A star is born the sec­ond time around

ROAD TEST/ Mark Smyth did not have high ex­pec­ta­tions of the new Subaru XV, but was pleas­antly sur­prised

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

When we drove the first gen­er­a­tion of the Subaru XV, we were less than im­pressed. The en­gine was less starry Pleiades and more plank, the gear­box made more noise than a whiny dog and the fuel con­sump­tion was dread­ful.

It had some off-road abil­ity though, but af­ter a so­journ to Sa­bie in Mpumalanga to fol­low a round of the na­tional rally cham­pi­onship, we were happy to give it back.

So we have to ad­mit that we were not in a rush to test the new gen­er­a­tion, which was re­cently launched in SA. Be­ing based on the new Im­preza, we felt that we prob­a­bly had an idea on how the new XV would be. Then we agreed and it ar­rived.

What took us so long? Why did no one tell us that ev­ery­thing that was wrong with the first gen­er­a­tion XV has been thrown in the near­est dust­bin and in­stead the en­gi­neers cre­ated a car that peo­ple can ac­tu­ally en­joy?

RE­SPON­SIVE

Gone are the naff plas­tics, the ter­ri­ble gear­box and the lack­lus­tre en­gine. In its place is a car that is great to drive, re­spon­sive to throt­tle in­puts and com­fort­able on Joburg roads. The driv­ing po­si­tion is ex­cel­lent although the steer­ing wheel could be a lit­tle smaller and the level of over­all com­fort puts many of its ri­vals to shame.

We didn’t take it back to Sa­bie, but un­like the first gen­er­a­tion which we could not wait to get out of, we wanted to take it to Sa­bie. With tra­di­tional Subaru all-wheel drive it ticks all those spirit of ad­ven­ture boxes for those who want to strap on the moun­tain bikes or chuck their boots in the back and head for the hills.

And when they get there, they will feel like the are re­laxed and en­joyed the drive, some­thing that dis­ap­peared with a num­ber of Subaru mod­els in re­cent years.

The in­te­rior fea­tures good de­sign with touches of colour con­trast in­stead of all that black plas­tic that typ­i­fied the brand’s mod­els for a pe­riod. The clus­ter on top of the dash fea­tures a wealth of in­for­ma­tion on where your wheels are point­ing, what the en­gine is do­ing and even the an­gle the car is sit­ting at, use­ful for if you do hap­pen to ven­ture out on a mild off-road ex­cur­sion. And with 220mm of ground clear­ance and that sym­met­ri­cal all-wheel drive, we have no doubt that the new XV has a fair amount of ca­pa­bil­ity for when you do.

Styling, per­for­mance, ride com­fort, spec­i­fi­ca­tion

Some plas­tics, fid­dly switches on the steer­ing wheel

Sec­ond gen­er­a­tion be­comes a first-choice car

The torque is avail­able low down in spite of its lowly 196Nm peak be­ing at 4,200r/min, en­abling de­cent pull­away in town and en­sur­ing that you should not need to make the en­gine work too hard if you are off the beaten track.

Back to that in­te­rior and the touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem works well, with large, clear icons that re­duce the level of dis­trac­tion. It has Ap­ple CarPlay which is great, es­pe­cially if like me you like to stream your mu­sic to try to lighten the mood while deal­ing with the frus­tra­tions of Joburg traffic.

The rear seats are also com­fort­able with good space for the kids, but the slight rake to the rear door aper­tures means you may want to watch your head on oc­ca­sion. Boot space at 310l is not ex­em­plary but will suit most needs and of course you can fold the seats down to in­crease that to 1,220l. In the worst case, you can also add a trailer with the XV hav­ing a towing ca­pac­ity of 1,400kg braked.

The tim­ing for Subaru could not be bet­ter. Com­pe­ti­tion is ex­tremely tough, but where once we would have scoffed at the idea of the XV and pushed peo­ple to­wards the more com­fort­able and prac­ti­cal Forester, the new one has se­ri­ously im­pressed us and we were not ex­pect­ing that at all.

WE LIKE: WE DIS­LIKE: VER­DICT:

The de­sign has been im­proved but it still re­tains that XV look.

The in­te­rior, left, is one of the big­gest ar­eas of im­prove­ment in the new model. Be­low: The rear also looks bet­ter adding to a good all-round pack­age.

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