Ver­sa­tile VX

In the Subaru XV BRIAN BAS­SETT feels no fear driv­ing in Mid­lands fog

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

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.

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