Year of the downsized
There’s an accelerating demand for smaller SUVS, writes MARK HINCHLIFFE
LOOKING into our crystal ball we can already declare this the year of the compact SUV.
In fact, it is the year of the sub-compact SUV as car companies realise customers are downsizing.
Just after VW has launched the Yeti, now comes the new Subaru XV, delayed from last year because of the tsunami effects, with Mazda’s much-lauded CX-5 arriving soon after.
Subaru has owned this class with its classy and versatile Forester for years now and this smaller version, based on the Impreza RX wagon, is bound to help it retain that class dominance.
But the XV is up against stiff opposition and competitive pricing. VALUE: This is the first hurdle and it’s complicated by the fact that all Subarus only come with four-wheeldrive, so the XV instantly cedes the price advantage to competitor models with front-wheel-drive options.
Prices start at $28,490 for the six-speed manual which is several thousand more than the entry price of twowheel-drives from Nissan, Mitsubishi and Hyundai.
The Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) adds $2500, which is also a bit steep compared with other brands.
While emphasising that Subaru will never deviate from all-wheel-drive, Subaru Australia boss Nick Senior points out that the XV with CVT has lower fuel consumption and emissions than its front-wheel-drive competitors.
‘‘All-wheel-drive sets it apart from many faux SUVS,’’ the former rally driver says. ‘‘It’s a SUV in a traditional sense with clearance more than 200mm (220mm) and all-wheeldrive. It’s not confined to the suburbs. The horizon is your limit.’’
It’s also better equipped than its cheaper rivals.
Even the base 2.0i model comes with Bluetooth, cruise control, seven airbags, reversing camera and is the first in its class with stop-start engine technology across the range.
Marketing general manager Andrew Caie says it will make customers ‘‘question the value of getting a front-wheel drive’’.
The L model adds satnav, dual-zone airconditioning, sunroof, privacy glass, leather gear shift and steering wheel, and sliding centre armrest, while the S gets leather trim seats, electric driver’s seat, HID headlights with washers, alloy pedals, heated front seats, wing mirror indicators, chrome door handles, and silver roof rails.
Senior admits the XV is not bargain-priced, but points out the whole-of-life costs are low because of high retained values.
Subaru is also one of the few car companies that does not charge extra for metallic or pearlescent paint. TECHNOLOGY: XV product manager Akihide Takeuchi claims the stop-start function can save as much as 5 per cent on fuel. Together with a lighter body, longer-stoked Boxer engine tuned for economy and high-geared manual and CVT transmissions, fuel savings are up as much as 20 per cent on 90RON petrol.
The CVT is actually better than the manual, sipping only 7 litres of fuel per 100km.
Stop-start automatically switches off the engine in 0.5 seconds when the car is stopped and restarts in 0.35sec when the brake pedal is released in the CVT or clutch is engaged in the manual.
The new 2.0-litre engine has the same power and torque as before but now has a longer stroke for more torque at lower revs, which means better acceleration.
The manual now has six speeds, with a taller top gear that reduces engine revs from 3000rpm at 100km/h to less than 2500rpm.
The four-speed auto has been replaced with paddle shifters and six presets.
The XV has the same high ground clearance as the Forester but a lower body height than most compact SUVS Pictures: ELISE DERWIN