No slip­ping when wet

BRIAN BAS­SETT finds trac­tion along Kark­loof for­est tracks in the rain in a Subaru XV 2.0li Auto

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE -

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.


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.


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.


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.

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