Subaru XV 2.0i-P-3

It has been some years since the Subaru XV made waves in the Malaysian automotive scene and it seemed like a promising SUV. For one, the brand carried an image that a few (or many) longed to own at some point of their lives. The XV carried with it the aura of cars like the Impreza, the Forester, Legacy and of course, not forgetting the Impreza WRX STI (now WRX STI).

The second, was that when the XV made its very first Malaysian debut, it was the most affordable Subaru that we’ve ever seen. The somewhat reasonable price tag of the XV was indeed a huge plus point for the brand and Malaysians everywhere. We were given a glimmer of a chance to actually being able to own a Scooby (of course, not in the context that most of us know i.e WRX STI), but nonetheless, hope was there.

With that said, the price of the facelifted XV is certainly quite a little more to ask for – the XV 2.0i, the base variant costs RM132,725, while the 2.0i-Premium (2.0i-P) will set one back RM137,075 (on-the-road price, inclusive of insurance). That’s certainly a figure in which you’d be asking – is it really worth that much, seeing that it is a CKD model? Well, this writer took 2.0i-P variant up to Melaka recently to find out.

First off, let’s take a look at the subtle exterior changes that the facelifted Subaru XV has been given. Although it’s minor, you’ll still able to differentiate it from the old one. The most obvious would have to be those L-shaped LED daytime running lights on the front bumper (only on the Premium variant). Those things are extremely bright, while I do feel that they look a little bit upright, it’ll undoubtedly grab some attention.

On top of that, you get a new glossy hexagonal grille with less of a “caged” look. Up top, there’s a roof rack that’s finished in aluminium rather than a dark dusty black. It certainly works quite well to further accentuate that the XV is an outdoorsy vehicle, along with the silver door handles. In the back, the clear LED rear lights are certainly an improvement over red units that we’re used to seeing.

Elsewhere, the side mirrors have little dotted LEDs embedded into them. It has to be said that, when I first received the car, I was in awe. This nifty feature works like magic. You don’t see those little dots in the mirrors when it’s inactive but each and every single time that they blink, it’s a sight to behold. At night though, as it can get a little too bright, especially if you’re driving on an unlit road. It comes to a point that those magical orange blips can turn into a distraction.

Other items include a new (sort of) set of 17-inch two-tone rims, that are now a little slanted to give it a turbine-look. Not much to shout about here, seeing that those are almost the same set as the previous ones. On the rear bumper, there’s now a red foglight that sits in the centre. Overall, the facelifted XV will definitely portray one as a skydiver/ mountain climber/ thrill-seeker, if that’s what you’re looking for. What it definitely isn’t, though, is fresh, because it looks too similar to the previous model.

Exclusive to the 2.0i-P is the keyless entry system, so, the car key that you get, is now new as well. It works just fine, but the beep upon unlocking/ locking via the door handle is on the loud side. On that note, while the sport utility look is now a tad more prominent than before, I was really hoping that the XV in its facelifted form could at least come with projector headlamps. Well, it is 2016, isn’t it?

Inside, is where one will notice more of the changes and that’s where it really matters. However, do bear in mind that most of the items can only be found in the higher-specced 2.0i-P. There’s now orange stitching that can be found literally everywhere. Said stitching goes on to the leather-wrapped steering wheel, door panels, gear shift and cover, centre armrest as well as the front and rear seats.

Also, the pair of seats in the front get additional orange “XV” labels sewn onto them – mind, though, that the usual “airbag” tabs you’d expect to find here are missing, as the car still does not have side airbags – only two front and driver knee airbags are fitted. Meanwhile, the driver’s seat is now power-adjustable.

The steering on the other hand is all new, with extra buttons to control the new coloured display within the instrument cluster. It’s the same three-spoke design that can be found in the Legacy and Outback. As for charge points, you’ll find the standard 12V socket just below climate controls, along with a new pair of USB outlets (one for media, the other to charge your devices).

On the passenger’s side, a piano-black panel is fitted above the glovebox for a more premium look, replacing the plain silver trim in the outgoing car. The foot pedals are encased in aluminium for a sporty appearance. Of more importance would be the coloured information display that sits at the centre console.

Said display is pretty simple to use, controlled via an up/down button located in between the two centre air vents. Information that one can opt to see include the workings of the Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, trip computer and a primary screen that will minimise info to just an analogue clock, the temperature outside and total fuel consumption.

The Kenwood headunit sitting in the centre console looks a little aftermarket, but it’s functional and it serves its purpose very well. With capabilities such as GPS navigation, DVD, Bluetooth and the like, the unit runs smoothly enough.

Apart from being able to support apps, and an SD card, the headunit has a number of other inputs that include HDMI and component cables. But you’ll have to remove the entire headunit to use them, as the connections are all situated in the back. Not really planned through, then.

The sloping roofline might suggest otherwise, but the back seats have ample space. It’s not at all cramped, and is far more spacious than say, a Mazda CX-3. For those with small children, the XV is conveniently equipped with Isofix points and top tether.

Subaru XV 2.0i-P-70

Cargo space isn’t that impressive, though, with a capacity of 310 litres. It’s by far the smallest in the class, with the Honda CR-V having almost twice the cargo space. This is perhaps the XV’s biggest flaw – its hatchback roots are clear to see here.

On to the drive, you’ll be quick to notice that the XV doesn’t feel all that tall. In fact, the XV certainly doesn’t strike one as an SUV from behind the wheel. Having pushed it over and over again through turns, it almost feels like a hatch, almost (it is basically a heightened Impreza, after all).

Coupled with the all-wheel drive system, there’s a pinch more confidence when taking on turns at speed, with very minimal bodyroll to it. It’s certainly more confidence aspiring than taller SUVs like the CR-V and CX-5, that’s for sure.

As for ride comfort, well, sometimes a compromise is needed. Going over bumps and little holes, you’ll still feel them, especially in the back. However, it’s certainly not terrible nor is it annoying to warrant to many complaints. It will most probably be something that you’ll eventually learn to accept and tell yourself, “hey, at least it’s good around corners.”

Subaru XV 2.0i-P-21

Tyre noise? There’s a hint of it, but only at higher speeds and it’s not dreadfully intrusive. Wind noise however, interestingly comes in quite consistently. The XV manages to stay somewhat quiet below 110 km/h, but going past the 120 km/h mark sees wind noise immediately set in, without fail.

Heading out onto the highway, the FB20 2.0 litre four-pot boxer engine is by no means a dispirited one. Immediately noticeable is that faint growl that it emits each time you put your foot to the pedal. It’s quite addictive to the ears, if I may be honest. To add to that, the mill is really punchy – step on it and the revs will climb quickly, and I mean very quickly.

Moving along at 80 km/h, with the rpm needle hovering at about 2,500, I floored it – in less than a second or so, the rev needle surged past 3,000 and onwards to 4,300 without notice, and that’s where the twist – all 196 Nm of it – fully kicked in.

Subaru XV 2.0i-P-37

Needless to say, there’s no disappointment in terms of power, as it’s satisfyingly quick. I wish I could say the same for the transmission, though. Now, there’s no change to the powertrain or drivetrain in the facelifted XV, so it’s exactly the same as the pre-facelift model. While the Lineartronic CVT may sound like a fancy one, I felt that it was a tad of a let-down.

Don’t get me wrong, the gearbox may deliver adequately at higher revs, but it’s at the lower rev range that one can feel the gearbox getting a little bit confused. Here, it tends to skip around a little making itself appear rather clumsy. On some occasions, there was a slight dip and a vague shudder – but it’s not the sort that would make you worried, just to be clear.

While it may already be missing xenon/LED headlamps, the XV also misses out on automatic headlamp activation. Don’t expect it to wipe away rain droplets on your behalf either, as an automatic wiper function is also absent. One or two driver assistance tech and more airbags would have made for a good selling point.

At the end of it, I was wondering what the “Premium” tag actually stands for. Perhaps it’s the many colour screens, reverse camera and leather that entitle it to this label. But truly, I was disappointed with the lack of such features. These may not have mattered two, three or four years ago, but times have changed, and boy, have they changed fast – seeing how trends go.

Yes, cost may be a culprit, but for the XV to compete with more affordable (and better equipped) contenders at such a price, it could have done with more. It ends up feeling a little aged.

In terms of price, the XV is comparable to B-segment SUVs like the Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V. But that’s about the only thing it has in common, as it sits nearer to bigger C-segment SUVs like the Mazda CX-5 and the Honda CR-V in size. It’s only a tad shorter than the larger SUVs and it utilises a more sophisticated double wishbone rear suspension (like the CR-V), unlike torsion beams in the CX-3 and HR-V.

To add to that, it’s hard to appropriately describe what the XV is trying to be. It’s not really a rival to the HR-V and CX-3, nor is it a direct alternative to the larger CR-V and CX-5. Perhaps the bigger Forester can mount a proper challenge against the CR-V and CX-5.

But with all that’s said, the XV is not exactly a let down. It’s far from that. If you’re an avid fan of the badge, the XV will certainly please. It does have all the grunt and grip that you’ll need, and that’s certainly a good enough start for me.