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Subaru XV 2.0i review: A different breed

POSTED BY CBT Team ON 05 July 2013

FOR a brand that is better known for its models that appealed more to niche markets rather than the mass  in Malaysia, Subaru’s decision to step into uncharted territory with the XV compact crossover was very bold indeed. Especially so when competition in the segment is already stiff with the likes of Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5 and the Kia Sportage in the fray.

Despite knowing that attracting a new audience is not going to be an easy task, Subaru believes that the XV brings something very different to the table. But is that enough to compete with some very established rivals?

At first glance, the XV seems to lose out in the size department. It doesn’t look as large as the other compact SUVs and it sports a lower roofline than most. However, with 220mm of ground clearance, it has a base that is actually 50mm higher than the next nearest competing SUV model.

To its credit, the chunky bumpers and plastic extensions on the wheel arches and door sills give the crossover a rugged look, complementing its purpose aptly.

Although the XV is built on the same platform as the hatchback Impreza, but it looks nothing like it. Inside, the XV offers decent head and leg room in front. In the rear however, head space is an issue for anyone taller than five-and-a-half feet.

Fortunately, leg room isn’t an issue, and in terms of comfort, the leather seats hugged us well and kept us comfy at all times.
Slightly disappointing is the fact that the cabin looked like it was designed 10 years ago. The materials used lacked refinement and the dashboard and instrument panel could have been designed to have more a current feel and appeal.

However, whatever the XV lacks in modern cabin refinement, it more than makes up for in performance, ride and handling. In this respect, we actually feel that Subaru’s compact crossover is miles ahead of its competitors.

First, there was the smooth power delivery. The 2.0-litre boxer engine that kicks out 150hp and 196Nm of torque and the Lineartronic CVT transmission does a fine job of ensuring that there is always enough power to play with. It is not the most powerful SUV around, but in our opinion, it delivers the power with better refinement than most.

Where handling is concerned, the XV is as close as any Japanese crossover or compact SUV below RM150,000 mark can get to a passenger car. It felt planted at corners, which is where most SUVs would suffer. The steering is uncharacteristically responsive, which in turn enhances the driver’s confidence in a way most SUVs fail to do in hard driving circumstances.

Despite having a high ground clearance, the XV has a low centre of gravity, thanks to Subaru’s trademark Boxer engine configuration, which has two pairs of pistons firing away from each other at horizontal points. This allows the engine to be mounted at a lower point, with a lower centre gravity, which results in class-leading handling and stability for the XV.

In terms of features, the XV comes with cruise control, paddle shifters, GPS navigation system, a reverse camera, automatic air conditioning with anti-dust filter, and an audio system with DVD, iPod and USB connectivity.

Despite only having a short stint with the XV, we could quickly conclude that Subaru wasn’t off the mark about the XV offering something very different to the compact SUVs arena.

In most cases, those who purchase a SUV would do so because they want a cabin with space, a raised driving and seating position, and because they generally desire the idea of being in a larger and more impactful machine – and not necessarily because they require off-road capabilities.

The Subaru XV on the other hand will appeal to more active drivers, those who don’t prioritise on space but want an engaging drive, and the ability to get off the tarmac and do some mild off-the-beaten-track driving every now and then.

Specifications

Engine: 2-litre, DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder horizontally opposed
Power: 148hp @ 6,200rpm
Torque: 196Nm @ 4,200rpm
Transmission: All wheel drive, CVT, with paddle shifters
Fuel consumption: 7.9 litres/100 km (manufacturer’s figure, combined cycle)
Safety: Dual front airbags, driver’s knee airbag, ABS with EBD and BA, ISOFIX
Price: RM145,070 (OTR with insurance)

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