The Subaru XV is targeted at young families who enjoy hiking, scuba diving and the general outdoors. Therefore they will need a vehicle that is cool, hip and a hoot to drive, while being affordable and practical.
I am young and am looking into getting back into scuba diving with the First Lady. I can only afford one car, so it needs to take me and my equipment diving and also work for me in bumper traffic. I also want my car to be practical and make me smile. I am the person Subaru want to buy the XV. So, would I actually buy it?
Disclosure pt1. The Subaru XV is designed to be economical. Much as I winge about the performance, you need to remember the Car-Life scoring system is styled towards performance. The XV achieved an insane 768km off a 60l. That works out to 7,2l/100km! Really good for a big car.
Disclosure pt2: I have driven the Impreza 1,5, so my references here are accurate.
In the Subaru range, the XV sits as the entry-level off-road vehicle. Bigger than the XV are, in order: The off-road estate car – Legacy Outback, the mid-sized SUV Forester and finally the enormous but rather expensive Tribeca. The XV also offers a larger option to the buyer considering the standard Impreza. I suspect it may dilute sales of the Legacy Outback and possibly the smaller, cheaper Forrester derivatives.
Being the target market for this vehicle, I will say it has the cool, funky looks sorted, giving it a definite hip factor. Where the decision will be made is in the drive. If it’s boring, then the young target market will be too busy with their outdoor activities to even notice the XV. In short, its drive needs to be as good as its looks.
Let’s start off on an up: Subaru have certainly identified their target market. The XV’s exterior is certainly one of the funkiest SUV-Crossovers on the market at the moment.
The bonnet lacks the usual bonnet scoop found on most Subaru’s, but it’s the better for it.
The front end has a European feel to it, with soft curves over the headlamps and neat ridges on the bonnet, giving it a look not too dissimilar to the BMW X3. Round the back, it’s neat and tidy, with dual-exhausts giving a sporty touch to the rear.
The best part of the Subaru XV’s looks is the wheels: 17″ two-tone alloys. The ones on my test model had a black honeycomb pattern, with silver edges. It looked fantastic.
The XV has the exact same interior as the Impreza. It’s not a bad interior – all the controls are well laid out, with easy access to everything for both the driver and the passenger. The XV does have an extra screen at the top of the dashboard displaying time, fuel levels, fuel consumption and the amount of grip each wheel has.
Space wise, the XV is enormous. I’m a short guy, but even so, I had plenty space in the front and the back. Sitting in the back or front I always had ample leg- and headroom.
Add in the huge windscreen and the sunroom, and the spacious feeling is amplied further.
The Subaru XV is powered by a 2.0l 4-cylinder boxer engine producing 110kW and 196Nm. It’s the same engine that has been put into the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ, but is tuned for economy rather than power.
This tuning becomes evident when you’re driving on a main road and want to accelerate up to speed. 0-100km/h takes 10,5seconds, which is an age. On the freeway the lack of top end grunt becomes more evident when you try and overtake someone. You approach, drop a gear and floor it. For the next 10-15 seconds you drive behind them, revving your engine like an idiot, as the XV cannot muster enough power to accelerate in 5th or 6th gear and overtake someone.
This lack of acceleration makes the whole car feel big and tedious, ruining the drive on the freeway or on main roads.
The XV has larger brakes than it’s Impreza stable mate but I’d be lying if I told you I could tell the difference. I once stood on the brake pedal to find out what the response was like and they felt like … well, like brakes. I pushed the pedal and the car came to a halt. They’re a tiny bit sharper than expected if anything, but not so sharp that the ABS kicks in every time you arrive at a stop street.
They never produced any hint or sign of problems, even when trying to summit some annoying ramps at OR Tambo. All in all, they worked like brakes should.
The XV is designed to compromise it’s ride – It needs to be able to handle the off-road but needs to ride smoothly on the road in order to not cause the passengers to feel sea sick. The XV has achieved this.
Driving on the road the XV feels solid and doesn’t rock a boatload when cornering. Driving on some grass (I never took it properly off-road, Sorry Subaru) the ride was comfortable. My dismal spine is in tact and the car is comfortable to operate.
The XV is a large car. The key word in there is “car.” If it were an SUV, the XV would have handling that could be called average. But driving it, you are acutely aware of the fact that it feels like a large car.
Mostly the XV feels large and lazy. The steering is rather slow and lazy, feeling like a small car would at low speed – the casual, slightly floppy feeling.
The XV has AWD, like all Subarus. The wheels are connected to the engine via a 6-speed gearbox. The gear ratios are set up in a rather peculiar fashion.
Pulling off in 1st, the gears then feel like: 2nd, 3rd, and 5th, 6th, 7th. I realize this is to maximize economy but the gaps make the car feel lazy.
That said, the gears are smooth and quiet, making the most of the engine’s economy tuning.
The model I drove was equipped with an optional touchscreen audio system that includes iPod connectivity, DVD, MP3 USB and Satellite Navigation.
As an audio system, the Subaru is adequate. Quality is crisp and masked the engines noise when you rev it to try and maximize the power.
The real issue with the audio system was the user experience. The touch screen was vague, the change between interfaces slow and most inputs needed to be input through the screen with no override option through the audio controls available.
Scrolling my iPhone music library nearly resulted in a number of crashes, as you need to press “next” multiple times to get from screen to screen, and if you got your selection wrong you began scrolling from the beginning again.
In a crossover SUV you expect a number of gadgets and luxuries. The unit I tested had all the basics: Electric windows, steering wheel controls, climate control and leather seats (which turned out to be an option).
There is also a reversing camera and afore mentioned audio-Satnav system. Added to these, there were a number of really cool toys fitted:
- The fuel average indicator:
Your average fuel economy is indicated in the center, and as you drive, a little red line moves up or down depending if you are using more or less fuel at that instant than your average indicates.
- The Fuel Calculator
Taking your current fuel economy, average economy and current fuel available, the computer displays distance since last refueling, distance until next refueling and time until next refueling at your average speed
- The Traction Meter
Switch to this mode and a diagram of all 4 wheels is displayed. If you lose traction in any wheel it turns orange first and then red as a warning.
On the road it is a fairly useless gadget but I suspect off-road it would be incredibly useful!
The Subaru XV is priced at R329 000 without the leather seats and silly audio system. That makes it approximately the same price as the Nissan Quashqai 2,0l diesel and the same as a Hyundai’s iX35 4X2.
The Subaru may have a lot of toys, but they Hyundai delivers far more as standard in terms of size, equipment, options available and performance.
Conclusion 59/100 (+5 for economy)
Let me apply my standard measure to the Subaru XV: Would I buy one, with money? Yes.
I really like the XV and would recommend it to my friends. The engine is rather wheazy and the audio system is dim-whitted but all you can have for the price is used Hyundai ix35 4X4 if you want a capable car.
If you are looking for a vehicle to do outdoor activities and don’t need the full 4×4 capability of a Fortuner or Pajero, then the XV will suit you well. Its fuel economy makes it hugely worth your consideration.
Test car courtesy of Subaru SA