A tasty blend
FIVE years after Subaru launched its XV, the ruggedlooking all-wheel drive remains a solid seller. The new model due in June promises to boost sales. It will be tough for small SUV buyers to overlook its fresher style, classier cabin, rock-solid handling and increased safety features. The XV still trades on individual styling and the versatility of allwheel drive. Carsguide had a somewhat limited first drive of the new XV in Japan, just before it went on sale there, in local spec with 200mm ground clearance — Australian-bound XVs will ride higher at 220mm. Full local specification, range and prices are still being negotiated. As the XV is basically a highrise Impreza with more rugged looks, expect it to mirror the stablemate, with an entry-level 2.0i, mid-range 2.0-L and 2.0i Premium, then top-line 2.0i-S. Safety gear and features will be added accordingly. The driveline will be as per Impreza, with boxer four and constantly variable transmission with seven presets. As with the donor model, the manual transmission has been axed. The XV is the first SUV built on the Subaru Global Platform, with more rigid body and chassis to enhance dynamics and crash protection. It does a superb job of lessening body roll during cornering. Styling is slightly sportier but still distinctly XV and there are new “star knife” 18-inch alloy wheels. Sleeker headlights and large tail-lights help with the modernising and there is no premium on paint. The cabin is a near facsimile of the Impreza’s, which means a classy layout, quality fit and finish, soft-touch plastics and an eightinch central touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity. Our test car featured robust seats trimmed in durable cloth and chunky leather steering wheel. The soft-touch dashboard and orange contrast stitching were big pluses, while rubber pads on the metal pedals add to the rugged lifestyle feel. Rear head and legroom are ample for at least two adults. Boot space, still somewhat wanting, is about 345L. Interior improvements are a real highlight and will attract a wider buyer group — namely younger families and women — as Subaru admits it is targeting. Only the base model lacks the EyeSight driver assist safety tech, so the upper models that gain pedestrian avoidance, precollision brake, steering assist, blind spot monitor and adaptive cruise control also should win favour with this buying group. The XV and Impreza recently gained the highest score to date in Japan’s crash safety testing, so the maker expects five stars from ANCAP.
ON THE ROAD
Two things were clear on our limited drive. As in the Impreza, the engine — even with a dash more power — is still rather pedestrian but the chassis is all poise and comfort. Subaru does a CVT better than most but this isn’t one for the enthusiast as it labours to respond to the throttle. Yes, steering wheel paddles allow you to pick from the seven stepped “gears ” but it still feels a tad artificial. That’s no matter to those buying an XV for urban or cruising duties but such a balanced and assured chassis is crying out for a good turbo engine with some solid shove. The XV blocked road and wind noise well up to highway speeds and proved comfortable to punt along. More adventurous types will be drawn to X-Mode (as on the Forester) and hill descent control. At the flick of a button near the gear stick, X-Mode integrates control of engine, AWD, braking and more to aid traction on slippery surfaces. Our off-road test on a ski field wasn’t the toughest by any stretch but the XV was assured in slush and had no dramas on mild gradients. Combine the tech and ground clearance and most local adventures not involving desert crossings will be pleasant.
Pricing should start at about $27,000 or, for models with the desirable EyeSight tech, about $30,000. It won’t be the cheapest small SUV but there’s little to touch it for a desirable blend of safety, off-road smarts, assured chassis and classy cabin.