Motor Image, the Subaru distributor for 10 countries in Asia, has for the first time unveiled the Malaysian-assembled Subaru XV. The car made its debut on the press day of the ongoing Indonesia International Motor Show (IIMS) 2012, and it’s a good preview of what Malaysia will get soon. The first batch of production XVs will roll out in December, and we’re looking at a January 2013 local launch.

Here’s the background. We broke the news back in July 2011 that Motor Image will assemble the Subaru XV at Tan Chong Motor Assemblies’ Segambut plant in KL, and besides local sales, will export the crossover to Indonesia and Thailand. The target is 5,000 to 6,000 units per year, shared between the three markets. Singapore isn’t in the picture because in that open market, it makes no sense (and cents) to bring in an ASEAN product over a Japanese-made XV.

The Malaysian-assembled XV is a significant product for both Fuji Heavy Industries (the maker of Subaru) and Tan Chong International (TCI, parent company of Motor Image), as Segambut is currently the only factory outside of Japan and USA producing Subarus. Why now? Why the XV? Our exclusive interview with TCI Executive Director and Motor Image boss Glenn Tan answers those questions, and more – click here to read.

The CKD Subaru XV shown at IIMS, as well as the unit we (very) briefly sampled in Jakarta, are engineering trial units. Such units are used for evaluation by FHI and we’re told that the Japanese are pleased with the product and have approved it for production. So, the car you see in our pics is exactly what we’re going to get.

If you remember, we showed you the CBU Japan version of the XV at last year’s Bangkok show, mentioning that there will be some spec changes for ASEAN to lower the sticker price. Our speculation that the CKD XV will omit the sunroof, keyless entry/push start, colour LCD and HIDs has turned out to be true, although the Malaysian-made car is not sparsely equipped by any means.

The fancy full-colour screen has been replaced by a single-strip display, while our XV makes do manual-leveling halogen lamps. No factory audio, but a 2-DIN colour touch screen ICE system will be linked to the factory steering controls. It may not necessarily be the exact same Kenwood unit shown here, though.

The leather-wrapped wheel (tilt and telescopic) also comes with cruise control buttons and paddle shifters. The dashboard is moulded from soft plastics that one can bury fingernails in, as per the CBU car. The door caps are less yielding, but pass the knuckle rap test. Three airbags will be standard – driver, front passenger and driver’s knee. ISOFIX, ABS, EBD, Brake Assist and Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) are standard.

The raised crossover, which has a high ground clearance of 220 mm, is powered by Subaru’s latest “FB” boxer engine. This naturally aspirated DOHC 16-valve flat-four makes 150 PS and 196 Nm of torque at 4,200 rpm. Paired to Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT gearbox with manual selection, this drivetrain is shared with the rest of the current-gen Impreza family, launched last year in Japan. It’s not a Subaru without Boxer and Symmetrical AWD, so the latter feeds drive permanently to all four wheels.

The XV’s suspension consists of front McPherson struts and rear double-wishbones. The brakes are discs all round, but ventilated at the front. Those distinctive alloys, as seen on the CBU car, are 17-inch items, wrapped with 225/55 rubber.

Nothing new to report in terms of driving experience, since we only tried it on a slalom course lasting few minutes. Response and pick-up off the line is far from blazing (getting that blue turbo monster with gold wheels out of your mind is a must) but decent. At low speeds, the XV didn’t roll as much as I would have expected, considering its height. The driving position is nice – the seat goes low enough and the wheel adjusts for reach.

“With increased affordability while maintaining the quality and standards that’s comparable to the Japan imported version, we expect the XV to put Subaru on everyone’s shopping list when they are lookng for a SUV. I’m very confident that many people will like it, give us a chance,” urged Motor Image boss Glenn Tan.

“The unveiling of the Subaru XV is an important milestone in enhancing our growth in the ASEAN region. The partnership with FHI has provided us with the ability to rapidly scale up on Motor Image’s presence in the region through making investments in our network and building long term relationships based on the superior quality of the Subaru brand and a consistently high level of service to customers,” he added.

Speaking of service, Motor Image plans to have 23 sales and distribution outlets in Malaysia by the end of 2013, up from the current 11. “We intend to go all out to build the brand. Over the next six months very exciting things will be happening and we’ll make sure you’ll really hear us,” Tan added.

The CKD XV’s price benchmark is the market leading Honda CR-V, so expect a figure of around RM150k on the sticker. Full gallery after the jump.