The Impreza-based 2012 Subaru XV gives Japanese brand another entry into compact SUV segment and brings more convincing interior quality and styling.
Subaru has brought back the XV badge it introduced on the Impreza range in mid 2010, but this time it's being given special individual treatment as the Japanese brand aims for a two-prong attack in the compact SUV segment together with the Forester.
If you notice any similarities to the next-generation Impreza small car, that's because the Subaru XV is essentially a jacked-up, beefed-up version of the Impreza hatch that launches separately in February. Think of the Subaru XV as being to the Subaru Impreza what the Subaru Outback is to the Subaru Liberty.
A longer wheelbase, however, enhances its legitimacy as a stand-alone model, while the rugged styling certainly lends it the look of a proper SUV. It's also fair to say the XV is the best-looking Subaru currently on sale (even if some would say that's not a difficult feat).
The new Subaru XV is the first of many upcoming Subaru models that are set to change the styling trend of the current line-up. It’s hard to gain a full respect for the design from photos alone, but from the outside the little SUV looks much meaner than its proportions would have you believe. Measuring 4450mm long, 1780mm wide and 1615mm high, the XV is not exactly a small vehicle.
Then there is the spacious interior, thanks to that extended wheelbase, which can comfortably fit four large adults for long-distance drives.
The dashboard layout and cabin feel is very traditional Subaru, however there is now a greater use of soft-touch plastics and darker colours throughout the cabin. It no longer has that cheap feel of the old Impreza, and there is no doubt that it comes with the best interior of any current Subaru on the market.
Even the very base model gets a reversing camera, iPod/USB/Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control and a 4.3-inch multi-function LCD that can display a whole range of information for convenience.
The steering wheel is reach and height adjustable and it takes just a few seconds to get comfortable behind the wheel. It’s as if someone, somewhere, has finally started paying serious attention to Subaru interiors.
Two large adults can easily fit in the back seat and you can accommodate three if the need arises. The rear seatbacks have a pronounced inverted curve for maximum knee room and the high roof ensures generous headroom.
Three different Subaru XV variants are available, with manual gearbox or continuously variable transmission auto.
Prices start from $28,490 for the six-speed manual XV 2.0i (add $2,500 for the CVT automatic), which is roughly $2,000 more than the competition’s entry price - essentially because Subaru's 4WD focus (upcoming Subaru BRZ excepted, of course) means there's no cheaper front-wheel-drive variant.
The mid-spec 2.0i-L demands $31,990 and the top spec 2.0i-S starts from $34,490. Despite the higher entry price, Subaru says its XV range is better equipped for the money, pointing out the inclusion of reversing camera and seven airbags as part of its standard package.
Although its primary competitors are also five-star ANCAP rated, the Subaru XV still gains the benefit of having the highest safety score from ANCAP for any vehicle in its class (35.3 out of 37 for a five star rating).
All three variants are powered by the same third-generation four-cylinder 2.0-litre 'FB' horizontally opposed Boxer engine that manages 110kW (at 6200rpm) and 196Nm of torque (at 4200rpm).
Although the figures make it sound anything but sporty, it’s more than reasonable for its 1390kg kerb weight (the CVT auto adds 30kg). Around town the new six-speed manual gearbox is simple to operate with a straightforward clutch and gearstick, but given the fuel-efficiency focus of the XV, the tall gear ratios do tend to make power delivery seem a little lackluster at times. Up the hilly roads of Launceston, where Subaru Australia staged the XV's launch, we felt the need for more torque. We found ourselves having to revert to first gear to climb the area's famous Jacob’s Ladder mountain road.
Then there’s the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), which is by far the better choice as it provides the best balance between power delivery and efficiency. It also seems to overcome the torque deficiency found in the manual.
Unfortunately it suffers the same fate as many other CVTs on the market today, it’s rather noisy.
The Subaru XV is the first car in its segment to offer start-stop technology across the range. The system automatically turns the engine off when idling and switches it back on almost instantly when required. It’s a clever environmentally friendly and fuel-saving initiative for peak-hour traffic.
For manual models the engine is switched off when the vehicle is stopped and the gear stick is place in neutral, while the CVT variants will react similarly if the vehicle stops for longer than half a second.
Both models restart their engines within 0.35 of a second when either the brake pedal is released or clutch pedal is operated (manual only). Like other start-stop systems currently in practice, Subaru’s implementation is very seamless and hardly noticeable after a few minutes.
Together with the new engine and improved transmissions, fuel usage and CO2 emissions are rated at 7.0L/100km and 162g/km for the CVT and 7.3L/100km and 168g/km for the six-speed manual.
The Subaru XV will happily achieve those figures on regular unleaded, and with a 60-litre fuel tank it’s theoretically capable of about 850km between stops.
On the road the XV feels confident and planted, even when pushed to its limits. The flat four-cylinder boxer engine again provides a lower than typical centre of gravity that aids the vehicle's balance.
There is no noticeable body roll around bends and the steering is direct. The electronic stability control system detects any loss-of-traction situation and quickly steps in to correct the XV’s course.
On the dirt roads around Launceston, we found it to be a little intrusive but it’s always a case of better early than too late. Around corners the XV feels like it can handle significantly more power.
The stiffer chassis (compared to outgoing Impreza) easily accommodates the daily needs of XV buyers and has great potential for more power. Unfortunately there are currently no plans for either a turbo diesel or a 2.0-litre turbo petrol (engine out of the WRX).
Despite being the same model, CVT and manual variants use completely different methodologies for their all-wheel-drive system. CVT variants make use of an electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system that employs multi-plate transfer (MPT) to distribute torque to the rear wheels. Generally it has a 60:40 (front:rear) torque distribution but that can vary if required.
In contrast, manual XVs use a centre differential with a mechanical centre viscous limited slip differential that has no need for electronic control. For this application torque split remains 50:50 front:rear governed by the centre differential.
The average driver would find it very difficult to feel the difference between the two.
Subaru plans to sell around 500 XVs per month with sales not expected to cannibalise those of the popular Forester. Subaru argues the Forester and XV are two completely different propositions, each appealing to different buyers. The Japanese company expects a range of new-to-brand buyers jumping into XVs and the average buyer age to be around the mid to high 40s.
The 2012 Subaru XV represents the direction in which the company is heading, not only in terms of exterior and interior design, but also technology, efficiency and best-in-class safety. Our biggest compliment is the much-improved interior compared to the outgoing Impreza and the rather bold and aggressive exterior styling that the company was so well known for a good decade ago.
- Subaru XV 2.0i six-speed manual $28,490
- Subaru XV 2.0i Lineartronic™ CVT $30,990
- Subaru XV 2.0i-L six-speed manual $31,990
- Subaru XV 2.0i-L Lineartronic™ CVT $34,490
- Subaru XV 2.0i-S six-speed manual $34,490
- Subaru XV 2.0i-S Lineartronic™ CVT $36,990
- ABS anti-lock brakes with four-wheel discs and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD)
- All-Wheel Drive
- Automatic transmission lock-out - need foot on brake, key in ignition “on” position, to release lever
- Brake Assist
- Child seat anchor points on back of rear seat
- Curtain airbags
- Driver’s knee airbag
- Dual front airbags
- Dual side airbags
- Four wheel disc brakes
- Front seatbelts with pretensioners and load limiters. Double pretensioners on driver’s seatbelt
- Front adjustable seatbelt anchorage
- Hill Start Assist – manual variants
- Rear door child lock
- Reversing camera
- Ring-shaped reinforced passenger cabin
- Seatbelt indicator lights and warning tone – front and rear seats
- Shock absorbing brake and clutch pedals
- Side intrusion bars
- Three-point A/ELR rear centre seatbelt
- Vehicle Dynamics Control
- AM/FM tuner CD player, six speakers, iPod, Bluetooth and USB connectivity
- Automatic air conditioning
- Bottle holders in front doors + two cup holders in centre console & rear armrest
- Cargo area light
- Cargo hooks
- Cargo security blind
- Central locking - remote
- Cruise control – steering wheel buttons
- Driver’s footrest
- Height and reach adjustable steering column
- Height adjustable driver’s seat
- Immobiliser security system
- Lineartronic™ Continuously Variable Transmission option with paddle shift
- Map lights (2)
- Multi-Function Display with liquid crystal screen, with premium information options and steering wheel control
- Power steering, mirrors and windows
- Rear illumination instrument display
- Remote fuel lid release – tethered fuel cap
- Seatback pocket (passenger side)
- Six speed manual transmission option
- Two remote central locking keys
- Vanity mirror
- 60/40 split/fold rear seat
- 12V/120W power jacks
- 17-inch alloy wheels – 17” steel temporary spare
- Chrome-surround grille
- Colour-coded mirrors and door handles
- Front fog lights
- Rear roof spoiler with LED brake light
- Rear roof mounted radio antenna
- Rear wiper
- Roof rails
- Auto hatch unlock on key
- DataDot security technology
- Electronic Throttle Control (ETC)
- Auto Start Stop
- Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty
- 2.0 litre DOHC horizontally opposed boxer engine with dual AVCS. 110 kW/6200 rpm, 196 Nm/4200 rpm
- Dual zone climate control air conditioning
- Leather trim steering wheel and gear knob
- Rear privacy glass
- Satellite navigation with voice activation
- Sliding centre console
- Chrome-type exterior door handle insert
- Drilled alloy pedals
- Eight-way adjustable electronic driver’s seat
- Heated front seats
- HID headlights
- Leather trim
- Premium silver roofrails
- Wing mirror mounted indicators