Features: 80 / 100
Look/Design: 75 / 100
Performance: 65 / 100
Safety: 90 / 100
Fortress of Solitude has grown up. We’ve come of age and with that we bring you our first car review. That’s right folks, our very first car review. And what a start it is!
I had the pleasure of test driving the sexy Subaru XV for this review. Yes, I said “sexy” and “Subaru” in the same sentence. No blue paint-job, extra-large wings, or gold rims for the XV. It is a very good-looking car. The problem is that it has to be. It is trying to muscle its way into one of the most competitive market segments in our country. Its direct competitors are the Kia Sportage, Hyundai iX35, Nissan Quashqai, VW Tiguan and Ford Kuga – tough competition indeed.
The XV is a very competent crossover vehicle that’s as much at home in the concrete jungles of modern cities, as it is in the wilderness.
So, how does the XV stack up to the competition?
The XV has a very striking and unique look. It’s aggressive, yet stylish. It’s instantly recognisable as a Subaru, yet distinctive. The XV comes standard with roof rails, which definitely adds to the adventurous look. It also has Xenon headlamps, fog-lamps and a sun-roof. But the most striking visual aspect of the exterior are the rims. The dual tone 17” rims are stunning and very eye-catching, without looking cheap or nasty. The XV also sports a ground clearance of 220mm, which bests many SUVs. It all comes together into one of the best looking cars in this segment.
The interior is a more sombre affair. It’s a bit of a shame that the bold design of the exterior didn’t get translated into the interior as well. It’s very spacious and the seats are comfortable. The sun-roof also helps to add a more spacious feel to the interior. But the fascia does suffer from some cheap plastic that feels very out-of-place for a car in this price range. The door handles have been overlooked by the interior designers and feel the cheapest of all the interior trimmings.
The unit I drove had SAT NAV, one of the two extras. I would skip that one. The SAT NAV UI is buggy, lags and the touchscreen interface is terrible, especially if you are familiar with new generation touch-screen phones. The standard audio unit does a fine job. Stick with that option. The 3D display, although nice looking, isn’t really 3D. But it does have many different views and ways of showing stats, which is very useful.
The other optional extra are the leather seats. They were very comfortable and the seats give adequate support, especially when tackling the twisting roads.
The cargo area was a bit of a talking point. I’ve gotten a few different stats for the actual size of the cargo area of the XV, but that aside, it wasn’t large enough. Not for this class of vehicle. A camera bag and three tripods nearly consumed the whole boot. The luggage space had to make way for the XV’s differential. But at least there is room for the full size spare wheel.
Safety is something that Subaru obviously took very seriously with the XV. It scored the full 5 stars in both the ANCAP and ENCAP tests and has all the passive (7 airbags, steering column support beam, side impact protection beams) and active (ABS, EBD, BAS, Symmetrical All Wheel Drive, reverse camera) safety measures employed to make sure you get home safe.
The XV comes in two guises, manual transmission or automatic (Lineartronic CVT), both outfitted with a 2 litre boxer engine and Constant Symmetrical All Wheel Drive (CSAWD). The car comes packed with a host of standard features, including dual climate control automatic stop-start, multi-function display, rear-park assist, cruise control, sun-roof, a phenomenal sound system and steering wheel mounted controls.
We tested the CVT version for this review. The CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) was very smooth, as you’d expect. The 2 litre engine outputs [email protected] and torque of [email protected] This engine is not typically Subaru, in the sense that it is tuned for efficiency rather than performance. And it is very frugal. I achieved an average of 8.6L/100km, whilst putting the car through its paces. Best consumption achieved was less than 7L/100km. The XV also won its class in the recent total economy run.
With the better economy, the obvious trade-off is performance, and unfortunately it does suffer somewhat. Subaru claims a 0-100km/h of 10.5 seconds, but I couldn’t get it below 13 seconds. That’s a bit sluggish off the mark. The added CSAWD’s weight and lack of turbo charging, means that the torque isn’t very high and in-gear acceleration suffers.
I’m also not convinced by the CVT gearbox. It feels as if the engine has more power than the gearbox is putting down on the road, and the CVT whining on hard acceleration isn’t a positive.
It isn’t all bad though. The 2 litre is powerful enough to keep the XV at pace whenever cruise control is activated, and together with the CSAWD means a potent combination whenever the road isn’t straight. The XV is quite fast around passes and twisting roads and actually turned out to be much more fun than I thought it would be. The lower centre of gravity from the boxer engine obviously helps this car a lot. It feels very agile for a vehicle this size. In fact, I think the ideal engine for the XV would be the 2.5 litre diesel.
All this actually fits well with the car’s adventure character. The XV felt very at home on dirt roads and uneven surfaces. It never lost composure and the CSAWD did a fantastic job to make an off-road noob like me, look like a pro traversing some serious off-road bits.
The engine has enough grunt to traverse all but the trickiest of terrains and is a very comfortable car to use for long distances. This, coupled with the frugal nature of the engine actually makes for a good combination. The most enjoyable trips with the XV is while bundu-bashing through dirt roads, over rifts and rocks and loose sand, only to pop out onto the highway and shoot off into the sunset, on your way home. The XV is the perfect off/on road combination vehicle.
Something also has to be said for Subaru’s service. It was immaculate. Communication was clear and things were done as and when they should have been. This is a big part of buying a car and in that sense Subaru excels.
The price isn’t one of this vehicle’s strong points. The manual transmission version, retails for R329 000 and the CVT version for R339 000. That makes this car up to R20 000 more than its direct rivals. The XV also has a 3 year/100 000km warranty and 3 year/75 000km maintenance plan as standard. This makes for a very hard sell on a vehicle that doesn’t beat its rivals on any specification level.
The XV is by no means a perfect car, but is indeed a good car. It has its flaws (the boot space, some cheap plastics, the somewhat lethargic engine and the price), but it also has some strengths (the looks, the CSAWD, the go-anywhere nature and the frugal engine). The biggest problem that the XV faces, however, is that it doesn’t introduce anything dramatically new. There’s no diesel alternative and it’s the most expensive vehicle in its segment.
All photography by Hein Schlebusch for Resolution Imagery.