Subaru XV VS Ford Escape
- Great ride and handling
- High-quality feeling cabin
- Good advanced safety on most grades
- No AEB on base-spec car
- Small boot
- CVT auto
- Strong engine
- Fun chassis
- Good equipment
- Squidgy front seats
- Awkward touchscreen
- No extra power
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|
The Ford Escape had a bit of a false start a few years back before things were put right with a facelift and an interior sorting-out to bring it into the game. With the endless rise of the SUV, makers now have to find ways to attract a few more punters - or a few more dollars per punter.
The idea of adding performance-inspired variants isn't new, of course - hatchback ranges are now awash with GT-line and other 'GTI-lite' variants which seems to be working quite well, thanks very much.
|Engine Type||2.0L 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 Escape ST-Line is the second of its name I've driven and again after the Focus, I've come away liking it. While there's no full-fat ST to help make sense of the brand, it's nice to have a mid-size SUV that isn't German come to the party with a bit of driver appeal (okay, technically it is German...).
I think the Escape is a bit underrated and it's sadly inevitable that the ST-Line will suffer the same fate. But, that's the warzone that is Australia's SUV market.
Does the Escape ST-Line have enough oomph to grab your attention? Tell us what you think in the comments 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.
The Escape exited the womb as Kuga but was renamed in line with Ford's expanding SUV range. They start with E, you see - Everest, EcoSport etc. In fact, I had an Escape a while back that still had Kuga sill plates such was the speed of the change.
The Escape is a reasonably familiar sight on our roads but it's not exactly selling the way, say, the Mazda CX-5 does.
To this base, the ST-Line adds a set of dark finish 19-inch alloys, blacked out grille, fog-lamp surrounds, roof rails and rear valance. It's fairly mild. The lower ride height does help, though. It could look a bit meaner, but that's not really the point of the ST-Line brand.
Inside you have the same seats as the rest of the range along with red stitching on the shifter and steering wheel. A set of alloy-face pedals, stainless steel kick plates and ST-Line floor mats complete the changes.
The interior is otherwise unchanged, and that's no bad thing, except we have to talk about the touchscreen. It works really well and is a good size but the awkward angle of the surrounds make it hard to hit the targets. It's a bit of an own-goal because otherwise it's very good.
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.
The Escape is one of the roomier mid-size SUVs, although it doesn't quite match the interior flexibility of the VW Tiguan. Rear seat space is generous, with good head and legroom and plenty of foot room.
The tailgate opens high and wide, which is handy for loading up. The boot will take between 406 litres (rear seats up) and 1603 litres (rear seats down). There are four cupholders - two up front and two in the rear armrest, with bottle holders in each door. The central armrest bin is deep and accommodating, and there are a few good spaces for stashing loose bits and pieces.
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.
The ST-Line weighs in at $39,990 (plus on-road costs), an easy $5000 below the top-of-the-range Titanium. Standard are 19-inch gunmetal alloys, a nine-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, front and rear fog lights, sat nav, auto headlights and wipers, partial leather trim, heated and folding power mirrors and a space-saver spare tyre.
Our car had the absurdly good value 'Technology Pack'. For $800 it's a no-brainer because you score upgraded forward AEB for high speeds, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, driver attention detection, auto high beam, active cruise and tyre pressure sensors. Just a pity it's not standard, really. Also on board was the useful but debatable hands-free tailgate for $950.
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.
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.
Ford reckons you'll use 8.6L/100km on the combined cycle. In the real world, including a roughly 200km round trip run from Sydney up to the Blue Mountains we recorded 10.2L/100km.
The only drama is that it runs only on 95 RON premium unleaded. Having said that, it's obvious rivals do too if they have anything like the available power of the Ford engine.
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.
Like the Focus ST-Line I drove a little while ago, the Escape has no more power than any other car in the range. A hot SUV it isn't. The changes are restricted to the bits that make the car handle and grip, and even then, it's not a lot.
The ST-Line rides 10mm lower and has stiffer anti-roll bars to further rein in any body roll in the corners. Critically, the gunmetal 19-inch alloys are wrapped in Continental Sport Contact tyres, which is not the sort of rubber you expect on a mid-size SUV. This is a good thing.
One of the key changes to the ST-Line is the steering. The last time I drove an Escape I was struck by the inert steering. Things are much improved in the ST-Line, with a much more involving set up letting you know what's going on underneath.
As a day-to-day proposition, it's a very comfortable machine. I feared for the squishy feeling of the front seats but this was unfounded - a long day at the wheel yielded none of the fidgetiness soft seats can cause.
The lower ride height also makes it quite easy to get in and out of and it's an easy car to manoeuvre apart from a big-ish turning circle.
That engine is as good as ever - strong, torquey and well matched to the six-speed automatic. The all-wheel drive system is also very happy to play ball, as it is in the Titanium with the same engine.
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.
The ST-Line comes loaded with seven airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, lower-speed AEB, reverse cross traffic alert, blind spot sensor, reversing camera, rollover stability and forward collision warning.
The $800 Technology Pack adds high speed AEB, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, driver attention detection, auto high beam, active cruise and tyre pressure sensors.
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.
Ford now offers a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty across the range. Roadside assist is via a membership to your local motoring organisation and if you service it with Ford, you get a 12-month extension.
Ford's 'Service Price Guarantee' program is a kind of capped-price servicing thing, with pricing for the services (every 12 months/15,000km) and some additional items. The first service is $350.