Is it an SUV or is it a Crossover? Damien O’carroll investigates.
With the huge rise in popularity of SUVS lately, it seems that the definition of what an SUV actually is has become as stretched as the range of vehicles on offer. It has also lead to the birth of the “Crossover”, otherwise known as a vehicle that boasts the raised ride height and practicality of a traditional SUV, while also keeping one foot (and, to be completely honest, sometimes both feet) firmly in the car camp by being based on the same platform as a traditional car, as well as being offered in 2WD variants. The Subaru XV, at first glance, would appear to be very much in the latter camp, after all it shares an awful lot with the Impreza hatch, including its platform, body shell, engine, transmission, interior and, well, everything really. But what sets the XV apart in the small SUV segment is the fact that it is only offered in AWD and its massive (well, for its segment, at least) 220mm of ground clearance. And while the XV doesn’t have any low ratio complexity, it does get Subaru’s rather excellent X-mode off road software system. And, let’s face it, Subaru do know how to make car-based SUVS that can actually go off road. Much like when it launched the new Impreza earlier this year, Subaru New Zealand has taken the chainsaw to the XV’S pricing, with the Sport coming in $3,000 cheaper than the previous car at $34,990, while also adding more equipment. The same goes for the Premium, which sees even more equipment and a $5,000 reduction, retailing for $39,990. Both models of the XV get the same 115kw/196nm 2.0-litre horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine hooked up to a continuously variable transmission. The Sport gets 17-inch alloy wheels as standard, as well as an eight-inch touch screen with Apple Carplay and Android Auto, rear privacy glass, keyless entry and push button start, a rear view camera, a tyre pressure monitoring system and Subaru’s Eyesight driver assist system that brings collision alert, autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and a new lane-assist feature. The Premium adds 18-inch wheels, automatic headlights, imbedded sat-nav, a sunroof, leather-accented trim, adaptive LED headlights and a more extensive suite of active safety features, including the Vision Assist package that brings blind-spot warning highbeam assist, lane-change assist, rear crosstraffic alert and rear autonomous braking. On the road the XV rather obviously feels like the an Impreza, which means a beautifully supple and responsive chassis matched up to fantastically tactile and equally responsive steering. Interior quality makes another step upwards in the XV – something Subaru has been improving drastically over its latest models – meaning that the cheap, plastics of past are thankfully long gone. While the XV is incredibly well-priced and equipped, and possesses a fantastic chassis and great interior, there is one slightly glaring chink in its otherwise impressive armour, and that is the continuously variable transmission. Subaru’s previous CVTS in the likes of the Outback, Legacy and Forester were probably the best of the bunch in terms of this inherently unlikeable transmission, but the Impreza and new XV seemed to have missed out on Subaru’s best efforts in this department. As a result the engine, which is smooth and acceptably powerful around town, suffers on the open road, thanks to the transmissions preference to scuttle up to the redline and just sit there when you accelerate… While the transmission disappoints, the rest of the XV is such a convincingly good package that it becomes easier to overlook this. The Impreza was Subaru’s first car on its new Subaru Global Platform and it was a deeply impressive steer, and the XV is no different. Responsive and agile, the XV’S steering and chassis performance are a delight to behold, while its ride comfort and interior quality also impress. The XV is a car that the term “Crossover” was invented for – you can argue all you like about whether the XV is an SUV or not, but as a Crossover, the XV makes a startlingly complete case for itself. It looks great, rides nicely, is an involving steer, is well made and boasts impressive interior quality and actually has some off road ability thanks to the 220mm of ground clearance (the highest in its segment) and the X-mode system.