MY old pal Elwyn posted on Facebook… “I must be getting old. Had a lift in a top of the range Subaru. It may well have been a NASA spacecraft for all I knew.”
Ex journo is Elwyn so he has a way with words. He drives his trusty but ageing Land Rover Freelander so Subaru’s new compact crossover, the XV, with its futuristic touchscreen facia does have a spaceship look about it.
The conversation took the usual course with test cars and the next question was ‘Is it any good’? to which I replied ‘yes, but I am disappointed with the harsh ride.’
Hadn’t noticed said Elwyn, which was hardly surprising as the XV is smooth enough on well tarred roads.
It got me wondering whether people like me, who drive different cars every week for a living, are too picky. Even my wife, who drives all the test cars, was happy with the Scooby until I mentioned it but conceded the ride was a bit hard after another trip behind the wheel.
The car we had driven before XV was the new Skoda Karoq, another compact SUV and a rival to the Subaru. That is always comfortable whether driving smooth motorways, bumpy B roads or cracked country lanes.
Was I right to put a dampener on Subaru’s brightest newcomer? Absolutely. By today’s standards the ride is below par, you pick up suspension thump over potholes, feel surface blemishes that should be smoothed over, and put up with more road noise than is the norm.
Some of this will be down to the suspension needs of the permanent four wheel drive system. Most of the new breed of SUVs have an ‘on demand’ system which is front wheel drive until a computer senses a loss of traction and sends a message to the back wheels to lend a hand. It is a lightweight, more fuel efficient system and useful in slippery conditions but will struggle with some of the tougher jobs the XV can take on.
Subaru has built its foundations on four wheel drive know-how and its sophisticated symmetrical system is the bees knees. You will find the same technology in Forester, Subaru’s accomplished go anywhere, tackle anything SUV, so XV comes from good stock.
The compact crossover is a tough old world – Karoq, Toyota CR-V, Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V are just a handful of the bright new stars so Subaru had to pull out all the stops with XV.
It is roughly the same size as the old model, apart from being a smidgen longer which gives it a smidgen more boot space, and loading has been made easier with a wider opening. Styling is sharp and is a car that will certainly turn more heads than the slightly bland Karoq.
There is nothing much wrong with the handling either which has a grippy, sporty edge to it, no doubt helped by that stiff suspension (sorry to mention that again) and is backed up by a lively 2-litre petrol engine. It is a bit of a screamer with the revs piled on and progresses smoothly through a six speed automatic gearbox. Steering wheel paddle shifters add to the fun if you want to switch to manual changes. There is a new 1.6 litre petrol available in both trim levels which brings the cost of the car down.
Hats off to Subaru for going the extra mile on safety. Its EyeSight system is about as good as it gets and uses two windscreen mounted cameras to distinguish objects whether they be vehicles, motorbikes, cycles or lane markings and will emergency brake the car if the driver fails to react. I’ve tried it in controlled conditions in a Forester and is highly effective.
XV’s safety screen, the off road credentials and generous spec are the trio of features Subaru hopes will drawer punters to the new model. The top SE Premium wants for nothing with full leather, navigation, heated front seats and automatic dipping headlights stand out features in a very long list. Against its rivals the XV is damn good value but in this company it has to be.
XV SE Premium Lineartronic
2-litre petrol; 153bhp
0-62mpg 10.4seccs; 120mph
First year road tax £500
Insurance group 16