2012 SUBARU XV REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Compact SUV hatch
Price: $31,990 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy listed: 7.3L/100km | tested: 10.8L/100km
This dedicated compact SUV is a world away from the first holder of this badge, the Impreza XV.
That first XV was just a jacked-up hatch with a higher ground clearance and pseudo off-road ability.
And while the new XV shares much of its running gear and panels with the new Impreza, it comes with enough special talents to be a new niche model for Subaru, slotting squarely into the highly competitive compact SUV category.
It’s not the cheapest around – other makers offer cut-price 2WD variants – but the ‘fulltime AWD’ XV stacks up well on price against its AWD contemporaries.
The mid-shelf 2.0i-L model, tested here, and which sits between the 2.0i and 2.0i-S, is arguably the best value of the trio.
Quality: Despite the dark interior, the cabin has a light and open feel thanks to its enormous glasshouse and raked windscreen.
The switchgear and knobs are mostly sweet to the touch, with the exception of the info and trip-reset stalks that are long and flimsy.
The sat-nav touch-screen also looks a bit of an afterthought, and there are some exposed welds on the door frame; small glitches that mar an otherwise pleasant interior.
Comfort: The cloth-covered seats look a mite cheap, but are actually quite comfortable.
The front seats however could do with better lumbar support – off-road rock-crawling will have the whole busload bracing themselves (but in this alloy-shod softy will not be attempted by many).
Equipment: Standard equipment across the XV range includes a decent six-speaker audio with iPod and Bluetooth, wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls, dash-mounted info screen, reversing camera, cruise control, fog lights, roof rails, and those polarizing 17-inch alloy wheels.
The L specification adds dual-zone climate control, touch-screen for Sat-Nav and audio controls (additional to the info screen), leather trimmings, ‘privacy’ glass and sunroof.
Oddly, the standard reversing camera is not matched to reverse parking sensors.
Bi-Xenon headlights are saved for the S model; the L gets some rather weak halogen spotters.
Storage: The boot is only 310 litres, and while it will fit two good-sized suitcases (pictured), the space saver spare tyre makes the boot quite shallow.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Fire up the engine, and it sounds like the same old 2.0-litre Boxer. But pull away through the gears and you can feel it’s an all-new flat four.
The new FB20, which has taken over from the rather archaic EJ20, has about the same power and torque on paper at 110kW/235Nm. It could do with a dollop or two more of the latter: the climb through the revs is docile.
The new donk with its lighter components and longer stroke is tuned to optimise economy. Helping it is a standard start/stop system.
A countdown timer appears on the centre screen, advising how long the engine has been halted on each trip and how many millilitres of fuel saved.
On test, our car averaged between 0.1-0.3 litres of saved fuel each trip, which is better than nothing, but the fuel consumption of 10.8 l/100km by the end of a week of city driving is at the higher end of the scale.
Umm, where is the 2.0-litre diesel, Subaru?
The manual six-speed gearbox is typically notchy, with the well-used second and third gears being quite tall - in fact, it feels like they belong in a five-speeder.
But the tall lower gears reduce the number of shifts needed around town.
Vision is good, the steering is nicely-weighted, and while the turning circle is large, the XV is a cinch to manoeuvre.
Refinement: The cabin is relatively damped and quiet despite its larger rims and typically vocal all-terrain rubber.
When the auto start/stop kicks the engine back into life it’s a harsh aural intrusion, and there is also that ol’ familiar Subie rack-rattle over sharper corrugations when lock is wound on.
Suspension: Some of the suspension components have been stolen from the hi-po STI Impreza. Unsurprisingly, the XV has a distinctly tied-down feeling over varying terrain.
Just a short stint onto gravel proved it can handle the harsh stuff with excellent bump and rebound control; far better than some of its 2WD-biased contemporaries.
The XV’s taller ride height (and higher roll centre) produces a bit of lean on corners, but body control is pretty impressive for a car with 220mm of clearance.
Braking: The brake pedal has a boosted feel to it, but it is not overly sensitive. The brakes work well, and the standard ‘hill-hold’ stops the car rolling backwards on incline starts.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars.
Safety features: The XV adds a driver's knee airbag bringing the total to seven. Stability control, brake assist and ABS, and ‘hill-hold’ help the safety rating, while constant AWD provides added grip.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/Unlimited kilometres
Service costs: Six months/12,500km service intervals. Subaru does not offer fixed-price servicing; check with your dealer prior to purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Volkswagen Tiguan 132TSI ($33,490) – More costly than the XV, and its servicing and parts costs will also be a good deal higher. A smaller boot but a superb drivetrain and a long feature-list. (see Tiguan reviews)
Mitsubishi ASX Aspire 2.0i ($34,990) - The 4x4 ASX petrol is the top-shelf unit, and comes in CVT only. It’s coarser than the XV but Mitsubishi also has a 300Nm diesel at the same price point (manual transmission). (see ASX reviews)
Hyundai ix35 Elite 2.4i ($34,990) - Offering 130kW/227Nm despite a bigger engine, the ix35 is not going to win the power walk. But it is capable, comes well-specced, and offers a brilliant warranty and servicing costs. (see ix35 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
It won’t suit everyone, and, for those who know how inspiring and dynamic a Subaru can be, the XV’s drivetrain feels a little dull.
But it is a very capable car from a company that knows its SUVs and has been building them bullet-proof for a long time.
At its price, in a very tough market, the XV L stacks up well. You certainly should give it a look.