Subaru XV - Now with X Factor

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Words: Peter Louisson
27 Jun 2017

When a certain someone returned from the Subaru Impreza launch earlier this year, pronouncing it to be the best new small car of 2017, the claim was met with a certain amount of incredulity. After all, there were 10 months of 2017 to go. He stood by the claim though, and said as much in print. Subaru were happy, naturally, but it was a bold claim all the same.

Now that we’ve just driven the second-generation XV, which utilises the same new Subaru Global Platform, upon which almost all of their new vehicles will be based, I can see why Mr Ed came home waxing lyrical. For in the small SUV sector, the chassis does indeed set new standards. We recently drove Limited edition of the facelifted CX-3, which is also a pretty good steer, but the XV is better; not only does it ride in sublime and typically long travel cushy Subaru fashion, but NVH levels are also particularly well suppressed. And yet it manages to round up the corners in pretty convincing fashion as well, limited mainly by its Dueler rubber and highest ground clearance in the sector (220mm). Naturally it’s AWD across the range, but that’s somewhat limited compared with the four-model line-up the Aussies take. We get just two versions, a fairly well specified Sport model and the range-topping Premium.

Subaru flew us in to Napier for the launch of its new baby and only after completing the drive programme was the reason for that apparent. A good chunk of the roads are used for Targa events, so we quickly got to check out just how good this new chassis really is. The steering is particularly tasty for a small SUV and the brakes are reassuringly potent as well. They took a long twisting descent in their stride without petering out. On gravel it was top fun, the TC allowing just a bit of sideways action.

What the original XV lacked was guts, and the new version not only gets a direction injection of added power, through er, the addition of direct fuel injection, but it’s also lighter overall thanks to the new chassis which is also significantly more rigid than before. It even feels lighter to drive, but also stronger across the midband, particularly from about 3500rpm onwards. No turbo here of course.

Round town there is decent pull from pretty much any revs. The 115kW/196Nm flat-four mill is hooked up to Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT which works pretty well on the whole, giving easy access to higher revs, necessary for overtaking, and shifting like a conventional auto when given the berries. Out in the wilds where we drove the car it can sometimes fall into a bit of a hole if the revs drop below 3000rpm but use of the manual mode avoids that. And the Premium model we drove features paddle shifters.

As to model specifics, the XV Sport features Eyesight (so AEB, active cruise and lane departure warning), seven airbags, 17-inch alloys, a smart key and pushbutton start, DRLs and dual zone air, along with symmetrical AWD naturally. All this and more for $34,990, which is precisely $3000 less than its forebear sold for.

The Premium model adds RCTA and lane keeping, along with leather, navigation, powered sunroof and driver’s seat, heated door mirrors and seats, 18-inch alloys and LED headlamps, for an extra $5k ($39,990).

CX-3, your first genuine rival has arrived, and it has teeth. It’s way roomier inside too and pricing is sharp.

For more on the XV check out the August edition of NZ Autocar where it fronts against the CX-3 and Toyota’s new CH-R.


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