A tasty blend

The Advertiser - Motoring - - FIRST DRIVE | SUBARU XV - IAIN CURRY

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.


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.

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