s paint­work — very groovy Sun­shine Orange on the test car, en­sur­ing it will never be hard to find in a crowded carpark.

Subaru per­sists in us­ing three screens to dis­play the same in­fo­tain­ment that other car mak­ers man­age with one or two, so as a lay­out the XV’s dash is far from user friendly and at times dif­fi­cult and dis­tract­ing to op­er­ate.

That said, the qual­ity of fit, fin­ish and ma­te­ri­als is ex­cel­lent. In the S, in­fo­tain­ment is com­pre­hen­sive, adding Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto com­pat­i­bil­ity, voice con­trol that re­quires pa­tience, Blue­tooth, two 12V and three USB sock­ets. There’s no dig­i­tal ra­dio, though.

Dual zone air­con, sun­roof, heated ex­te­rior mir­rors, Data Dot ve­hi­cle ID, tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor and swiv­el­ling LED head­lights with auto high-beam are also stan­dard. The high­beam’s dip tim­ing can be hit and miss but on a dark, wind­ing coun­try road the swiv­el­ling lights are great. There’s no power tail­gate, ei­ther.

COM­FORT

The XV rides as com­fort­ably and qui­etly as many larger wag­ons thanks to well-con­trolled, com­pli­ant, long-travel sus­pen­sion and sen­si­bly tall tyres on 18-inch wheels.

The driver’s seat is prop­erly bol­stered and sup­port­ive, the driv­ing po­si­tion can be ad­justed to suit any­body and vi­sion is clear around the car. There’s plenty of legroom for the firm, sup­port­ive rear seats but no ad­justable back­rest, air vents or 12V out­let.

SAFETY

As the flag­ship, the XV S gets Subaru’s com­plete safety arse­nal, in­clud­ing its third-gen­er­a­tion EyeSight cam­era based gear with cruise con­trol that keeps a safe dis­tance to the car in front, au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing and the abil­ity to help you stay in your lane if you get dis­tracted.

Sup­ple­ment­ing these are radar/sonar based Vi­sion As­sist, which adds au­to­matic brak­ing in re­verse if it de­tects an ob­ject or per­son be­hind, rear cross traf­fic alert and blind spot mon­i­tor.

It’s worth not­ing, though, that none of these hi-tech safety fea­tures are avail­able on the $27,990 base model.

Toy­ota has ev­ery­thing bar au­to­matic brak­ing in re­verse gear as stan­dard on the C-HR, which starts at $26,990. Subaru was one of the first car com­pa­nies to take crash pro­tec­tion se­ri­ously. If you’re go­ing to have a big one, a Subaru is a good thing to have it in. It’s Ja­pan’s Volvo.

DRIV­ING

The XV shares the Im­preza’s en­gine and trans­mis­sion, with frac­tion­ally shorter fi­nal drive gear­ing, but it’s still a se­date per­former. That said, its ri­vals are no rock­ets ei­ther, and like them XV is de­signed to work best in ev­ery­day driv­ing with a light right foot.

This it does, in a smooth, re­fined man­ner, with the bonus of a mod­est thirst on reg­u­lar un­leaded.

Its con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion can take a while to con­vert your de­sire for speed into the real thing, so the shift pad­dles, which dial up more revs in a hurry, can be use­ful.

All-wheel drive adds ex­tra grip and se­cu­rity in the wet. The in­side wheels are au­to­mat­i­cally braked in cor­ners to help keep you on track.

The XV’s dy­nam­ics are ar­guably best in class, even with the Im­preza’s body raised by 90mm to de­liver 220mm of ground clear­ance, suf­fi­cient to al­low con­fi­dent, easy progress on pretty rugged bush tracks.

Again, the XV’s abil­ity here is hard to beat, with its X-Mode off-road set-up de­liv­er­ing ad­justable trac­tion con­trol and ac­cel­er­a­tor sen­si­tiv­ity for steep climbs, loose or slip­pery sur­faces plus ef­fec­tive au­to­matic speed con­trol that takes the ter­ror out of steep de­scents.

HEART SAYS

It looks su­per cool and opens up a whole new world of week­end ad­ven­tures.

HEAD SAYS

All-wheel drive, great han­dling and as safe and com­fort­able as they come.

AL­TER­NA­TIVES MAZDA CX-3 Akari from $35,490

Com­pa­ra­ble per­for­mance and dy­nam­ics with less thirst. HasAWD but less off-road abil­ity.

TOY­OTA C-HR Koba $35,290

Out-there styling, Toy­ota re­li­a­bil­ity and a tractable turbo that runs on pre­mium. Claus­tro­pho­bic rear seat but a big­ger boot.

The Scotts: “It’s com­pact to drive.”

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