Subaru XV VS Suzuki Vitara
- Great ride and handling
- High-quality feeling cabin
- Good advanced safety on most grades
- No AEB on base-spec car
- Small boot
- CVT auto
- Good interior space
- Reasonably priced
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Lack of advanced safety
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|
Suzuki's much-loved Vitara returned in 2015 and it was a happy day for people over a certain age. Over the years, Suzuki has tweaked and trimmed the range, ditching the diesel (much to the chagrin of towing fans) and leaving us with three Vitaras with the subtly updated 2019 model - the entry-level, the Turbo and the Turbo Allgrip.
The entry-level Vitara is a lot of car for the money but there is a small catch - instead of the excellent 1.4-litre turbo engine of the other two, it ships with a 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated engine that has significantly less power than anything else in the segment.
That doesn't seem to bother the target market, though - the base Vitara is by far the biggest seller in the range.
|Fuel Type||Regular 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:
It's frustrating that the Vitara is a good car fitted with such a weak engine. It's got great interior space for less money than a Qashqai, a big boot and some nice touches.
The ledger for the base model Vitara is more balanced than the higher grades. While the turbo-engined machines get along very nicely, the ride and handling are great and all the Vitara's strengths are magnified, the entry-level struggles against similarly-priced competition.
The Vitara Turbo is the one to get if you can stretch to it. The Vitara isn't ruined by this engine, but it is compromised.
Is engine power a big deal for you? Or is the Vitara's lack of pace and refinement secondary to its undeniable charms? Let us know 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.
Not everyone is a fan of the new Vitara's looks, but I am. Most of the colours are fairly vivid and everyone seems to buy it in metallic green, so it was nice to have it in this grey/silver (optional) colour.
The chrome grille can be a little bit much, but I really like the purposeful, chunky profile. Wasn't sure about the new rear lights at first, but as I said in the Allgrip review, they had already grown on me.
The Vitara's interior isn't going to win any materials quality awards, but it seems like it will last a long time. There's nothing amazing about it apart from the fact it's roomy and everything looks and feels honest.
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.
Passenger space in the Vitara is excellent for a compact SUV. Part of the reason back seat occupants do so well is because the roof is high, the doors aren't very thick and the seat is a long way off the floor, meaning the distance between the front and rear seats isn't made smaller by angled legs. It's comfortable, too.
Which is lucky because you won't have anywhere to put your drinks or phones or your inboard elbows, which is a shame.
Front seat passengers have somewhere to put their elbows and there are two cupholders. All four doors have a bottle holder.
The boot has a false floor under which you can hide a decent amount of stuff, including small bags. Its volume starts at a decent 375 litres (beaten only by Honda's HR-V and Nissan's Qashqai). Drop the rear seats and space increases to 1120 litres.
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.
Engine aside, there is much to like about the base model Vitara - in fact any Vitara - and this one is a pretty decent $24,990.
That lands you, all the way from (somewhat unexpectedly) Hungary, 17-inch alloys, climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, sat nav, leather steering wheel, cloth trim, power windows, four-speaker stereo and a space-saver spare.
That four-speaker stereo is run from the same touchscreen found in pretty much every Suzuki. The basic software is okay but the hardware itself is a bit iffy. Cleverly (and unlike Toyota), Suzuki knew an easy fix for that is to throw in Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Sorted.
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 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated engine in the base Vitara wheezes up just 86kW and 156Nm, easily the least-powerful in its class, and by some margin.
I often joke that it's almost like there is legislation about how much power a compact SUV must have. The Vitara is proof there isn't. The $29,990 Turbo has 102kW/220Nm, for comparison.
As with the turbo cars, the 1.6 has a proper six-speed automatic driving the front wheels. You can also get a five-speed manual for $23,990. Luckily it weighs bugger-all at 1180kg.
The Vitara offers 1200kg towing for braked trailers and 400kg unbraked.
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.
The non-turbo Vitara clocks up an official combined cycle fuel consumption rating of 6.0L/100km, 0.1L/100km worse than the Turbo.
My week with the car saw an indicated 9.2L/100km which is almost a litre worse than the Turbo Allgrip I last tested, and a whole lot less fun.
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.
As has been the case since the Vitara's re-emergence a few years ago, it's a good car to drive. Light steering, supple ride and good body control mean progress is smooth and, if you're going downhill, fun.
For a modern car, it's a featherweight, but without the bounciness of some other cars of this weight. It's also quite maneuverable and is unexpectedly slim, meaning you can thread it around easily and it's not a bother in car parks or tight city streets.
It's good on urban streets, too, because it soaks up bumps and lumps very well.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - the Vitara is a good car. But in this spec, it's a good car with a deeply ordinary engine.
It's noisy, which wouldn't matter except to get anything like decent movement, you have to rev it. If you use anything more than quarter throttle - and you really have to - the transmission kicks down to try and find the scraps of torque on offer. It might be light, but the torque figure just isn't enough to move the Vitara with any urgency.
The base Vitara is slow and noisy and from that perspective is no match for its similarly-priced competition. Compounded by a lack of refinement from both engine and transmission, it highlights what a good engine is the 1.4-litre turbo.
The Vitara is slow and noisy, and from that perspective is no match for its similarly-priced competition.
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 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.
Suzuki offers a three year/100,000km warranty, but there's a small catch. If you continue to service it at Suzuki dealer every six months/10,000km, you're extended to five years/100,000km. That seems like a decent deal.
Somehow, the 1.6 costs more to service than the more complex 1.4-litre turbo, working out at an average $516 per year over the first 60 months.