Subaru XV: A star is born the second time around
Mark Smyth did not have high expectations of the new Subaru XV, but was pleasantly surprised
When we drove the first generation of the Subaru XV, we were less than impressed. The engine was less starry Pleiades and more plank, the gearbox made more noise than a whiny dog and the fuel consumption was dreadful.
It had some off-road ability though, but after a sojourn to Sabie in Mpumalanga to follow a round of the national rally championship, we were happy to give it back.
So we have to admit that we were not in a rush to test the new generation, which was recently launched in SA. Being based on the new Impreza, we felt that we probably had an idea on how the new XV would be. Then we agreed and it arrived.
What took us so long? Why did no one tell us that everything that was wrong with the first generation XV has been thrown in the nearest dustbin and instead the engineers created a car that people can actually enjoy?
Gone are the naff plastics, the terrible gearbox and the lacklustre engine. In its place is a car that is great to drive, responsive to throttle inputs and comfortable on Joburg roads. The driving position is excellent although the steering wheel could be a little smaller and the level of overall comfort puts many of its rivals to shame.
We didn’t take it back to Sabie, but unlike the first generation which we could not wait to get out of, we wanted to take it to Sabie.
With traditional Subaru all-wheel drive it ticks all those spirit of adventure boxes for those who want to strap on the mountain bikes or chuck their boots in the back and head for the hills.
And when they get there, they will feel like the are relaxed and enjoyed the drive, something that disappeared with a number of Subaru models in recent years.
The interior features good design with touches of colour contrast instead of all that black plastic that typified the brand’s models for a period.
The cluster on top of the dash features a wealth of information on where your wheels are pointing, what the engine is doing and even the angle the car is sitting at, useful for if you do happen to venture out on a mild off-road excursion.
And with 220mm of ground clearance and that symmetrical all-wheel drive, we have no doubt that the new XV has a fair amount of capability for when you do.
The torque is available low down in spite of its lowly 196Nm peak being at 4,200r/min, enabling decent pullaway in town and ensuring that you should not need to make the engine work too hard if you are off the beaten track.
Back to that interior and the touchscreen infotainment system works well, with large, clear icons that reduce the level of distraction. It has Apple CarPlay which is great, especially if like me you like to stream your music to try to lighten the mood while dealing with the frustrations of Joburg traffic.
The rear seats are also comfortable with good space for the kids, but the slight rake to the rear door apertures means you may want to watch your head on occasion. Boot space at 310l is not exemplary but will suit most needs and of course you can fold the seats down to increase that to 1,220l. In the worst case, you can also add a trailer with the XV having a towing capacity of 1,400kg braked.
The timing for Subaru could not be better. Competition is extremely tough, but where once we would have scoffed at the idea of the XV and pushed people towards the more comfortable and practical Forester, the new one has seriously impressed us and we were not expecting that at all.