Subaru XV VS Fiat 500X
- Great ride and handling
- High-quality feeling cabin
- Good advanced safety on most grades
- No AEB on base-spec car
- Small boot
- CVT auto
- Fun looks
- Good interior
- Great safety package
- Iffy transmission
- Oddball ride
Subaru’s XV is weird. It’s classed as small but is much bigger than the others in its segment; it’s a city SUV but promises impressive off-road skills, and then there are those, um, unique looks.
Now the second-generation MY18 XV has arrived, looking just like the previous one, but so much has changed that you can’t see. But is it for the better?
We were among the first to drive the top-of-the-range 2.0i-S grade at its Australian launch.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Fiat's indomitable 500 is one of the great survivors - not even VW's recently deceased New Beetle could keep riding the nostalgia wave, partly because it made itself just that little bit out-of-touch by not being a car anyone can buy. The 500 avoided that, particularly in its home market, and is still going strong.
Fiat added the 500X compact SUV a few years ago and at first I thought it was a daft idea. It's a polarising car, partly because some people complain it's capitalising on the 500's history. Well, duh. It's worked out well for Mini, so why not?
I've driven one every year for the last couple so I was keen to see what's up and whether it's still one of the weirdest cars on the road.
|Engine Type||1.4L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Yes, Subaru’s XV is weird, but it’s good weird. The new generation has improved the ride and handling, the cabin is refined and quiet, while the off-road capability is impressive for a city SUV. If only the transmission wasn’t a CVT, and if only there was a bit more oomph from the engine. Still, these are really the only drawbacks of an excellent package.
The sweet spot in the XV range would have to be the 2.0i-L. This grade comes with the EyeSight safety system, the larger 8.0-inch screen and dual zone climate control for about $2000 more than the base car's price.
Would you pick a Subaru XV over a Forester and why? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Check out Tim Robson's video from the XV's international launch here:
The 500X is a fun-looking alternative to the various options available from everyone else and is - overall - better to drive than its Renegade twin.
It packs a very good safety package which you can't ignore but does lose points on the warranty and servicing regime. But it's also built to take four adults in comfort, which not every car in the segment can boast.
Would you choose the Fiat 500X over one its better-known competitors? Tell us in the comments section below.
Despite sharing no visible elements with the old model, the new XV looks a lot like the old one. To tell them apart, look for the rear tail-lights because the latest gen’s now extend into the tailgate. At the front, the new car has a darker grille and sleeker headlights.
Unless you pull the XV apart you’re not going to see the biggest change, but you’ll feel it when you drive it. Like the new Impreza it's based on, the SUV is built on a brand new platform. The new XV’s dimensions reveal a 30mm increase in wheelbase to 2635mm, and a 20mm increase in width to 1800mm. It’s the same height at 1615mm, and it’s 15mm longer at 4465mm. Ground clearance stays the same at a high-for-the-class 220mm.
The XV is a small SUV but not as small as a Mazda CX-3 which is tiny at 4275mm end-to-end. The Honda HR-V is also smaller at 4294mm long, and the ASX is 1mm longer. The XV is pushing into the segment above it to compete with SUVs such as the Kia Sportage which is 4480mm in length.
So the XV lives in the nether region between the small and mid-sized SUV segments. Its closest size rivals would be the Nissan Qashqai at 4377mm in length, and the Jeep Compass which is the same length. You could even throw its Subaru Forester sibling in there, at 4595mm long.
The XV is ugly, in a rugged, cute way, from the gaping-grilled snout to the rear spoiler. Then there's that tough, body kit with its black plastic protection under the front and rear bumpers and over wheel arches. The 2.0i-S we drove on the launch looked like a Halloween pumpkin with its 'Sunshine Orange' paint. We half expected a purple, or bright yellow example to jump out of the shadows.
But you don't have to have your XV in blazing orange, or boring beige for that matter. Other colours include 'Crystal Black Silica', 'Dark Grey Metallic', 'Pure Red', 'Ice Silver Metallic' and 'Quartz Blue Pearl'.
The exterior may not have changed much but the cabin has been seriously revamped, bringing more accommodating seats, a different centre console, a smaller steering wheel, more air vents, a new electric handbrake, and lots of stitching. This is a refined and high quality feeling cockpit.
Look, I like the 500X, but I know why people don't. It's clearly a 500X in the way a Mini Countryman is a Mini. It looks like a 500, but get closer and you see the difference. It's chubby like a $10 weekend market Bhudda statue and has great big googly eyes like Mr Magoo. I find this endearing, my wife does not. The looks aren't the only thing she doesn't like.
The cabin is a bit more restrained and I quite like the band of colour stretching across the dash. The 500X is meant to be a bit more grown up than the 500, so there's a proper dash, more sensible design choices but it still has the big buttons, perfect for the meaty fingers of people who won't be buying this car.
Smallish boot, biggish cabin. That sums it up really. The luggage capacity of the XV hasn’t changed, at 310 litres, but the opening is 9mm wider at 1039mm (at its widest point) and 100mm wider at the lower edge, at 1039mm, while the space between the wheelarches is 20mm wider at 1090mm. Measure your pram to see if it fits or better still take it to the dealership and try to put it in to be sure.
The increase in wheelbase means more legroom in the back row. I’m 191cm and can sit behind my driving position with about 40mm to spare between my knees and the seat back. Headroom is also good throughout the cabin.
Apart from the smallish boot dimensions, storage space through the cabin is great with two cupholders in the second row and two up front, while the doors have room for two small bottles each.
The centre console storage bin is now bigger thanks to the manual handbrake being given the flick for an electronic one, which takes up almost no space.
At just 4.25 metres, the 500X isn't big, but makes the most of what it's got. The boot impresses at 350 litres and with the seats down, I think you could reasonably expect to triple that figure, though Fiat doesn't have an official number that I can find. For added Italian feel, you can tip the passenger seat forward to get really long things in, like a Billy bookshelf flat pack from Ikea.
Rear seat passengers sit high and upright meaning leg and kneeroom are maximised and with that tall roof, you won't scrape your head.
The doors each have a small bottle holder for a total of four and Fiat has got serious about cupholders - the 500X now has four.
Price and features
If you're wondering how much an XV costs, it depends on which XV you mean, because there are four different types. The new Australian XV is no longer available with a manual gearbox, and so the range now kicks off at $27,990 for the 2.0i (with an auto). While that means the entry price is $1250 higher, the 2.0i auto’s list price (RRP) has been reduced by $1200. No drive away price quoted at this stage.
The 2.0i comes with smart key-style keyless entry, a 6.5-inch touchscreen (the upper specs get an 8.0-inch display) with Apple CarPlay for iPhones and Android Auto, a 6.3-inch multi function display, Bluetooth connectivity, a six-speaker sound system with AM/FM (but not digital DAB) radio, CD player, cruise control, climate control, engine stop-start system, 'X-Mode' traction system, tinted rear glass, rear spoiler, 17-inch alloy wheels, two 12-volt power jacks, hill start assist, two USB ports, push-button ignition, cloth seats, black carpet trim and halogen headlights (not HID xenon headlights). This base-spec car doesn't come with parking sensors.
Stepping up to the $30,340 2.0i-L will get you all of the 2.0i’s features, plus an 8.0-inch touchscreen, dual-zone climate control, and premium cloth trim. All models, including the 2.0i-L up, come with Subaru’s 'EyeSight' safety system which brings AEB. You can read more about this in the safety section below.
The next grade up is the 2.0i Premium that costs $32,140 which adds an electric sunroof and GPS sat nav.
Above that is the top-of-range 2.0i-S which lists for $35,240 and has all of the Premium’s features, but adds the 'Vision Assist' package (read more about this in the safety section), leather seats, alloy pedals, auto LED headlights and daytime running lights, auto wipers, power driver’s seat, and 18-inch alloy wheels. You won't find a DVD player though, as the more high end brands sport these days.
I have to stay the new touchscreen is so much better than the previous version. This is a much more intuitive multimedia unit.
Subaru doesn't factory fit a nudge bar or bull bar to the XV as an accessory. Did you know though, that Subaru will fit STI Enkei alloy wheels to the XV? They cost a mimimum of $3000 but look much better than the standard rims.
I drove the Pop Star, which is the second of the now-two model "regular" range, the other being the, er, Pop. I drove a Special Edition in 2018 and it's not clear if it is Special as there's also an Amalfi Special edition. Anyway.
The $30,990 (plus on-road costs) Pop Star has 17-inch alloys, six-speaker Beats-branded stereo, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, active cruise control, sat nav, auto headlights and wipers, leather shifter and steering wheel and a space-saver spare.
The Beats-branded stereo speakers are supplied with noise from FCA's UConnect on a 7.0-inch touchscreen. The same system is in a Maserati, don't you know. Offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, UConnect loses points by shrinking the Apple interface into a lurid red frame. Android Auto properly fills the screen, for some reason which is ironic given Apple owns the Beats brand.
Engine & trans
All XVs have the same engine size – it’s a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol which is an overhauled version of the previous model's, which makes 5kW more, for a total of 115kW, and the same 196Nm of torque. Not a major increase in horsepower here.
The manual gearbox has now been dropped from the XV line-up which means all now have a continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic. I wasn’t a big fan of the previous XV's CVT, it just seemed to struggle to get the drive to the wheels with the same hard shift of a traditional torque converter. The good news is Subaru has improved the design and it seems to have far more prominent ‘shifting steps’ built-in for more of a kick as you accelerate. The bad news is it’s still a CVT, and the characteristic drone is still there, along with underwhelming acceleration.
All XVs are all-wheel drive (AWD) and now come with X-Mode – an off-road focused traction control mode which works to keep you from slipping on ice and mud at speed below 40km/h.
Braked towing capacity for all XVs is 1400kg. The Explorer tow bar kit costs $1591.20, including fitment.
The weight of the XV ranges from 1462kg for the 2.0i to 1484 for the 2.0i-S.
Fiat's rather excellent 1.4-litre turbo MultiAir does duty under the stubby bonnet, making 103kW and 230Nm. Rather less excellent is the six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which sends power through the front wheels only.
The same petrol engine and same transmission across the XV range means all variants consume fuel at the same combined rate of 7.0L/100km, according to Subaru.
The 2.0i-S I drove wasn’t far off, with the trip computer reporting an average fuel consumption of 8.1L/100km after 200km of country roads, about a quarter of which were dirt and gravel. That's not bad milage.
The XV's fuel tank capacity is 63 litres and you can feed it the cheaper 91RON petrol, too. There is no diesel or LPG XV alternative.
Fiat rather optimistically suggest you'll get a combined cycle figure of 5.7L/100km but try as I might, I couldn't do better than 11.2L/100km. What's worse, it demands 98RON fuel, so it's not the cheapest car to run. This figure us consistent with past weeks in the 500X and no, I wasn't thrashing it.
We drove the top-of-the-range 2.0i-S at the new XV’s Australian launch which covered 220km of sealed and dirt roads from the Australian Alps to the NSW South Coast, with a quick off-road course somewhere in between.
I need to confess straight away that I wasn’t a major fan of the previous XV’s engine and transmission – well mainly the CVT transmission to be fair. CVTs all seem to have the same issue – underwhelming acceleration. Not all are bad – the Subaru Levorg’s is good… and so is the new XV’s CVT which has been given more prominent steps which add a feeling of gear changes a zippier speed.
Carmakers design launch test drives to show off the strengths of their new baby and the downhill run towards the coast could disguise any CVT weaknesses. So, I turned around and drove up it in the opposite direction. The result – the CVT still drones and the XV’s acceleration under load isn’t great, but it performed much better than the previous version. Going downhill the CVT now can now ‘hold a gear’ to brake the car, which impressed me too.
The new XV looks the same as the previous one, but it feels different to drive – good different. The new global platform this XV is built on has improved the ride and handling noticeably. The body of the car is up to twice as strong making it more rigid and that improves handling, too. Body roll in the corners has been reduced and the ride is comfortable and composed.
Better insulation thanks in part to thicker windows and door panels means the cabin is so much quieter, even on gravel roads where the sound of stones flicking up into the wheel arches was minimal.
The off-road component was a short loose-dirt course of steep ascents, descents and tight turns. The XV handled it easily making use of its 220mm of ground clearance and all-wheel drive system. X-Mode and hill decent were engage at all times and both systems worked well to ease the car downhill steadily without losing traction.
Top marks for the driving experience were brought down by the CVT, even if it is better than the previous one.
Again, I shouldn't like the 500X but I really don't mind it. It's flawed, which might be why.
The dual-clutch transmission is dumber than a box of loose cogs, lurching from start and looking the other way when you expect it to shift. We know the engine is a good one and I think part of the reason it's so thirsty is the confused way the transmission goes about its business. I'd love to drive a manual to see what it's like.
The 500X initially feels worse than its Jeep Renegade sibling-under-the-skin, which is quite an achievement. Part of that is to do with the ride, which is very choppy below 60km/h. The first 500X I drove wallowed about but this one is a bit tauter, which would be good if you weren't punished with this bounciness.
The seats themselves comfortable and the interior is a good place to hang out. It's reasonably quiet, too, which is at odds with the old-school silliness of its conduct. It feels like Labrador let out of after day kept inside.
And that's where the car I shouldn't like is a car I do like - I really like that it feels like you're on Roman cobblestones, the type that make your knees hurt when you walk on them for a day. The steering wheel is too fat and is at a weird angle, but you kind of square up to it and drive the car like your life depends on it. You have to take it by the scruff, correct the shifts with the paddles and show it who's boss.
Obviously, that's not for everyone. If you drive it really gently, it's a very different experience, but that means going slowly everywhere, which is no fun at all and not at all Italian.
This new-generation XV scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating, and all the 'expected' passive safety features are there (ABS, ESP, etc, etc). What separates the XV from many others is the advanced safety equipment on board. All grades, apart from the entry-spec 2.0i come with Subaru’s 'Eyesight' camera system which among other skills can recognise brake lights, and will brake to avoid an accident, or spot you drifting out of your lane and steer you back between the lines.
Subaru says AEB will be activated at up to 145km/h, but will work best to bring to car to a halt at speeds under 45km/h.
The top-of-the-range 2.0i-S also comes standard with the 'Vision Assist' package which adds blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert with AEB (that works when you’re reversing), adaptive high beams and lane changing assistance.
For child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX mounts and three top tether points across the back row.
All XVs come with dual front and dual front side airbags, a driver's knee airbag and curtain airbags.
Out of the box, you get seven airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward collision warning, high and low speed AEB, active cruise control, rollover stability, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, blind spot sensor and rear cross traffic alert. That's not bad for a $30,000 car full stop, let alone a Fiat.
There are two ISOFIX points and three top-tether anchors for baby seats.
The 500X scored a five-star ANCAP rating in December 2016.
The new Subaru XV doesn’t have to be serviced as frequently as the old one with servicing now extended from six months/12,500km to 12 months/12,500km. Subaru told us this was due to the new CVT auto.
The XV is covered by Subaru’s three-year/37,500km servicing plan which caps prices at $348.30 for the first visit, $601.59 for the second, $348.30 for the third, $757.81 for the next and for the 60 month 62,500km service it’s back to $348.30.
The XV is covered by Subaru’s three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.
Service intervals arrive once a year or 15,000km. There is no fixed or capped-price servicing program for the 500X.