Subaru XV: Taking the road less travelled

It’s easy to choose the path everyone takes, after all, if it works for them, it should work for you. For better or worse, car-buying decisions aren’t immune to herd mentality and worthy candidates can sometimes be obscured when they actually deserve closer inspection. The first-generation Subaru XV was such a vehicle – capable, well-engineered but was easily overlooked.

Try not to judge a car by its badge

It wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect Subaru to cast the second generation XV in a different light, yet the new XV is entirely consistent with how Subaru tweaks (not re-imagine) the looks of its new models. So yes, the silhouette is familiar and your car-spotting skills would be put to the test in the absence of a side-by-side comparison. Even so, there isn’t much to fault how the new XV looks in the first place – essentially an Impreza hatchback endowed with a rugged crossover persona and ground clearance of a proper SUV.

Familiar shape but the details are different, e.g. rear combi lamp now extends onto the tailgate.

It’s when one digs beneath the surface that the new XV shines…well, in this case, you just need to climb in. While the previous XV may have underwhelmed in terms of interior presentation (dated comes to mind), this new one vaults Subaru right back into the present. The cabin is attractive, made mostly of soft-touch materials with lots of contrast stitching, spacious enough for five adults to sit in and pleasant to use.

Granted that this is expected from crossovers of this class, rarely are the attributes delivered all at the same time. Okay, the main touch-screen entertainment system isn’t all that intuitive to use (Bluetooth pairing shouldn’t be this tricky) and the instrument dials could do with more contrast and brightness, but the informative 6.3-inch secondary central colour display does make up for some slack. Otherwise, this is one of Subaru’s best cabins yet.

Welcome to the present: new XV interior is one of Subaru’s best yet.
Harnessing the spirit of the WRX

Having a chunky, sporty-looking steering wheel is no prelude to driving satisfaction, surely not when there’s only 156hp/196Nm and a CVT ‘box in the mix. If you’re about to turn your attention to more delectable subjects on Instagram, just bear with me for a minute because this new XV somehow manages to rise above those unimpressive numbers.

Modest output on paper but the XV’s flat-four ‘boxer’ engine is easily one of the smoothest four-pots out there.

That the Subaru’s updated and directly injected 2.0-litre horizontally-opposed four-cylinder revs more smoothly than inline counterparts was expected, what’s surprising here is how immediate the power is transferred via the belts and pulleys of the CVT with only the merest hint of lag before all four wheels bite the tarmac; the XV feels genuinely responsive in traffic. Of course, I’d still have a twin-clutch or conventional auto based on subjective pleasure, but if all cars are mandated to have CVTs fitted from here on, I wouldn’t be too unhappy to go with this fine example.

It’s a CVT, but one with minimal lag; orange contrast stitching adds a touch of class.

With all due respect to the hot-selling Honda HR-V and oh-so-pretty Mazda CX-3, the competition simply can’t hold a candle to the XV’s C-segment underpinnings which is a cut above when it comes to ride comfort, handling and overall refinement. You won’t find any cost-effective solutions such as a rear torsion beam on the XV, instead it rides on a fully-independent set up comprising of struts up front and double wishbones at the back. Of course, this alone doesn’t guarantee success but the Subaru suspension boffins somehow managed to dial in a near perfect balance of ride comfort and handling.

Seats five comfortably despite centre tunnel protrusion (for the AWD prop shaft).

Maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise given that this is a company that also produces the WRX and BRZ, but the manner which the XV filters out poor road surfaces from the occupants while remaining thoroughly composed in corners even when rushed to make the 2.00am appointment at the local karaoke joint is something that can’t be found in this class and at this price. Whatever coffee the XV engineers are having, they should share it with the rest.

Not many will go off-road with the XV, but the capability is there when you need it.
The path less travelled is usually the more rewarding one

Notice that we’ve almost come to the end of the story and I’ve barely touched on the XV’s all-wheel drive system and its much touted functions (X-Mode, torque vectoring, etc.). Subaru will of course continue to champion its famed Symmetrical AWD system as one of the XV’s main selling points, and why not since competitors don’t offer anything remotely competent off road. But in truth, Subaru doesn’t even need to because 99% of the buyers probably won’t be making river crossings anytime soon, and crucially, it’s because how comprehensively competent the rest of the new XV is. The only question that remains is whether you are game enough to take the road less travelled?

Subaru XV 2.0i-P
: RM125,868  Engine: 2.0-litre horizontally-opposed four-cylinder, full-time AWD Output: 156hp/196Nm Transmission: CVT w/ steering shift paddles (7-speed) Performance: 0-100km/h in 10.0s (est.); top speed 190km/h (est.) Wheels/tyres: 225/60 R17 (F&R) Safety: 7 airbags, Electronic Stability Control Warranty: 5-year/unlimited