Year of the down­sized

There’s an ac­cel­er­at­ing de­mand for smaller SUVS, writes MARK HINCH­LIFFE

NT News - Motoring - - CARS GUIDE -

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

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