SUBARU SWITCHES TO THE FAST LANE

The XV, with its off-road abil­ity, host of gad­gets, style and com­fort, raises the bar for Crossovers

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - Front Page - FIRST DRIVE JONATHAN CROUCH

THE fam­ily-sized Cross­over. Ar­guably, it’s one of the mo­tor in­dus­try’s fastest grow­ing mar­ket seg­ments and in Subaru’s XV, that’s ex­actly what we have here. But this class of car is usu­ally these days more about fash­ion than sub­stance.

So what if you could get one with Qa- shqai-like style matched to Dis­cov­ery Sport-like off road ca­pa­bil­ity? What if this class of car, in other words, could ac­tu­ally walk the walk as well as talk the talk? That’d be quite some­thing. That’d be unique. And that’s ex­actly what this XV claims to be de­signed to de­liver.

If any brand was go­ing to be able to cre­ate a car able to do this, you’d put money on Subaru to do it. They were build­ing mod­els of this kind way be­fore the con­cept be­came fash­ion­able, with a his­tory go­ing all the way back to 1995 and the launch of the Legacy Out­back, a chunky all-wheel drive estate then fol­lowed by more overtly Suv-like Forester and Tribeca de­signs. None of which re­ally caught the imag­i­na­tion of Bri­tish buy­ers. This car though, ought to have done bet­ter in manag­ing just that. Early ver­sions though, strug­gled with high pric­ing, then com­men­ta­tors crit­i­cised ef­fi­ciency and the pla­s­ticky cabin. Subaru says now that with this re­vised model, all of these things have been put right.

Driv­ing Ex­pe­ri­ence

Hav­ing al­ready tweaked both ride and re­fine­ment on this car as re­cently as 2015, Subaru has con­tented it­self to sub­tler tweaks for this pack­age of changes, ef­fec­tively lim­ited to longer gear ra­tios that im­prove econ­omy of the four cylin­der Boxer en­gines on of­fer.

This hasn’t com­pro­mised drive­abil­ity with the 147PS 2.0-litre diesel that most XV cus­tomers choose.

It still puts out 350Nm of torque and still man­ages rest to 62mph in 9.3s.

The al­ter­na­tive XV pow­er­plant, a 150PS 2.0-litre nor­mally as­pi­rated petrol unit, gets longer gear ra­tios too. Here, there’s 196Nm of torque and this is the en­gine you have to have if you want Subaru’s smooth-shift­ing Lin­eartronic au­to­matic CVT gear­box.

The petrol en­gine is a sweet thing. There’s the trade­mark off-beat thrum which is not un­pleas­ant and makes a wel­come change to more con­ven­tional but rather soul­less turbo fours. This pow­er­plant has in re­cent times ben­e­fited from sus­pen­sion im­prove­ments that en­hance ride qual­ity.

Ar­guably prefer­able though is the ex­tra pulling power of the 2.0-litre diesel boxer en­gine. What­ever your choice be­neath the bon­net, your XV will come with Subaru’s per­ma­nent Sym­met­ri­cal All-wheel Drive sys­tem giv­ing all-weather se­cu­rity.

On the road, vis­i­bil­ity is ex­cel­lent, thanks to slim wind­screen pil­lars and the seat­ing po­si­tion is nicely el­e­vated. It steps off the line re­ally smartly and the XV’S body con­trol is bet­ter than you’d ex­pect. Drive it a bit faster and you’ll be im­pressed by the sheer amount of front end grip. It’s the sort of car that will have you pray­ing for snow in the forecast.

De­sign and Build

The XV re­mains quite a hand­some thing, with co­he­sive, chunky styling. Re­cent de­tail changes in­clude up­dated ‘ hawk-eye’ head­lights, a re­designed front grille and bumper, a more dis­creet boot spoiler and smarter LED rear com­bi­na­tion lamps. As be­fore, the 17-inch al­loy wheels do look ex­tremely sharp.

The main change made to this im­proved model is its up­graded in­te­rior, fin­ished in higher qual­ity ma­te­ri­als and fea­tur­ing smarter metal­lic and pi­ano black trim as well as classy con­trast stitching through­out the cabin. The driver’s TFT LCD in­stru­ment bin­na­cle has also been re­designed, now emit­ting a soft, con­tem­po­rary blue glow.

There’s also Subaru’s lat­est fac­tory-fit 7.0-inch touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment and nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem, which al­lows smart­phone-style con­trol, with a swipe and pinch con­trol func­tion for map dis­plays. The in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem houses a stan­dard-fit rear view cam­era, of­fer­ing a su­per-wide 160-de­gree field of view be­hind the car when reversing.

Other func­tions of the car, such as chang­ing nav­i­ga­tion set­tings or ad­just­ing the power or tem­per­a­ture of the cli­mate con­trol, can be con­trolled though a lat­est-gen­er­a­tion voice con­trol fa­cil­ity, al­low­ing the driver to keep their eyes on the road ahead.

The sys­tem also en­ables Ap­ple iphone users to ac­ti­vate Siri EyesFree func­tion­al­ity, pro­vid­ing full voice con­trol of their IOS mo­bile de­vice when linked with the new in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem.

Oth­er­wise, things are much as be­fore. The 380-litre boot is a lit­tle smaller than you’d ex­pect but fold the rear seats down and things im­prove dra­mat­i­cally, with an ex­cel­lent 1,270 litres on of­fer.

Rear legroom is good and there’s plenty of ad­justa­bil­ity in the driv­ing po­si­tion, but the seats could use a lit­tle more sup­port.

Mar­ket and Model

Pric­ing starts a lit­tle higher than it does with some ri­vals, but that’s only be­cause Subaru de­clines to of­fer fee­ble petrol and diesel en­try-level de­riv­a­tives. In­stead, there’s an all-2.0-litre range of mod­els priced in the £22,000 to £26,000 bracket. There are two trim lev­els — ‘SE’ and ‘SE Premium’ and, as be­fore, you’ll need the 2.0-litre petrol model if you want the £1,500 op­tion of Lin­eartronic au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. The 2.0-litre diesels start from £24,000.

Equip­ment lev­els in­clude most of the usual fea­tures you’d ex­pect in a car of this price. Even en­try-level SE mod­els fea­ture ABS, trac­tion con­trol, Subaru Ve­hi­cle Dy­nam­ics Con­trol (SVDC), front, side, cur­tain and knee airbags, 17-inch al­loy wheels, day­time LED run­ning lights and au­to­matic air con­di­tion­ing as stan­dard. There are also fea­tures like cruise

con- trol, a rear-view cam­era, Blue­tooth func­tion­al­ity and USB/IPOD con­nec­tiv­ity. Mean­while, top-of-therange SE Premium mod­els also come with a sun­roof, Key­less Smart En­try, push-but­ton start, leather seats and satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion. All mod­els are fit­ted with roof rails. Plus across the range, fam­ily buy­ers will be re­as­sured by the award of a EURONCAP five star rat­ing.

Cost of Own­er­ship

Both en­gines in the XV line-up of­fer im­proved fuel econ­omy thanks to a range of de­tail tweaks. The 2.0-litre tur­bod­iesel, equipped with a six-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion, fea­tures longer gear ra­tios that im­prove fuel ef­fi­ciency by 4%. The mod­i­fied en­gine achieves 52.3mpg on the com­bined cy­cle, while CO2 emis­sions fall from 146 to 141g/ km, plac­ing the car in a lower BIK tax band (25%).

Subaru has also in­tro­duced a se­ries of up­dates to the 150PS 2.0-litre nat­u­rally-as­pi­rated petrol en­gine. Fuel ef­fi­ciency in­creases by 2% to a com­bined av­er­age of 43.5mpg when equipped with Subaru’s CVT Lin­eartronic trans­mis­sion and emis­sions fall to 151g/km. Longer gear ra­tios for mod­els fit­ted with the six-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion pro­mote greater ef­fi­ciency at mo­tor­way speeds. In short, it may be time to lay the leg­end of the fear­somely thirsty Subaru to rest at last. A de­cently sized 60-litre fuel tank gives all mod­els a use­ful tour­ing range — some 660 miles if you go diesel. And all but the least ex­pen­sive XV mod­els get an ECO me­ter in the Multi Func­tion Dis­play that helps you op­ti­mise your driv­ing ef­fi­ciency over time.

Resid­ual val­ues cer­tainly aren’t go­ing to be on a par with BMW and Audi and it’s here that own­ers may feel the most fi­nan­cial hard­ship, but Subaru is com­mit­ted to do­ing what it can to make the own­er­ship ex­pe­ri­ence as pain­less as pos­si­ble. To that end, you get a com­pre­hen­sive five year/125,000 mile war­ranty that’s one of the best in the in­dus­try.

Sum­mary

The Cross­over genre is one that Subaru ought to ex­cel at. All the in­gre­di­ents are al­ready in place. The com­pany can draw upon a long tra­di­tion of rugged, multi pur­pose all-wheel drive cars.

The is­sue though in this seg­ment is all about pack­ag­ing and pre­sent­ing this clever en­gi­neer­ing in a way that’s ac­ces­si­ble and ap­peal­ing to main­stream cus­tomers.

With the XV, most of this is now sorted. It looks good, it’s a rea­son­able size, it drives well and it will un­doubt­edly be very re­li­able.

Pre­vi­ously, some of these at­tributes got hid­den in the show­room as cus­tomers, fresh from look­ing at, say, ri­val Nis­san Qashqai or Peu­geot 3008 mod­els, got inside this XV and found them­selves dis­ap­pointed by the rather down-mar­ket cabin.

It was vi­tal for Subaru to put this right. Now that they have, there’s lit­tle ex­cuse not to in­clude this Ja­panese con­tender if you’re look­ing at a rea­son­ably pow­er­ful model in this class.

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