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Driven: Subaru XV 2.0i-S ES

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Subaru’s reputation as a maker of performance cars is legendary. The 90’s saw the introduction of the hallowed Impreza nameplate, a humdrum family saloon that, when fettled and fitted with go-faster bits, is transformed into the awe-inspiring WRX STI. 

The combination of four-wheel drive, high levels of grip and turbocharged power made it unstoppable on the rally circuits, with the late Colin McRae cutting his teeth behind the wheel of the 555-liveried rally car. Rivalled only by Mitsubishi and their Lancer Evolution, Subaru gained fans the world over, who love the brand’s unique boxer engines, reliability and performance.

The brand also has plenty of experience when it comes to building family SUVs and hatchbacks. The Legacy Outback, Forester and Tribeca come to mind. Curiously, the smallest of their crossover offerings is often overlooked. AutoAdvisor spent some time behind the wheel of the halo 2.0i-S ES to find out why.

While many crossovers bear a resemblance to each other, the XV has chunky off-roader styling which lends it a tough, adventurous look. The black body-cladding and raised body height works well with the handsome (if a touch conservative) bodywork. Gorgeous machined alloy wheels finish everything off nicely and despite being 18-inches, don’t ruin the ride quality.

The interior is a nice place to spend time, with fabulous build quality. There are some harsher plastics to be found in the interior but, overall, it's a lovely cabin. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is a classy touch and compliments the standard leather upholstery found on the seats, armrest, door panels and bits of the centre console.

Subaru isn’t stingy when it comes to throwing standard equipment at a car. On spec alone, the XV represents excellent value for money. R509 000 nets you LED headlamps, a reverse camera and an infotainment system with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Feature rich, the touchscreen is quick to respond but is feeling a touch dated, especially with regards to the graphics and clarity.

Still, that’s a small price to pay when you consider the XV ships standard with navigation, keyless entry and Subaru’s suite of safety features, called EyeSight. The system includes all the latest driver assistance tech; pre-collision braking, lane departure, adaptive cruise control, sway warning and lead vehicle start alert. 

When you consider all the aforementioned goodies aren’t optional extras, the R509 000 price tag starts to look very appealing. Also appealing is the seat comfort. The driver receives electric adjustment, making it easy to dial in your preferred position behind the multi-function steering wheel (which is also adjustable for rake and reach.)

While not small, the XV’s boot and carrying capacity trails behind its rivals. With 310 litres of luggage space, it can’t quite measure up to the Hyundai Kona (544 litres), Nissan Qashqai (430 litres) or Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross (437 litres). Fold the 60/40 split-fold backrest and you do increase carrying capacity to a sizable 1 220 litres.

Where the XV does have the measure of its rivals is ground clearance. 220 mm of space between the road and the Subaru means the XV is a genuine gravel road lover, the chunky tyres working in combination with the increased ride height to ensure a comfortable ride quality over loose, rutted surfaces. Even though it’s not an off-roader, four-wheel drive ensures the XV remains sure-footed and planted. 

The 2.0-litre engine, which produces 115 kW and 196 Nm of torque, works well with the CVT gearbox. This type of transmission isn’t our favourite, but Subaru is among the best in the business. Smooth, fluid and unintrusive, the flat-four engine only makes itself heard under harsh acceleration as the ‘box sends the engine revs surging. 

On the motorway, the cabin is hushed, with minimal wind, tyre or other aural intrusion. We would like a touch more torque, especially for overtaking. Subaru claims a 0-100 km/h time of 10.4 seconds - not fast, but sufficient for day-to-day driving. 

Verdict

We’re struggling to understand why you don’t see more Subaru XV’s on South Africa’s roads. Not only is it handsome and nice to drive, but positively bursting at the seams with standard equipment. What’s more, it’s practical and can take gravel roads in its stride. If you’re in the market for a midsize crossover that won’t break the bank, has all the luxuries of modern motoring and can do some (very) light off-roading, the Subaru XV is worth putting on your shortlist. What’s more, if you can do without some of the luxuries on the ES model, a cheaper derivative is available for R445 000.

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