Subaru XV VS Volkswagen Golf
- Great ride and handling
- High-quality feeling cabin
- Good advanced safety on most grades
- No AEB on base-spec car
- Small boot
- CVT auto
- Ride comfort
- Conservative styling
- Diesel engines' noise levels
- Premium unleaded only
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 Volkswagen Golf. More than 33 million produced over 40 years and seven generations. It's not quite more popular than blue jeans, or the iPhone, but it's close.
Actually, make that seven and a half generations, because this is Golf 7.5; as the name implies, a substantial mid-life upgrade of the current model.
So, to raise the stakes and, it's hoping, sales, VW has injected new life into its hugely respected marquee player with a range of design tweaks and tech upgrades.
|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 Golf 7.5 is a great package from top to bottom. Volkswagen has hit all the right marks to bring its already excellent offering up to the pointy end of the intensely competitive small-car segment. And we think the entry-point 110TSI offers the best value of all. With high-end safety tech, amazing dynamics, a snappy drivetrain and sharp (introductory) drive-away pricing it will give the market leaders something to think about. And buyers as well.
Has Volkswagen done enough with this upgrade to put the Golf on your small car shopping list? 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.
Unveiled late last year at the Paris Motor Show, the new Golf is available in three flavours – the familiar hatch, and a compact wagon, with the latter forming the basis of an all-wheel-drive, Alltrack variant.
From a design point of view you'll be hard-pressed to pick the Golf 7.5, with exterior changes focused on new headlights, revised front guards, and a restyled bumper. Think of it as an almost unnoticeable haircut.
At the back, the bumper has also been refreshed, and LED tail-lights are now standard across the range.
The wagon is a handsome alternative to the ubiquitous compact SUV, with the lines of the roof and glasshouse (identical to the hatch from nose to C-pillar) flowing seamlessly into a gently tapering and neatly composed rear end.
Inside, there's a new 8.0-inch multimedia screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support standard on all models (as well as a 'Mirror Link' function for full Wi-Fi connection of tablet or mobile devices).
It's surprising how much of a difference the sleek new screen makes to the interior. Suddenly, the Golf's already premium character has been lifted to a different level.
The cool and classy cabin layout is otherwise largely unchanged, highlighted with dark accents on the volume models, and 'piano black' inserts on the Highline. The quality and attention to design detail are obvious.
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 under 4.3 metres long the Golf hatch is small, but by no means cramped. There's tonnes of room and storage space up front with two cupholders, door pockets with bottle holders, and plenty of oddments space including a decent glovebox and a lidded bin between the seats.
All but the entry model pick-up another pair of cupholders in the rear, with adjustable air conditioning vents and flow control in the back of the front centre console, too.
Speaking of the back, there's heaps of room in there. I'm 183cm tall, and sitting behind my own driving position, I enjoyed surprisingly generous head and legroom.
Volkswagen claims 380 litres of cargo volume with the 60/40 split folding rear seats up, and a generous 1270 litres with them tipped forward.
Pushing towards 4.6 metres in length, the Golf wagon only nudges up 15mm in the wheelbase, so passenger accommodation is virtually identical to the hatch. And not surprisingly, it's in the luggage department where things start to diverge.
Even with the 60/40 split folding rear seats up the wagon boasts a hefty 605 litres of load space, growing to a cavernous 1620 litres with the second-row seats folded.
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.
Headline news is an aggressive introductory drive-away pricing strategy, designed to challenge the traditionally cheaper segment leaders, with the standard features list growing appreciably at the same time.
The previous entry-level 92TSI hatch has departed the building, with pricing now set across an $18.5k band from $23,990 drive-away (MSRP $23,990) for the 110TSI, to the all-wheel-drive Alltrack 135TDI Premium at $42,490 drive-away (MSRP $40,990).
The hatch offers a choice of four grades - base, Trendline, Comfortline, and Highline - with the current 1.4-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine powering all of them. A 2.0-litre turbo-diesel 110TDI version is available in the top-shelf Highline spec.
For that shrinking pool of people familiar with three pedals across the driver's footwell, a six-speed manual gearbox is available in the base and Trendline models, with Volkswagen's excellent 'DSG' dual-clutch auto offered across the line-up.
The wagon range comprises the top three grades, with diesel again an option on the primo Highline. The DSG dual-clutch is the only transmission available.
The Alltrack is a two-grade affair – base and Premium - with the choice of a 1.8-litre turbo-petrol, or higher output 2.0-litre turbo-diesel, with any gearbox you like, as long as it's a DSG (six-speed for the petrol, and seven for the diesel).
The entry-level 110TSI hatch is anything but a 'bait and switch' price-leader. It's loaded with everything from cruise control (with speed limit function) to seven airbags and driver-fatigue detection.
In fact, on top of the new multimedia screen and its connected functionality, all Golfs are now also fitted with auto emergency braking (AEB), alloy wheels (of various sizes), air-con, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, LED daytime running lights, and a rear-view camera as standard.
Step into to the Trendline from $25,490 drive-away (MSRP $24,990), and things like rain-sensing wipers, auto headlights, parking sensors, different 16-inch alloys, and a rear centre armrest (with cupholders) come your way.
Then the Comfortline from $29,990 drive-away (MSRP $28,990) adds 17-inch rims, dual-zone climate control air, 'Comfort' front seats, chrome interior and exterior highlights (including the wagon's roof rails), and a storage drawer under the front passenger seat.
Stump up for the Highline from $35,990 (MSRP $34,490) and the fruit starts to tumble in, with the highlights including 'leather-appointed' trim, 'Comfort Sport' front seats with electric adjustment and memory function for the driver, keyless entry and start, interior ambient lighting, LED headlights and a panoramic electric glass sunroof.
Three option packs are offered – 'Infotainment' ($2300), available on Comfortline and Highline, brings the excellent 'Active Info' configurable instrument display. It also adds 'Discover Pro' multimedia, delivered through a larger 9.2-inch screen, managing sat nav and other functions via gesture, touch, and voice control, as well as a top-shelf Dynaudio sound system.
'Park Assist', taking over the wheel for perpendicular or parallel parking manoeuvrers, is the star of the 'Driver Assistance' package ($1500), and the R-Line pack ($2500) brings the look, and some of the feel, of the GTI and Golf R, with a bodykit, bigger rims, and tuned suspension.
The entry-level Alltrack 132TSI at $35,990 drive-away (MSRP $34,490) is close to the hatch and wagon's Highline spec, although you'll need to opt for the flagship Premium version from $39,990 (MSRP $38,490) to pick up the partial leather trim, heated front seats and LED headlights.
Alltrack option packs are 'Driver Assistance' ($1800), 'Infotainment' ($2300), and 'Sport Luxury' ($2900), which includes 18-inch alloys, the electric seat adjustment, panoramic roof, and more.
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 Golf hatch and wagon range is in large part powered by the EA211 1.4-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, a stalwart of the Australian Golf range since the seventh-generation version arrived here in 2013.
Featuring 16 valves, direct-injection, and a single turbocharger, in Golf 7.5 guise it produces 110kW from 5000-6000rpm, and 250Nm across a broad plateau from just 1500-3500rpm.
Base and Trendline models are available with a six-speed manual, while VW's excellent (and ever-improving) 'DSG' dual-clutch auto spans the line-up.
If diesel's more your thing, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged unit is available on the Highline model, producing an identical 110kW at 3500-4000rpm, with torque stepping up to 340Nm from 1750-3000rpm.
The diesel's a manual-free zone, with the seven-speed DSG the only option, but no matter what type of transmission you choose, drive goes exclusively to the front wheels.
Climbing (modest) mountains and fording (gentle) streams is the Alltrack's department, with power coming courtesy of a 1.8-litre turbo-petrol four, delivering 132kW from 4500-6200rpm and 280Nm from 1350-4500rpm.
Alternately, a higher output version of the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four is an option on the high-spec Alltrack Premium, delivering 135kW from 3500-4000rpm, and an even gruntier 380Nm, the peak arriving at 1750rpm and hanging around until 3000rpm.
Petrol Alltracks are fitted with a six-speed dual clutch auto, while the diesel features an extra ratio, both sending drive to all four wheels via the '4Motion' permanent all-wheel drive system.
Built around an electronically-controlled multi-plate clutch pack, 4Motion uses an ECU integrated with the car's ESC set-up to continuously vary the torque split between front and rear axles.
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.
Gone are the days where a manual gearbox would outperform an auto transmission in the battle of the bowser.
Volkswagen claims the base (petrol, manual) Golf will consume 5.7L/100km on the combined (urban/extra urban) cycle, emitting 133g/km of CO2 in the process.
But swap out the manual for a dual-clutch, and that figure drops to 5.4L/100km for the hatch (128g/km) and 5.6 for the wagon (131g/km).
Tick the diesel option for the top-shelf Highline and your wallet will be even happier; the hatch consuming just 4.9L/100km (129g/km), and the wagon a round 5.0 (132g/km).
Step up to the Alltrack petrol and you're looking at 6.8L/100km (160g/km), with the high-output diesel sipping only 5.4 (142g/km).
The fuel tank in the hatch and wagon holds 50 litres, while the Alltrack's grows to 55 litres. And it's worth noting the petrol units are tuned for minimum 95RON premium unleaded.
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.
The overriding, almost overwhelming first impression in driving any recent Golf is the outstanding ride quality. You'd swear the wheelbase was half as long again, because it rides like a larger, luxury car.
Even the entry-level vehicle is quiet, comfortable, and refined. Steering feel is great, and the petrol 1.4 is smooth and eager; there's simply no way you'd pick it as a turbo.
Volkswagen claims 8.2 seconds for the sprint from 0-100km/h for the base car, whether you're shifting the gears yourself or the tricky dual-clutch is doing it for you.
That's pretty much the Goldilocks performance zone for a car that's likely to do most of its work in the urban jungle, yet needs to retain the ability to confidently stride out onto the open road when required.
The diesel version is only fractionally slower to licence-loss velocity (8.6sec), and while it doesn't feel as revvy and urgent, it packs a satisfying punch of mid-range torque. It is definitely and noticeably noisier, though.
As usual, the Golf is a model of ergonomic efficiency, with the new multimedia screen enhancing ease of use and connectivity, the seats front and rear are comfortable yet supportive, and you're spoiled for choice between the sweet six-speed manual and rapid-fire DSG (with wheel-mounted paddles on upper variants).
The wagon employs the same strut front, four-link rear suspension arrangement as the hatch, and despite its extra length and interior volume it gives nothing away in terms of noise suppression or general refinement.
Moving up the spec pecking order from 16-, through 17-, to optional 18-inch alloy wheels does nothing to compromise overall composure;, body control is exceptional, and the brakes are agreeably progressive.
Response from the Alltrack's more powerful engines is partially offset by an increase in kerb weight (petrol +165kg / diesel +101kg), with the 1.8-litre petrol and high-output 2.0-litre diesel both recording 7.8sec 0-100km/h. But despite its more macho appearance and SUV-focused rubber, the Alltrack is an equally refined drive.
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.
Golfs of all descriptions incorporate an impressive array of standard safety tech, including active features like cruise control (with programmable speed limiter), distance warning display, driver fatigue detection, AEB, ABS, EBD, BA, EDL, multi-collision brake, ASR, tyre-pressure indicator, and a rear-view camera.
And when all that isn't enough to avoid a collision, no less than seven airbags are on board (driver and front passenger head and side, driver's knee and front and rear curtain).
There are three child-restraint top tether points across the back seat, with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions.
As well as the previously mentioned auto-parking feature, the optional driver assistance package includes adaptive cruise control, lane assist, blind spot monitor, and rear traffic alert.
Although the 7.5 upgrade hasn't been specifically tested by ANCAP, the current Golf scored a maximum five-star rating when it was assessed at launch in early 2013.
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.
Volkswagen Australia's new-vehicle warranty covers three years/unlimited km, with paint covered for the same period, and the main steel body structure is under warranty for no less than 12 years (unlimited km).
Recommended service interval is 12 months/15,000km, with indicative costs for the first five years/75,000km ranging from a low of $318, to a high of $751, for a total of $2276, and an average of $455 per service.