Test Drives

Subaru XV 1.6i-S 2017 Review

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An all-new platform, an upgraded interior, and no increase in price. Does Subaru’s XV add a new dimension to its name?

At the start of this year, local Subaru distributor Motorimage Enterprises debuted the Subaru Global Platform (SGP) in Singapore alongside the new Impreza, the first product to utilise it.

The new XV is the second component in the SGP product offensive, which shouldn’t be too surprising considering it’s essentially an Impreza on stilts. Telling the two apart is easy – though they share most of the sheetmetal, the XV sports macho-looking black plastic cladding on the bumpers and wheelarches, as well as a pair of roof rails. 

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At 1,800mm wide and with 2,665mm between the wheels, the new XV is 20mm wider and 30mm longer in wheelbase compared to its predecessor, and at 4,465mm long means it’s a fair chunk larger than the segment’s most popular car, the Honda HR-V. In terms of size, its closest rival would be the recently launched Nissan Qashqai, which we’ve already tested and found to be lacking in very litte, is 4,394mm long.

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Locally, the XV is available with a 1.6-litre engine whose cylinders are laid out in Subaru’s trademark “boxer” fashion, and is connected to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Like all other Subarus in recent memory, power is deployed to all four wheels via the brand’s “symmetrical” all-wheel drive system. 

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It’s a drivetrain shared with the Impreza, and like that car, is probably the weakest link in the XV’s bag of talents. It suffers the triple whammy of low power and torque outputs (114hp and 150 Nm), achieved at high revs (6,200 and 3,600 rpm respectively), while having to lug around 1,423kg of weight. In comparison, the car’s heavier than the Qashqai and HR-V by a huge 100kg and 230kg respectively. To make things worse, the engine’sit’s mated to a CVT.

The upshot of this is a lot of noise but not a lot of movement, the XV loudly dragging itself up to 100km/h in a glacial 13.9 seconds. Even in the realm of affordable cars, in an era of widespread turbocharging no less, there’s no getting around the fact that the XV is very slow on the uptake. 

At least it’s fun to punt around the corners. Subaru claims SGP is 70 percent more rigid than before, with enhanced refinement and a lower centre of gravity.  

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Unlike many other crossovers, the XV can do the off-road stuff just as well as on-road. New to this second-generation model is the inclusion of the X-MODE control system from the Forester, which helps juggle the engine output, AWD system, traction control and brakes to maintain grip when you venture off the blacktop. Coupled with the high ride height, it means the XV can tackle slopes and slippy surfaces that the rest of the small crossover crowd can only dream of, ultimately will be a feature only a small fraction of Singaporean users can appreciate.

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What will be universally appreciated however is the XV’s interior. There wasn’t much wrong with the previous one in terms of build quality, but the new car sports a more eye-catching design and higher quality materials. An eight-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility dominates the centre console and is simple to operate, but isn’t the most responsive to the touch.   

Bright orange stitching all over the dashboard, seats and doors is a snazzy way to liven up a car’s cabin, including at the rear, and occupant space is abundant in all directions. Slightly less remarkable is the the 385 litres of boot space – it’s no bigger than the outgoing car and trails behind both the Qashqai (430 litres) and HR-V (448 litres), but they can fold down for a maximum capacity of 1,240 litres, and the load area is wide and sensibly shaped.

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While all the above sounds well and good though, there’s a fairly major thorn in the XV’s side, and that’s its Impreza half-brother. The XV currently costs $101,300 with COE, $9,500 more than the Impreza hatch on which it’s based. For that you get the raised suspension, off-road ability and chunky looks, as well as a larger fuel tank that’s 13 litres larger (63 litres), but are you really going to go so far off the beaten path?

Furthermore, although you do get seven airbags, cruise control, keyless entry and automatic headlamps and wipers as standard in the XV, it doesn’t get the Impreza’s active safety systems such as blind spot detection, lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert, not to mention dual zone aircon, a sunroof and electric driver’s seat adjustment. The presence of a built-in reverse camera, but the omission of reverse sensors is another curiosity.

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Make no mistake, the new Subaru XV is a very capable and likeable car, particularly for keen drivers, but you’d have to be very committed to the high-riding, “adventurous” crossover/SUV lifestyle to pick it, especially given the size similarity and differences in safety and convenience features. Looks like we’ll have to continue thinking about what “XV” might stand for then…

Subaru XV 1.6i-S
Engine 1,599cc, 16V, horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder
Power 114hp at 6,200rpm
Torque 150Nm at 3,600rpm
Gearbox CVT
Top Speed 175km/h 
0-100km/h 13.9 seconds 
Fuel efficiency 6.6L/100km 
CO2 149g/km
Price $101,300 with COE
Agent Motorimage Enterprises 
Availability Now

Verdict : Strong dollar-to-value ratio, but lethargic and not particularly efficient
Also Consider : Honda HR-V, Nissan Qashqai 

about the author

Jon Lim