I will admit that I dismissed the old Subaru XV as just another hatchback on stilts when it was first released back in 2012.
After trying it out however, it surprised me with its handling, ride and comfort. The only gripe I had with it was its lack of cargo space. Fast forward four years since its launch and it has become one of Subaru's best-sellers, both here and around the world.
Now, there's an all-new model and it aims to duplicate, or even surpass, the success of its predecessor. With the older model still being a good car even in its twilight years, this all-new XV should be something great. Simply put, it's one of the most important cars Subaru builds today.
No pressure then.
As expected, the 2018 Subaru XV shares its platform with the (just as new) fifth-generation Impreza. That also means it looks the same as its lower-riding, four-door counterpart, albeit this is in hatchback form, following the form of its predecessor. Styling then can be best described as evolutionary with its sharper looking headlights and a larger, bolder grill. In the case of the XV, the chrome trim from the Impreza gives way to matte black mouldings. It can be mistaken for a facelift, but it's still a good looking car, particularly in the signature shade of Sunshine Orange.
At the rear, it looks more masculine than the car it replaces. 'Reverse L' tail lights are lifted from the Impreza, giving the all-new XV a more dynamic rear fascia. Of course, unpainted plastic trim surrounds the bottom half of the car, giving off the impression that the car higher off the ground than it really is. Still, it boasts nearly nine inches of ground clearance, meaning you don't have to worry when the road gets rocky.
If you've seen the interior of the 2017 Impreza, then you won't be surprised with the cabin of the XV. From its dash, seats and door panels, it is practically the same as its sedan sibling. That said, it is a nice place to spend time in as it boasts of high-quality materials and a design that favors function over form. Take a closer look however and there are some minor details that differentiate it from the Impreza.
One of these key differences is the orange stitching on the steering wheel, door trims, seats and dashboard. It may be a small thing but it suits the XV, given how Subaru pitches it to the 'active lifestyle' crowd. As for ergonomics, it's simple and straightforward. Other amenities include a comprehensive infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, power seats for the driver, a sunroof, dual-zone auto climate control, cruise control, reverse camera plus a smart key and push button start
As for space, the longer wheelbase helps in legroom and the wider body boots shoulder and hip room. However, the sunroof on this top of the line Premium variant cuts into headroom, but not by much. The cargo area is bigger than before, but not by much. The high cargo floor eats up a significant amount of space and one travel suitcase fills it up. At least the seats fold down should you need to carry longer items.
This being a Subaru, it comes as no surprise that there is a boxer engine under the hood. Carried over from the Impreza, it is a 2.0-liter, flat-four unit with direct injection. Power is rated at 156 PS and 196 Nm of torque. It then shifts via a continuously variable transmission and, because it's a Subaru, Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive is part of the package.
When compared to the Impreza, the XV rides a bit firmer, but not uncomfortably so. It still soaks up bumps well and it doesn't send road impact harshness on to its passengers. The seats deserve a mention too as it offered a wide range of adjustability and a lot of support. The padding is soft enough to be comfortable on long drives but firm enough so you won't sink in them. With its good ride and supple seats, the XV is not a tiring car to drive or be driven in at all.
Given that we were impressed with the all-new chassis of the Impreza, it was expected that the XV would be a good handling car.
It proved to be one after driving it on winding roads. Yes, there is a little more body motion due to its higher ride height, but it offers a lot of grip thanks to all-wheel drive. Steering is sharp and offers feedback, which is good if you like your cars with more feel. If anything, it feels more engaging to drive than the car that it just replaced.
It rides well and handles confidently but I reckon that more torque would make the XV a bigger pleasure to drive. With less than 200 Nm of torque to play with, the engine begins to be a bit more vocal when going uphill. Not that it's underpowered but you have to press the accelerator a little bit deeper to maintain speed and momentum. On level roads however, engine performance can be best described as adequate. It picks up speed at a decent rate but overtaking does require a little more planning. An extra 20 Nm of torque would be a big boost for this car. As for fuel economy, the on-board computer displayed 15.8 liters per 100 kilometers or 6.3 kilometers per liter at an average speed of just 12 km/h.
While the engine isn't the brightest spot of the XV, it's standard safety equipment can rival cars twice its price. Interestingly enough, this Subaru XV pre-launch model came with EyeSight, a smart cruise control and emergency brake assist system that works in all speeds. Subaru will launch it next year, but we thought we'd give it a try anyway.
To simplify, it works by keeping a safe distance from the car that is in front of you. If the car ahead slows down, you do too and vice versa. It even works when the car ahead is stopped by bringing you to a gentle halt. Trying it in both the real world and in a controlled environment, it works well as it keeps a constant distance in both slow and high speeds. Even if the vehicle ahead makes slams on the brakes, it will apply the exact amount of brake pressure to stop the car, provided you kept a safe distance from the whatever is in front. That said, one should not fully rely on this system as it is does not make it a self-driving car and, of course, do not drive distracted. The main purpose of EyeSight is to assist you in preventing collisions, not avoiding them completely.
When you factor in all the improvements, it's amazing how Subaru was able to retain the price tag from last year's car. At Php 1,538,000, you get an all-new car with the latest tech and chassis enhancements for the same old price.
Overall, the all-new Subaru XV further polished what was good about the older model which results in an even more impressive package. Yes, it feels a bit like a minor evolution but that's no bad thing considering the first-generation XV was still a competent car. All in all, it shows an improvement over the old car and that alone means that Subaru is pointing in the right direction.