FIRST DRIVE: Subaru XV

FIRST DRIVE: Subaru XV

What is it?

Well, that depends on who you ask… Subaru will insist that the XV is an SUV that just happens to share a platform with the Impreza hatch, while the rest of the world would suggest that it also obviously shares its body, interior, engine, transmission and, well, everything else with the hatch.

The more insistent may also suggest that the XV simply gets some black plastic body addenda on the outside and a jacked up ride height over the Impreza.

But whether you consider it an SUV or a tall dressed-up Impreza, the new version of a very successful car for Subaru is now here.

How much does it cost?

Much like when it launched the new Impreza earlier this year, Subaru New Zealand has taken the chainsaw to the XV’s pricing, with the Sport coming in $3,000 cheaper than the previous car at $34,990, while also adding more equipment.

The same goes for the Premium, which sees even more equipment and a $5,000 reduction, retailing for $39,990.

What is its opposition?

Depends what you consider the XV to be, really.

As a small SUV it goes up against the likes of the Mazda CX-3, Jeep Renegade, Holden Trax, Honda HR-V, Mitsubishi ASX and Suzuki Vitara, even though it would be slightly larger than all of them. And, as Subaru are very keen to point out, has AWD as standard on every model.

Then there is the small car segment that is suffering at the hands of the SUV rampage, so stuff like the Mazda3, Holden Astra, Hyundai i30, VW Golf and Ford Focus could also conceivably fall into the decision making process.

What powers it?

Both models of the XV get the same 115kW/196Nm 2.0-litre horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine hooked up to a continuously variable transmission which, coincidentally, is the same powertrain in the Impreza…

What has it got?

The Sport gets 17-inch alloy wheels as standard, as well as an eight-inch touch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rear privacy glass, keyless entry and push button start, a rear view camera, a tyre pressure monitoring system and Subaru’s EyeSight driver assist system that brings collision alert, autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and a new lane-assist feature.

The Premium adds 18-inch wheels, automatic headlights, imbedded sat-nav, a sunroof, leather-accented trim, adaptive LED headlights and a more extensive suite of active safety features, including the Vision Assist package that brings blind-spot warning high-beam assist, lane-change assist, rear cross-traffic alert and rear autonomous braking.

What’s good about it?

Pretty much everything that was good about the Impreza applies here, but the XV also adds Subaru’s impressive X-mode off-road settings and tougher looks.

Subaru’s EyeSight assist system is consistently one of the best systems from the mainstream manufacturers and is even better in the XV.

What’s not so good?

Again, pretty much what we didn’t like about the Impreza applies here too, and that mainly focusses around the transmission.

Subaru’s previous CVTs in the likes of the Outback, Legacy and Forester were probably the best of the bunch in terms of this inherently unlikeable transmission, but the Impreza and new XV seemed to have missed out on Subaru’s best efforts in this department.

As a result the engine, which is smooth and acceptably powerful around town, suffers on the open road, thanks to the transmissions preference to scuttle up to the redline and just sit there when you accelerate…

First impressions?

While the transmission disappoints, the rest of the XV is such a convincingly good package that it becomes easier to overlook this.

The Impreza was Subaru’s first car on its new Subaru Global Platform and it was a deeply impressive steer, and the XV is no different.

Responsive and agile, the XV’s steering and chassis performance are a delight to behold, while its ride comfort and interior quality also impress.

The XV is a car that the term “Crossover” was invented for – you can argue all you like about whether the XV is an SUV or not (it’s really not…), but as a Crossover, the XV makes a startlingly complete case for itself.

It looks great, rides nicely, is an involving steer, is well made and boasts impressive interior quality and actually has some off road ability thanks to the 220mm of ground clearance (the highest in its segment) and the X-mode system.

 

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