Ryan Bubear samples the Subaru XV 2.0 Lineartronic CVT...
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In life, many of us strive to excel at a ridiculously wide-ranging combination of things. The overwhelming majority of us fail. Horribly.
I mean, when was the last time you saw a lion-tamer with a PhD in molecular biology, who models underwear in her spare time, holds the international record for speed-crocheting, and is all the while the world's best stay-at-home mom? No, most among us are masters of one thing, at the very most. If you can run like the wind, there's a fair chance you're going to struggle with the weekend crossword. If your IQ is off the charts, you're unlikely to be named the country's next beauty queen.
Sure, there are exceptions, but they're few and far between. What has this to do with cars, you ask? Well, the new Subaru XV is the latest in a long line of modern vehicles trying to be all manner of things at once. But this time it's taking the crossover concept to the extreme.
For starters, it has all the practicality of a smallish hatchback. Then there's the fact that it has an extended wheelbase, à la stationwagon, which means there's plenty of room inside — for both ordinary things and people-shaped things. It also boasts a ground clearance of 220mm and all-wheel-drive, meaning it is quite happy to venture off the tarmac. Tech-filled, almost luxurious interior? Check. Roof-rails? Check. Bold styling? Check. Sporty engine? Well, sort of...
The XV is rather successful is all these areas, with the exception of perhaps the last one. Make no mistake, the 2.0-litre Boxer engine, which pumps out 110kW and 296Nm, is no slouch; there's enough power to execute swift overtaking manoeuvres and far more than you're ever likely to need in city driving... but it isn't really sporty. The obligatory zero to 100km/h sprint takes some 10.7 seconds.
However, what this horizontally-opposed petrol plant lacks in sporty character (unfortunately, that trademark Boxer thrum is rather muted too), it makes up for in efficiency — particularly when it's mated to a CVT, as was our test vehicle. Subaru claims an average fuel consumption of 7.9 litres per 100km with the Lineartronic CVT (the figure is slightly higher with the six-speed manual), and we managed 8.5, despite an abundance of real-world, stop-start traffic. Not brilliant by today's standards, but for a naturally aspirated two-litre petrol lump, that's not half bad.
CVTs... we're not fans
The continuously variable transmission is not our favourite piece of engineering here at iafrica Motoring, but the example in the Subaru XV is unquestionably the best we've experienced. The vast majority of CVTs we've encountered before have been bolted onto hybrids, and have suffered from that typical "hairdryer" drone. In the XV, however, the system is far less aurally obtrusive and far more responsive when you put your foot down. Indeed, it's not something that would keep niggling day-in and day-out.
Shift paddles, which allow the driver to swap between five "virtual" forward gears, have been included, although they seem a little self-defeating, considering that the whole point of a CVT is to provide stepless drive through an infinite number of gear ratios, thereby matching the most efficient engine speed to the actual vehicle speed. If that all seemed a bit complicated, just know this: the paddles are pretty pointless, and lose their entertainment value rather quickly.
In terms of exterior styling, the XV is quite an improvement over the seldom-seen Subaru Impreza XV, which was available in SA for only about a year. Indeed, the new XV is rather good-looking, in a rugged, tough-guy kind of way — particularly from the front. Just enough chrome detailing has found its way into the grille design, and the HID Xenon headlights are really quite shapely. The foglights are deep-seated in the bumper, resulting in more bold lines, and the two-tone 17-inch alloys (reminiscent of those found on the Citroen DS3 THP Sport) make quite a statement.
The styling may not be to everyone's taste, but it certainly makes the XV stand out on the road. During our week with the XV, a fairly high number of heads were turned... which is normally a good indicator of the popularity of a new vehicle's exterior design.
Inside, there is space aplenty, and the specification level is pleasingly high. Automatic dual climate control, six-speaker audio system (with auxiliary and USB ports), multifunctional steering wheel, Bluetooth, cruise control, sunroof, nifty information display, reversing camera, and hill start assist are all standard. Our test model also featured optional leather seats and built-in satellite navigation.
Boot space is appreciable, and 310 litres of shopping can be squeezed in with the back seats up, and up to 771 litres with the bench folded flat. And, thankfully, the tailgate opens high enough for a six-footer to stand up straight underneath without experiencing any head-banging hassles. Good.
The ride is comfortable, even off the beaten track, and the vehicle feels stable even at high speeds. The steering is fairly light, and although at nearly 4.5 metres long the XV is not exactly small, it is still quite easy to park (decent visibility helps here too).
Since the XV is probably pitched at the driver with a family, safety is a priority. ABS with EBD and BAS, VDC (that'd be Subaru's Vehicle Dynamics Control), Isofix anchors, seven airbags, and a few reinforcement beams are all standard fare. Indeed, the XV managed to earn a maximum five-star rating for both ANCAP and Euro NCAP. And a full maintenance plan of three years or 75 000km, and a warranty of three years or 100 000km, means it should be kept in tip-top shape.
So, the new Subaru XV is a strangely effective blend of hatchback, SUV, stationwagon, luxury sedan, and off-roader, with daring looks to match. Now we just need a hot one, in true Subaru fashion...
But for the moment, five out of six ain't bad.
Follow @Ryan_Bubear on Twitter to see what he's currently driving.
See page 2 for specs and pricing.