Subaru began creating crossovers before the segment really even existed.
Models like the Forester and Legacy Outback were crossovers in every sense of the word.
They combined saloon-like handling characteristics, the prowess to conquer off-road terrain with ease, the ride-height of a Sport-Utility Vehicle and the practicality of a station wagon.
Almost every manufacturer has a crossover model in the stable nowadays, from Nissan with their top-selling Qashqai, to Audi – with their premium Q3, a car we struggled to find much reason to recommend you buying, in our review last month. While it’s built like a rock and fares decently off-road, the Q3 is too expensive and too premium: we said it was the perfect poser-mobile.
But how is the new Subaru XV any different?
For starters, the price is right and they haven't skimped on the standard features. Its aim as a competent crossover is clear. It doesn't have to try too hard, it just does what it’s been designed to do very well.
You’re going to linger a while when you first lay eyes on the XV. It’s hard not to, especially when the XV is covered in a lick of look-at-me tangerine paint. It’s striking without being ugly, unlike past Subaru models like the bug-eyed Impreza or the hideous Tribeca, which garnered stares for all the wrong reasons.
With its raised ride-height, swollen wheel-arches and rugged plastic cladding, the XV looks formidable and bold – it’s a crossover that means business. It sits on a set of attractive alloy wheels with an intricate design, finished in a black powder coat, complemented by a patterned strip of what looks like matte silver.
Subaru interiors are generally functional, user-friendly but utilitarian. The XV’s lounge incorporates soft-touch surfaces and you can also specify leather upholstery. We didn’t like the optional colour screen interface; navigating through its menus is a fiddly, complicated affair.
Gadget freaks will love the information display, fitted into a separate section of the dashboard.
Here you can see graphs on the car’s fuel consumption, as well as a display of what the four wheels beneath you are doing – the front wheels on the display even move left or right, as you turn the steering wheel.
Under the skin, it features the Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system – that’s fancy Subaru parlance for saying that the car’s power is distributed evenly to all wheels. And it works brilliantly: the sense of composure and surefootedness is comfortably reassuring to the driver – even the passengers, when you’re throwing it into a bend with more vigour than necessary. It simply sticks to the tarmac like gum to hair.
Although we never had the chance to put it through some really treacherous off-road terrain, we learned that the XV can handle its own on sand, rock and mud. The four-wheel drive system instills confidence, that you’re never going to have to make an embarrassing call to the AA for a tow.
Powering the XV is Subaru’s newly-developed 2-litre engine, which is geared towards economy, rather than performance. Driving around town or in traffic, it feels lethargic, and it’s much happier cruising along on the highway. When you see the digital fuel-meter’s reluctance to drop, however, you can almost forgive the insipid fuel performance.
Filled to the brim, our XV showed a range of around 780 kilometres on its on-board computer. After driving 690 kilometres in the test period, it still had a range of 200 kilometres – and we never averaged more than 8.5l/100km.
Subaru’s all-new XV is competent and assuring on-road and off-road. It combines striking looks, impressive economy and wears an appealing price tag.
A diesel variant with a bit more grunt would be welcomed; the brilliant Boxer Diesel engine from the Forester would be well-suited to the task.
The Subaru XV is also standard with a comprehensive 3-year/75 000-kilometre maintenance plan and a 3-year/100 000-kilometre warranty.
The Technical Stuff:
Model: 2012 Subaru XV
Price: R329 000
Engine: 2-litre petrol
Power and Torque: 110kW and 196Nm
Fuel consumption: 8l/100km
This review features in this week's edition of our sister publication, Motormag. Find a Subaru for sale on Surf4cars.