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Putting the “X” in flexible

Journeys editor PAULA SWARD test drives the new Subaru XV and finds it’s just as good off-road as on.

More fun, more usable SUV​

​Subaru is touting its new-model XV as a "more fun, more usable SUV". I think they should add "flexible" to that tagline, as that's certainly what I experienced during my launch drive from the Snowy Mountains to Merimbula on the New South Wales coast last week.

The new model is essentially the Impreza with an SUV adaptation, which means on sealed urban roads it drives smoothly and is quite nimble, but when it gets into the rough stuff is when the XV comes into its own.

The 4WD capability was tested to its limits during our drive – icy bitumen, tight corners and deeply potholed unsealed roads showed that its key feature is flexibility.MY18-Subaru-XV-20iL-01.jpg

​My co-driver Mark Borlace, from RAA in South Australia, really put it through its paces on the unsealed section of Bobundara Rd, south-east of Berridale, demonstrating that a car of this design is easily capable of handling c-class roads. With its 220mm ground clearance, a benchmark of any small-size SUV in its class, we only bottomed out once during this section, which considering the task at hand was very impressive.

When I took the wheel we traversed the Snowy Mountains Highway down Brown Mountain, a sealed road of tight, winding corners and steep downhill gradient. It was also still damp from the heavy morning frost, but by trusting the vehicle's design and capability, along with the flexibility of being able to downshift gears via the steering-wheel mounted paddles to assist in reducing speed, I was quite comfortable in the challenge.MY18-Subaru-XV-20i-08.jpg

Subaru has elected not to develop a manual transmission for the new XV, instead fitting all with its Linaertronic CVT auto. While I noticed some additional engine noise during the sealed road sections as the CVT worked through its 'ratios', the added flexibility of the steering wheel-mounted gear shift adds that conventional auto transmission feel.

Also across the range is Active Torque Vectoring which sends drive to where it is needed, helping with steering and handling control, and X-mode, allowing the vehicle's electronic assistance systems to take control when tackling steep off-road declines. This was well-tested during our drive, with the vehicle more than up to the challenge.

See the video demo here:

​​The new model XV was awarded a 5-star ANCAP safety rating, although again the manufacturer has neglected to put Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) in the base spec. This is something they will have to address in their next update if they want to keep this rating, as ANCAP is tightening its requirements from next year.

The higher-spec 2.0i-L, 2.0i Premium and 2.0i-S are all fitted with the third generation of Subaru's EyeSight driver assist system, which for the first time includes Lane Keep Assist, as well as enhanced pedestrian avoidance and pre-collision braking assist, adaptive cruise control, lead vehicle start alert and lane departure warning. At first the lane keep assist is disconcerting, but I know this will become more prevalent as vehicles upgrade their safety credentials, and is a welcome addition.MY18-XV-20i-P-Front-Snow.jpg

The fully loaded 2.0i-S also gets Vision Assist with blind spot detection, lane change assist and rear cross-traffic alert. Also new for Subaru is the Reverse AEB in this spec, assisting drivers in preventing bingles when reversing.

Under the bonnet all models are fitted with Subaru's 2.0L four-cylinder petrol Boxer engine. Maximum power of 115kW is produced well up the rev range at 6000 RPM with respectable if not earth-shattering torque of 196Nm available at 4000 RPM. Combined cycle fuel economy is listed as 7.0L/100km but that will depend on your driving style.

The styling on the new-model SUV is definitely aimed at its "millennials" target market. The interior is sleek and streamlined, with the base spec having carbon fibre styled dash and door panel trimmings, along with contrast stitching in the XV's signature Sunshine Orange. You can also choose between charcoal and light grey contrast in the cloth interior. Moving up to the 2.0i-L and 2.0i-P you get "premium cloth seating and upgraded door panels", although I fail to see a marked difference and prefer the more subdued tones of the base spec. These variants do also come with electric sunroof, dual-zone air conditioning and electric folding mirrors, which along with EyeSight justify the increase in purchase price. The top-spec 2.0i-S is an impressive jump with leather upholstery, heated front seats and powered driver's seat, automatic headlights and front wipers, heated mirrors, High Beam Assist, 18" wheels and, as previously mentioned, Vision Assist.

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All important connectivity is via a 6.5" touchscreen in the base model or 8" for all others. All models get voice command recognition with streaming apps, USB connections with Premium and S models getting standard satellite navigation. Add keyless entry and start, hill-hold assist and electric parking brake and you have a comprehensive and well sorted ergonomic package.

An exciting feature (sure to appeal to the 20-somethings) is the option to go online and "build your own" vehicle. A quick run-through on the base spec allows me to choose and view exterior colour, interior contrast, up to 50 accessories such as weather seals, floor and cargo mats, towbar, roof racks, bike racks, ski racks, holders for all forms of watercraft and all-weather seat covers – you can see the manufacturers have their target market firmly in mind. You can even add front and rear parking sensors to the base spec. And you can pay up-front for three years of annual servicing.Subaru_XV_IMG_9608_LR.jpg

Of course, these additions all add to the RRP, but within the privacy of your own home you can play around to get the combination that suits you, compare pricing to see which spec best meets your needs, and check out the final drive-away price as well as what you'd be up for in weekly repayments. And yes, you can even book a test drive and buy online.

A serious run-through on my "wish-list" for the 2.0i-S (adding weather shields, carpet mats, cargo tray, resin cargo step panel, tow bar and headlight protectors) landed me with an RDP of $42,340 and weekly repayments of about $200 a week. Now I just need to convince my better half to let me have one!Australia's-best-cars_Cs.jpg

With a reduced entry-level MLP of $27,990, I think Subaru will be surprised at the wide market the new XV will attract. Move over millennials – we're in for this one too.

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