In the Subaru XV BRIAN BASSETT feels no fear driving in Midlands fog
RECENTLY we have driven several Subarus and have been reminded that being part of this stable in South Africa carries with it a fierce brand loyalty based on the on-road competence and reliability of the cars Subaru manufactures, as well as their legendary off-road capacity, which extends to the Subaru Legacy Sedan.
This has the comfort and sophistication of a German saloon combined with the rock climbing ability of a Tyrolean mountain goat. Subaru has been manufacturing crossovers since long before they were fashionable and in 2011 it introduced the XV to South Africa and phased out the five-door Impreza hatchback on which the new model was based.
Recently the XV was given a facelift, which largely involved a revised touchscreen interface and it is the updated model which we drove recently courtesy of Howard Christie, dealer principal of Subaru Pietermaritzburg.
The Subaru XV is for people who do not want a car that looks like a large SUV, but need the traction and ground clearance to tackle mud, soft sand and rutted surfaces without the slightest worry.
The front end of the car is typically Subaru, with a black, meshed grille with chrome outline and centrally-placed badge. This is flanked by headlight clusters, while lower down a black air scoop is flanked by two fog lights. Like most small SUVs the XV is high, with wide doors to allow easy access both front and rear. The taillight clusters at the rear are large and practical and the tailgate allows easy access to the luggage compartment.
Possibly one of the most distinguishing features of the car is the 17-inch alloys, which look like something out of a Judge Dredd film, but are quite fun and add considerably to the interest of the side view. The roofline, which slopes towards the rear, is accentuated by roof rails, which will hold a container for family holiday luggage.
The cabin has a feeling of quality and spaciousness.
The vehicle we drove had a leather interior and was finished in excellent quality plastics well put together, which brought an air of quality to the driving experience.
The tall stance of the XV gives occupants a commanding view of the road and the supportive seats are made for long journeys.
Legroom at both front and rear is excellent and shoulder room for bulkier individuals is also very good. The slide and tilt sunroof does reduce front headroom, but this is hardly noticeable.
The driver’s seat is fully adjustable, as is the leather covered, multi-function steering wheel, which handles the radio, CD, AUX, Bluetooth, and cruise control systems. The dashboard is dominated by the centrally-placed, seven-inch touch screen, which is easily operated and includes voice control, keyword prompts, while a smaller LED screen at the top of the central stack provides a range of useful information.
Behind the rear seats is 310 litres of luggage space, which is not that much for a family of four on holiday.
However, you swap luggage space for a full steel spare wheel, which is much more useful. Should you not need the rear seats they fold flat to increase storage to 710 litres.
Safety and security
The XV has a 5-star Euro NCAP rating, as well as similar top ratings from Australia and Japan.
The list of safety features is too long to mention here. However, it includes ABS with EBD, Hill Start Assist, seven airbags, ISOFIX child seat anchors, rear reversing camera, Electronic Stability Control and a reinforced safety cell.
The car also has the usual central locking and on-board alarm.
It is however Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive System, which makes this car truly safe and easily driveable on all terrains.
Performance and handling
We were fortunate to have the car for a few days and this allowed us to drive it on a number of road surfaces and driving conditions.
From the non-roads in the hills above the Edendale Valley, through several rough D-roads and forest tracks in the Karkloof area, to the N3, packed with GP number plates returning to the Big Apple.
On a wet, misty Sunday afternoon I visited friends, who like me have a library, to chat about antiquarian books in front of a large fire with a little red wine for company.
Driving home in the dark, with swirling mist and nothing visible beyond my headlights, the XV never put a foot wrong. I felt safe, secure and unafraid, thanks to the car’s AWD technology.
The car is immensely stable, with responsive, well-weighted power steering and a firm suspension, which results in great handling and cornering, as well as a very comfortable ride.
The continuously-variable transmission (CVT), which operates by working through an infinite number of gear ratios between minimum and maximum points without stops, provides seamless, smooth changes and operates well on and off-road.
However, it can also become a sixspeed manual box, should you feel so inclined.
The flat, two-litre, four-cylinder, Boxer engine offers 110 kW/196 Nm and will take you from 0-100 km/h in about 11 seconds.
Fuel consumption in the combined cycle is around 9,4 l/100 km. At times the engine can be somewhat lethargic, but that should not be allowed to overshadow the overall competence of the car.
Costs and the competition
The Subaru 2.0i-S Auto comes in at around R420 000.
This includes a three-year manufacturers guarantee and a three-year or 75 000 km maintenance plan.
Also look at the Volvo V40 Cross Country and the Mercedes Benz GLA.
Subaru Southern Africa welcomed Driving In Heels’ Vuyi Mpofu as its Brand Safety Ambassador, using the same Subaru XV 2.0i Lineartronic CVT that we tested this week in the Midlands.