Well this is the Subaru XV, a new model in the lineup that hopes to compete in the crossover niche that the manufacturers are cashing in on. Screw ironing boards on the bootlid and gold mags, this XV stands out with an angular design, black and grey rims and a somewhat eye-catching clementine orange paint job.
It sort of competes with the Nissan Qashqai, Peugeot 3008 and alike but also doesn’t really at all. It doesn’t have the space, versatility or the engine variants to compete in that segment, but then does have significant off-road prowess thanks to all wheel drive and increased ride height to be a true crossover.
Here in SA you get one engine variant, in either manual or auto. That’s it. However over in Her Majesty the Queen’s country they add a diesel engine and get a variety of trim levels. Not sure if the diesel engine is on its way but there’s no trim spec changes as in the other Subaru models.
What’s under the hood?
Well, for starts I think the noisiest engine I’ve recently had the chance of driving. A 2litre flat 4 unit producing 110kW and 196NM. It’s apparently the first try at the 2litre unit that will also feature in the Subaru BRZ & Toyota 86. There’s no turbo (sadly), which is something you might have come to expect from Subaru? It’s a terrible let down, especially since it drives through all 4 wheels, as it’s an all wheel drive. City driving is a serious chore if you want to drive it briskly. Once it’s on the boil you constantly need to be thinking about the gear changes to keep the car moving forward at some significant speed. Highway driving is much the same. It’s just a bit noisier and overtaking is not something you’ll do if you value your life. 0-100km/h in the manual takes 10.8seconds, but feels more like 10.8decades. Things are not looking good for Clementine.
What’s it like inside?
Well it’s not as nearly as bad as the engine. Subaru has been doing some work over the years to make sure they improve the quality of their interiors. No exception here. There’s still way too much hard plastic (in various shades of silver, grey and black), but leather seats with orange stitching did lighten things up a bit. Quite a bit of standard specifications such as satellite navigation, Bluetooth, voice control, many places to plug in your ipod, dual zone climate control, HID headlamps and a reverse camera. There’s everything you’d need and expect at the price, it’s fairly comfortable and the rear has impressive headroom and legroom is good too. (A lot better than you’d expect actually) Unfortunately, the boot is quite small -It’s a flat boot with a rolling cover to make sure you don’t lose your laptop to prying eyes, but you’d struggle to fit a dead hooker in here at all.
What’s it like to drive?
So it’s actually quite a surprise off-road. I’m not talking jumping over rocks and wading through water, but dirt roads, mud and loose gravel is handled with confidence and easy. A nifty display on the top of the dash shows drivetrain layouts and to which wheel the power is being sent. I thoroughly enjoyed it off-road and was surprised at how few times the wheels actually broke traction. Subaru has always been spot on at making a drivetrain to work in these conditions, and in the XV there is no complaints. On the road, ride and handling is ok. Increased ride height does mean that they needed a firmer suspension to make sure there’s not too much rolling around. This means it’s a little crashy over bad surfaces, and you’d struggle to get the engine worked up enough to really push hard into corners. The car is confident under braking but steering is lifeless and dull.
The Vehicle Stability Control can never be fully switched out which meant it reigned in the fun a bit on the dirt roads.
Another let down was the manual gearbox, which felt like I was searching for a wooden spoon in the drawer full of cutlery. The shift gates placed so close to each other I found myself shifting from 2nd to 5th more than I’d have liked. This said, I’d take it over the auto any day.
Who is it for?
Your guess is as good as mine. As a hatch that’s very capable off-road, I’d say it’s for an adventure spirited rock-climbing single man who enjoys green tea and dabbles in meditation in his spare time. Otherwise it’s not big enough for those with a family, all the women I spoke to said it’s ugly and it’s not fast enough for a real Subaru enthusiast.
A real pity about the engine and gearbox because the rest is pretty good, but at R329 000 it’s fairly pricey, so if you’re hellbent on a Subaru go get a second hand Forester Turbo.