There's a new niche of cars emerging that could unseat the SUV as the Filipino's favorite ride. These are the crossovers and we’re not talking about the SUV’s with unibody construction. The term 'crossover' used to apply to SUV’s using unibody shells derived from cars as opposed to the conventional body on frame method they used to be made out of. These days, with majority of the SUV’s taking on this idea, the term is now slowly being applied to the exact opposite, that is cars that have been raised off the ground and bestowed with all-wheel drive, to better emulate the desirable qualities of an SUV.
The idea has been around for some time. Just look at our review of the Suzuki SX4 Crossover, one of the brave few to venture into it, or the cubist Kia Soul. Mazda has the CX-5 and Mitsubishi has the ASX, which stands for Active Sport Crossover. And now we have the Subaru XV, which simply means Crossover Vehicle.
In many ways, the XV is a lot like the ASX. The ASX, after all is derived from the Lancer. The XV is no different, being an Impreza hatch with higher ground clearance. Subaru bravely makes no bones to hide it. They even share the same owner’s manual, as we’ve discovered.
The XV, however, differentiates itself with a more pronounced bumper to give it a tougher look. Foglamps sit lower on either side of the lower intake. Rocker panels protect the lowest portions of the bumpers, wheel wells and side skirts. Then there’s the gorgeous 17 inch black wheels that are standard on the premium model. The conservatively styled tail lights make it easy to mistake for a Honda City from a far. The trick is to look out for the center mounted rear foglamp on the bumper (best used in heavy rains instead of turning on your hazard lights). The rear reflectors are beautifully housed in scratch-proof panelling. Current owners seem to enjoy the standard roof rails on the premium model, attaching bike racks to them.
Like the Impreza reviewed earlier, the XV’s interior is almost a carbon copy. It’s a tasteful and fuss-free design with much of the dials and instrumentation neatly laid out and easy to figure out. Unique to the XV are the Swiss cheese steel pedals, rubber rear cargo mat and retractable cover.
The main draw of the interior, though, is something techies will particularly enjoy. A small LCD between both dials in the instrument cluster shows fuel, the trip meter, odometer and gear. When the transmission is in manual mode, it shows the present gear while an indicator lights up when to shift up or down for the most efficient results.
The display on the center stack features a variety of readouts like dual zone temperature and air conditioning mode. The other half has readouts that lean more toward the obsessive compulsive side. It can reveal fuel consumption and range in a variety of ways for more accurate monitoring. One mode even shows how much pressure is applied on the throttle. The best mode is the traction histogram.
When selected, it shows the entire powertrain, allowing the driver to see the exact angle of the tires, the car’s position relative to the direction it’s traveling and how much power and traction is being sent to each tire over a period of 30 seconds. It’s ridiculously detailed but much appreciated considering the brand’s typical clientele.
Like the Impreza, the XV is powered by the same 2.0 liter 4 cylinder boxer that may not seem all that impressive on the spec sheet. Its pairing with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), makes for a speedy and responsive powertrain. There’s also a manual mode with paddle shifters for those that like to take control. Though I found myself just sitting back and leaving it to the CVT. The always-on all-wheel drive on the other hand imparts a very confidence inspiring hold on the road.
These all add up to make a car that is responsive, very grippy and quite a joy to drive. Acceleration from a standstill may not be much to brag about, especially with that awkward long single gear feeling CVT’s usually return. Yet, the car picks up pretty quickly from a steady cruise to overtaking speed. Its top speed may be lower, but there’s plenty of room to play between 80 and 160 km/h. There’s some roll while cornering but the all-wheel drive is so confidence inspiring that you hardly hesitate on sweeping corners. The only time I saw the traction histogram show anything but green lights was when I purposely drove over a patch of sand while turning.
Of course, when made to drive more conservatively with a family on board, the XV still returns a comfortable ride, cold air conditioning and a quiet interior.
The size and height are what make it a rare practical Subaru. The size is easy to manage around the city and while parking, with sensors all around and a back-up camera. There’s not a lot of boot space but the flexible seating and roof rails allow for creative cargo loading. It’s ground clearance allowed me to pass the lower Impreza with confidence through some flooded areas. Finally, the fuel consumption makes it easy to justify with an acceptable 8.0 km/L in the city (heavy traffic) and 15.5 km/L in the highway.
There’s also quite an extensive list of safety features, with basics like ABS, EBD and BA, seatbelts for all passengers and traction control. The body features a pedestrian safe hood and a breakaway engine that collapses the shaft away from the passenger area.
It’s a very tempting package, being everything you loved about the Impreza with a higher clearance. It’s also everything the ASX could have been. As such, it’s no surprise the XV has quickly become Subaru’s new bestseller, stealing sales away from the Impreza and Forester in spite of the price and waiting list. We hope production of RHD XV’s in Malaysia next year will allow for a higher allotment of Japanese-made XV’s for the Philippines. For now, those that want one will just have to wait. I know I certainly would if I could.