Subaru XV: More Goodies for a Pleasant Drive

By Lee Pang Seng

Better looks aside, the new Subaru XV Crossover is clearly a better representation of the times with its higher level of equipment to make the ownership experience more convenient and enjoyable. With our last acquaintance in the previous XV reasonably fresh in our mind, we could relate to the novelty of enjoying the newer features that now come standard at an affordable price.

It was in 2014 that we last drove the XV and the latest version stands out for the greater convenience that many current day cars offer, in particular the higher-spec models for the compact range. The push start-stop button (to start or kill the engine) and touch points on the front door handles to lock and unlock are the new treats that we fully enjoyed.

The latest Subaru XV Crossover is seen as a completely new model although a mere glance between old and new wouldn’t stand them apart much other than the more longish angular headlamps and rear light clusters. Another difference is that the new XV runs on a longer wheelbase of 2665mm against 2635mm for the old.

And of course, the new XV is well up to the times by having LEDs (light emitting diodes) for the front headlamps and rear combination lights. Not forgetting the LED daytime running lights for that trendy flair. The headlamps also come standard with an auto beam leveller and steering response function. However, these features are only for the higher-spec 2.0i-P model that we drove. The 2.0i model gets the normal halogen lights.

Stepping inside the new XV, we see similarities there as well in the basic dashboard layout, this being the instrument binnacle (for the meters) supported by a bigger 8-inch display monitor to the centre section of the dashboard and a small info panel recessed into a cowl on the top dash area. The bigger monitor has the central air vents flanking it unlike the previous arrangement, which had them placed on top of the display panel.

The matching step in time has seen to the provision of fuel consumption information in real time and on an average basis. This is far more than the distance to empty information of the previous model that was provided in the dash-top panel. To achieve good fuel mileages just keep the real time bar flashes in the green band as much as possible while driving.

The three-spoke steering wheel is redesigned while retaining the respective controls for central monitor – radio and navigation – on the left and highway cruising on the right. There is now the addition of steering wheel gear shifters (left to downshift and right to upshift) when manual mode is selected. The steering wheel is leather wrapped for the top model.
Another sign of the times is the absence of a handbrake lever. In its place is a mere button with the letter ‘P’, located centrally on the mid-console. Pull it up to engage the parking brake electronically and push it down to disengage. That frees up space for more compartments on the console, including a large bin with lid.

Getting comfortable in the driver’s seat is made more convenient with electrical seat adjustments and the aluminium foot pedals add an exciting touch to driving the new XV. The acquaintance was made more enjoyable with the electrically folding function for the door mirrors and front windows with auto up-and-down winding functions. The auto headlamp and wiper functions are other features standard only to the XV 2.0i-P

Powering the XV Crossover is the horizontally twin opposed four-cylinder engine, also known as the Boxer power unit, which identifies the Subaru brand in an individual standing. Each cylinder bank has double overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. We could only recall this engine being used in an Alfa Romeo (the Alfasud in particular) back in the old days (70s and 80s). Subaru has chosen to use this unusual engine in many of its models, thereby enjoying economy of scale to support sustainable production.

There appears to a slight update in the 2.0-litre Boxer engine powering the new XV. It remains undersquare in configuration with an 84.0mm bore and 90.0mm stroke to displace 1995cc. The updates have seen to a better power output of 115kW (156PS) at 6000rpm (old XV delivers 110kW/150PS at 6200rpm) while maximum torque stays at 196Nm but at a lower peak of 4000rpm against 4200 for the old.

The transmission is another constant being the Lineartronic CVT (continuously variable transmission) with electronically set ‘gear’ ratios for manual selection. The XV drivetrain includes the Active Torque Split AWD (All Wheel Drive) and Symmetrical AWD. The default torque distribution is 60 per cent to the front wheels and 40 per cent to the rear. This is adjusted to 50/50 in real time when the traction situation demands it.

With all the updates to the new XV Crossover being made under the skin, it was not surprising to learn that it is a heavier vehicle. At a kerb weight of 1559kg, it has put on almost 130kg. This additional weight is not noticed much though, except in a slight pause during passing manoeuvres and a mildly ‘laggy’ standing acceleration.

Once the engine was on song, we picked up speed quickly and had to check our enthusiasm lest we run into a speed camera. Subaru gave its performance credentials as a 10.4-second sprint from 0-100km/h and a top speed of 194km/h. Generally, the new XV was right at home cruising at a leisurely 110-120km/h with engine speed as low as we recalled it; 1700-1900rpm. That added to the quiet ambience of driving the XV on highways, the other contributory factor being the smooth body aerodynamics to keep air turbulence to a minimum.

We did encounter two things that befuddled us though. The quiet ambience during driving and cruising was interrupted by a sudden outburst of road roar over certain patches of road. It appeared that the Continental tyres (Conti MaxContact 225/60 R17) didn’t quite agree with that particular road surfaces and road roar peaked very noticeably. It would quieten down just as considerably after passing that section.

We would have expected the bushings and sound deadening measures in the suspension linkages to effectively curtail any intrusion of road noise into the passenger cabin. It was thus a little puzzling. The variable pitch in road roar is pretty common to most modern cars and rarely do we encounter such a dramatic surge in noise.

The other head-scratcher was the average fuel consumption. Trying as hard as we could, we failed to bring the average fuel reading to below 11 l/100km, even while cruising evenly on highways. Then again, the reading appeared to stay constant in this region - from a low of 11.1 to a high of 11.9 l/100km - during the weekend we had the XV Crossover.
We believe this is an electronic glitch that somehow only affected the XV that was loaned to us for the drive impression. Having won a few fuel economy challenges before, we believe we could have achieved a more economical average fuel mileage that the new Subaru XV should be fully capable of.

We remained just as confident with the XV Crossover through our favourite winding roads. The lower centre of gravity that comes from the ‘flattish’ Boxer engine helps in a more balanced dynamic stance. The MacPherson front and double wishbone multi-link rear are nicely tuned to complement the vehicle’s good body weight balance, leading to minimal body leans through sweeping curves and a nice footing through corners. The electric power steering didn’t feel vague and we enjoyed the directional input provided to take the curves at pretty good speeds.

Space-wise, the XV won’t lose to its peers in the Honda HR-V, Mitsubishi ASX and Mazda CX3. The rear seatrests are split 60:40 (as in the old model) and could be folded away to increase space for fairly sizeable and longish items. With the seats up, space is sufficient to accommodate luggage for five people and if privacy is sought, there is a retractable cover to keep prying eyes away.

In body dimensions, its compact build makes it easy to manoeuvre in tight spots, just like the previous model. We could parallel park in narrow areas with the least of worries and reverse park with the aid of a camera. And its 10.8-metre turning circle is small enough to make turns without too much hassle.

At an on-the-road price of about RM126,000 without insurance, the Subaru XV Crossover 2.0i-P could certainly hold its own in the competitive marketplace. It has the individual looks to stand it apart and comes well equipped to match. Good dynamic balance and reasonable power output are supportive notes. We have no doubts that it should continue to make further inroads into the compact Crossover segment.