by Brad Leach - 27/03/12
We thought we’d seen a number of Subaru’s stylish new XV compact SUVs on the road and we were right. A check of the stats showed the Subaru XV commanded more than 20 per cent of the compact SUV segment in February with first month sales of 1005.
Compact SUVs are red-hot sellers and Australians have voted with their wallets, recognizing the Subaru XV for its good looks, handy pricing and of course Subaru’s acknowledged quality.
We’d driven the Subaru XV at the national media launch in Tasmania and Subaru quickly followed-up with an entry-level Si manual for us to put through the usual Car Showroom week-long test regime here in Melbourne.
Subaru XV joins the respected Forester (segment’s top-seller) and Outback models to provide a formidable three-vehicle lineup in the compact SUV segment. Closely related to the new Subaru Impreza, the XV provides Subaru with a sportier/hatchback alternative to its two wagon stablemates.
And, like all Subaru vehicles these days, a real strength of the XV is its value-for-money. Our Si model test car was stickered at $28,490 – unquestionably impressive in this league.
The qualities of Subaru’s boxer engines are well-known – small package size, low centre of gravity, high output for their size etc. But this is 2012 and for some time Subaru’s engine development team has been focused on reduced fuel consumption and cleaner emissions.
So this time around the FB20 2.0-litre powerplant is Euro 5 compliant for exhaust gas and combined cycle fuel consumption for the six-speed manual model we tested is as low as 7.3l/100kms (aided by Subaru’s excellent auto start/stop system which re-starts in just 0.35 seconds).
And Subaru’s latest runs on 90RON unleaded.
Maximum power is 110kW at 6200rpm and peak torque of 196Nm is available from 4200rpm.
Detail internal changes are numerous and include longer stroke, roller rockers and lighter pistons and conrods.
On the road that translates into stronger torque at low to id-range engine speeds.
We’ve long had a high regard for Subaru’s interior stylists and the XV continues the trend. Modern looks, nice style, practicality and quality materials get the job done.
And – once again – Subaru XV shows good design can deliver a top-shelf driving position even in a car under $30K. The rake/reach adjustable steering wheel (not leather-wrapped in our 2.0i model) works with the seat adjustment and pedals to tick all the boxes for us (although we’d like more side support in the seats).
To the left is Subaru’s latest Multi-Function display. The 2.0i model tested misses satellite navigation but the six-speaker audio comes with iPod, Bluetooth and USB connectivity.
Rear seat passengers enjoy legroom similar to rival models and the large glasshouse affords good visibility.
Luggage space of 310-litres isn’t the largest in the segment.
Seven airbags (including a drivers knee bag) and a standard reversing camera are just part of the usual comprehensive Subaru safety inclusions.
Suddenly compact SUVs have gone all cool and hip. The Subaru XV joins the Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5 and Ford Kuga in showing modern SUV practicality isn’t restricted to straight lines and boxes.
Adding to that, Subaru has found some standout new paint colours – we love the orange which contrasts superbly with the black 17-inch alloy wheels.
In a nutshell, the Subaru XV is a ‘six-window’ hatchback obviously from the same family as the Impreza WRX. But different.
The front-end gets the off-road treatment with a raised grille and meaty ‘hawk-eye’ headlights. Ditto for the side view with plastic wheel arch stone protectors.
And we sure like the rear end with its stylish lights, smart hatchback design and integrated roof spoiler (some rival designers whose cars look like the rear is an afterthought might slip down to their local Subaru dealer and check-out the XV in the metal).
All those curves also have a purpose – drag CD just 0.329 for enhanced fuel consumption.
The excellent chassis dynamics we detected when driving the Subaru XV at the media launch in Tasmania were no fluke. This thing (like the Impreza) is a very impressive piece of kit when pressing on hard in the twisty stuff.
And that’s the point Subaru was striving for in developing the XV – a low centre of gravity to keep things nailed on the road combined with a decent amount of ground clearance for some off-road agility. Subaru XV might struggle to conquer outback sand dunes but we reckon it would be a perfect combo for working week commutes and weekend hobbies: cue the snowboarders and mountain bikers.
Those high marks for driving dynamics are no real surprise to anyone who has driven modern Subarus. The symmetrical all-wheel-drive system (normally 60:40 torque split) is clearly one of the world’s best and in the case of the XV it combines with a complex independent front/double wishbone rear suspension set-up
A rebound spring in the front struts helps keep inside wheels loaded during cornering, the front anti-roll bar is 22mm thick, a rear anti-roll bar has been added and the rear struts have been stiffened.
In fact, we reckon the Subaru XV dynamics are so good it could do with Subaru’s 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated WRX engine (and maybe even the STi turbo!).
In the city our 2.0i Subaru XV was generally handy – although we did find the six-speed manual transmission notchy at times. The excellent 10.6-metre turning circle easily conquered our tight CBD car park and the good all-round visibility made for easy maneuvering.
Same as when we drove the Subaru XV at launch, we reckon the front seats could do with a bit more lateral support. And for that Subaru can thank the excellent XV chassis which has very high limits.
A week in the Subaru XV also had us wishing for more luggage space for baby strollers and golfing paraphernalia.
As an all-round package, the Subaru XV delivers. Sure there are similar compact SUVs with larger cargo space and some with more power – but the XV stands tall with its total combination.
That means Subaru quality, the hallmark all-wheel-drive chassis, nice styling inside and out and slick on-road dynamics.
And where Subaru has really delivered is value-for-money. Check the specifications of the Subaru XV against similar rivals and the conclusion is this newcomer stacks-up well against all-comers, including its Forester and Outback stablemates…and they’ve certainly sold in large numbers for a long time.
Variety is the middle name of the compact SUV segment – in reality the Subaru XV doesn’t compete with heavy duty big-sellers like Toyota RAV4 and Suzuki Grand Vitara. However there is a ‘Who’s Who’ of similar rival ‘Crossovers’.
Newest arrival is Mazda’s outstanding all-new CX-5 which is very sharply priced from $27,800 (Maxx grade 2.0-litre petrol, six-speed manual). The petrol CX-5 marginally out-muscles the Subaru XV with 114kW/200Nm 2.0-litre petrol engine and does provide more interior space and luggage capacity.
The freshly upgraded Renault Koleos brings French design flair and a stylish interior. Entry grade Renault Koleos Expression I is front-wheel-drive, priced identical to the Subaru XV2.0i at $28,490 and delivers a bit more urge thanks to its 126kW/226Nm 2.5-litre petrol engine.
Nissan’s X-TRAIL is a massive seller in this segment as families appreciate its wagon-like cargo space. Entry-level Nissan X-TRAIL ST also snags the $28,490 sticker but is only front-wheel-drive and the 2.0-litre petrol engine is good for 102kW/198Nm.
Kia Sportage is a beauty but the entry-level Si ($26,220) is a front-driver. Kia’s 122kW/197Nm 2.0-litre petrol engine packs more punch than the Subaru XV and it affords a tad more cargo space but you’ll need $32,220 for the cheapest all-wheel-drive Sportage (SLi grade).
Similar story for Hyundai’s ix35 ($26,990 for the entry-level Active 2WD and $31,990 for the Elite AWD).
And of course there are huge wraps on Volkswagen’s Tiguan with the entry-level 2WD 118TSI hitting the $28,490 mark ($33,490 kicks-off Tiguan’s all-wheel-drive models).
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