No slipping when wet
BRIAN BASSETT finds traction along Karkloof forest tracks in the rain in a Subaru XV 2.0li Auto
has traditionally only manufactured as many vehicles as it has orders for and these orders come largely from the huge American market, where it is in the top 10 sellers of new cars.
The South African market is overall a much smaller one and Subaru has been a rather quiet brand here. Its cars are regarded as niche models and have acquired a huge reputation for robustness and reliability.
In fact in some cases it is difficult to find second hand examples of certain models, as owners keep them for years.
There is also a fierce brand loyalty among South African Subaru owners, which is indicative of the quality of the vehicles themselves.
Until recently Subaru did not have a middle of the road model to sell in decent numbers, but with the introduction of the XV crossover in South Africa in 2011 this problem was addressed.
I am grateful to Howard Christie, dealer principal of Subaru Pietermaritzburg at Camps Drift for allowing me a few days with the recently updated XV.
The Subaru XV is a well-built, stylish vehicle, which nonetheless projects an image of no-nonsense functionality.
The bonnet rises to a large front windscreen, which in turn connects with a high roofline. The main side features are the bold, 17-inch dualtone aluminium rims, which give the design a very masculine aspect.
At the rear a wide door allows easy loading and the taillight clusters do not dominate the stepped rear end, but are nonetheless effective. The XV has poise and purpose and attracts attention when driving around. It is a kind of hatchback on stilts.
The interior is spacious, functional and, although not spectacular, has everything you need. The seats are comfortable and covered in a heavy, washable cloth, with the front seats fully adjustable.
The dashboard has well-lighted dials, which are easy to read and a centrallyplaced small screen offers information on matters like time and temperature.
The three-spoke, multifunction steering wheel is fully adjustable and controls functions like the high-quality sixspeaker radio/CD system with iPod and USB connectivity, as well as cruise control. The Bluetooth function for your Smartphone, allows you both to play music of your choice and speak to your friends while driving.
The main feature of the central stack is the touch screen, which controls several functions like the radio/CD and Bluetooth and is easy to read and operate.
The rear seats are comfortable, although not for three adults. There is ample legroom in the rear and no fear of discomfort for the long-legged.
The boot is on the shallow side offering 310 litres of space with the seats up and 741 litres of space with the rear seats folded down, the folding option being 60:40. The tonneau cover over the boot is useful, particularly if you are storing stealable electronics.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
The XV has 5-star Euro NCAP, ANCAP and JNCAP ratings, while the car has alSUBARU so received the safety award of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the U.S. The passengers all have seatbelts and there are seven airbags, one of which protects the driver’s knee.
Technology built into the car includes a reinforced passenger cabin and energy absorbing bonnet, which protects pedestrians. There is the usual alphabet soup of safety aids like ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, Electronic Stability Control and a wide range of driver assist systems.
I missed the rear reversing camera, which is in the next model up and which assists immensely with parking. The car also has a built-in security and alarm system, as well as central locking.
PERFORMANCE AND HANDLING
The XV has the legendary Subaru 4-cylinder, Boxer engine. This machine is designed to lie horizontally in the engine bay, rather than standing vertically like other engines, so providing a low centre of gravity.
As a result here is less cabin noise and improved stability and balance, which results in superior cornering.
The engine delivers 110 kW of power and 196Nm of torque. 0-100 km/h comes up in around 10,7 seconds. So the XV is not a robot racer. In town the XV is easy to handle and the wide tyres give stability.
It is however off-road that the XV blossoms. On Saturday afternoon, in some of the worst weather I have seen in a long time, I took the XV onto the network of forest tracks in the Karkloof forest.
The soft loose sand had become mud and exposed some of the rocks beneath, which often moved as I drove over them.
Any problems of performance were more than outweighed by the car’s remarkable off-road capability created by Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive and a ground clearance of 220 mm.
Fuel consumption is around 7.9l/100 km in the combined cycle, but that rises steeply off road.
PRICES AND THE OPPOSITION
The XV2.0li Auto comes in at around R332 000 with the XV2.0li-S Auto costing around R370 000.
If you like changing gears the XV2.0l is R320 000. The cars come with a threeyear 75 000 km maintenance plan (extendable to 150 000 km) and a threeyear 100 000 km warranty.
Also look at the Kia, Honda and Hyundai SUV ranges, as well as from Subaru’s own stable the spacious Forester 2.5X, which comes in at R385 000 and these days is really good looking.
Subaru also has the XV Crosstrek in a hybrid overseas, with a electric motor integrated into the Lineartronic® Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) to deliver whisper soft grip through the forest.