Nissan X-Trail 2014 Review
The Nissan X-Trail is a mid-size SUV that has become one of the Japanese maker's most successful...
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The company that pioneered the softroader concept has reinvented the formula with a high-riding, go-anywhere hatchback.
The Subaru XV is, in essence, an Impreza hatch in hiking boots. The range starts at $28,490 plus on-road costs and stretches to $36,990 for the leather-bound version.
We’re testing the middle-of-the-range XV 2.0i-L which, helpfully for those keen to keep up appearances, looks identical to the cheapest and dearest models.
The dramatically-styled 17-inch wheels, rugged looking bumpers and bodywork mouldings are a rare return to design form for Subaru, which hasn’t always delivered cars that are easy on the eyes.
Standard equipment includes seven airbags, Bluetooth phone connectivity, and the usual fare such as remote locking and air-conditioning. Value is best judged by individuals, though. The XV is about the same price as a Subaru Forester – but the XV is slightly smaller, and has a less powerful engine.
That said, the XV looks much better than the new generation Forester, so in this case less really is more. The two high-grade XV models come with rear privacy glass, navigation, a sunroof and dual zone air-conditioning. The top-line model comes with xenon headlights, heated electric seats and leather upholstery.
Unlike some faux-wheel-drives, the Subaru XV is all-wheel-drive all of the time. It also has a hill-hold assist – and as with many new cars, an automatic stop-start function.
Start-stop systems (which stop the engine momentarily when you’re stopped at the lights or in traffic) typically save a few per cent off the weekly fuel bill, but they are primarily designed to enable car makers to achieve a more favourable economy rating label on the windscreen.
In reality, it has merely added an inconvenience to drivers who quickly find the button to switch it off – to leave the engine running all the time. The Subaru’s start-stop happens with more of a shudder than other types. When you disable this function, you’re presented with a too-bright warning light in the dash. First-world problems.
As we mentioned earlier, Subaru isn’t known for its skills when it comes to creating great looking cars – but every now and then it delivers a pleasant surprise. The XV is one of them.
I can’t believe the fancy wheels made it all the way through the conservative management hierarchy. Hallelujah. Although Subaru helped create the compact softroader segment, it and other brands are now trying to establish a niche within this niche: softroaders than look like hatchbacks rather than wagons.
If we believe the marketing hype, the XV is bought by young people who know how to windsurf (people still windsurf?), whereas the Subaru Forester sibling is apparently bought by people who take thermoses with them on long drives and often stop by the side of the highway – with fold-out chairs – to sip their brew.
The interior is not as good or as daring as the exterior appearance, but it’s functional and pleasant enough to look at in the daily grind – when you’re not abseiling, or competing in mountain-bike championships. Subaru’s description of a “stunning modern interior” is probably over-egging it a little.
This is one area where Subaru is rightly proud; it was the first manufacturer in Australia to have all its models tested locally and achieve a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
Permanent all-wheel-drive hopefully avoids a crash in the first place, and seven airbags (including one for the driver’s knee) and a strong structure are there to protect you should something go horribly wrong.
The spare tyre is a full-size (in an era of ghastly space savers) but it is a steel wheel not one of the fancy 17-inch alloys. Frankly, I’ll a full-size spare tyre regardless of the wheel inside it. Thank you, Subaru, for fighting the good fight and resisting pressure to put a wheelbarrow tyre in the boot.
Ok, here comes the difficult news. The 2.0-litre engine is, shall we say, a little under-done. That’s not compared to a Ferrari but other cars of this size and type.
For the marketing blurb to say “the XV not only looks amazing, it performs amazingly. It won’t just unlock life, it unleashes it” is probably getting a little carried away.
As with many new cars, the engine has been downsized in pursuit of good fuel economy. It’s a relatively sound engine, but it has a serious lack of urge at low revs – so you find yourself revving it more to get moving. Which, of course, defeats the purpose of saving fuel.
Manual transmissions have long been the Achilles heel of Subarus – with their lack of finesse shifting between gears – and the six-speed in the XV is no exception.
We reckon the CVT auto (a $2500 option) would be the pick, given it would do a better job at disguising the 2.0-litre engine’s lack of power at low revs. The ride is comfortable over bumps, but the grip from the tyres is only average in the wet or dry.
The Subaru XV is a breath of fresh air in the compact softroader class, providing you’re not in a hurry to reach the destination of your adrenalin-pumping adventure sport.
Subaru XV 2.0i-L
Price: From $28,490
Warranty: Three years/unlimited km
Service interval: 12,500km
Safety rating: 5 stars
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder, 110kW, 196Nm
Transmission: Six-speed manual or CVT auto
Thirst: 7.3L/100km, 168g/km
Dimensions (L/W/H): 4450/1780/1615mm
Spare: Full size, steel rim