‘Green’ added to personality traits of cheerful compact SUV
Many years ago, when Australia used to have its own motor show, two automotive scribes were scoffing at the thought of a car-based SUV.
They chortled at Subaru’s new XV. Based on the Impreza, the blend of small car, wagon and SUV was given limited chance of success by the self-appointed aficionados.
Since those days, when Holden was still operating at full tilt while Commodores and Falcons were still actually on sales charts, the SUV bomb has exploded.
The XV has become Subaru Australia’s second most popular vehicle behind the Forester, and held the number one mantle back in 2018.
Now there’s a new breed arriving. Hybrid versions of the XV have landed offering improved fuel consumption, all-wheel drive and the same running costs as the petrol equivalent. Starting from less than $40,000 drive-away, this is Subaru’s first foray into the alternative fuel arena.
The XV is Subaru’s most personality-packed offering with lively colours and youthful verve.
Exclusive blue pearl is the hybrid’s hero colour, but other exuberant options include orange and red, as well as the typical white, silver, grey, two deeper blue hues and black. Unlike just about all other manufacturers, Subaru doesn’t charge extra for premium paint.
There’s only one hybrid variant, with the complimentary gear a small 6.5-inch touchscreen equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto apps as well as a CD player (a rarity nowadays), 17-inch alloys and a smart key with push button start.
For the price you’d expect some extra niceties, like a sunroof, LED running lights, dual-zone aircon, sports pedals, satnav and leather trim — features that are standard on the range-topping petrol model which costs about $1300 more.
Capped price servicing is available if you return to the dealer, varying between $350 up to $784 and a total cost of $2433 over five years.
Warranty coverage meets the mainstream standard of five years and unlimited kilometres, while the hybrid battery has coverage for eight years or 160,000km. The latter is consistent with what’s on offer from the likes of Toyota and Hyundai.
Cameras are watching inside and out … like Big Brother, but the coverage is designed to keep you safe.
When the driver takes a seat it scans their head and then constantly monitors the eyes. If you look away from the road for a prolonged period, a reminder is displayed within the instruments.
Then there’s the usual kit, such as automatic emergency braking to help avoid or reduce the impact of frontal collisions, radar cruise control to maintain preset distances from other vehicles, along with rear cross traffic alert and reverse auto braking which stops the driver from hitting objects — an ally in carparks.
Beautifully balanced and controlled, the XV is one of the better handling compact SUVs.
It doesn’t sway or rock like some rivals in the bends, providing a wonderful ride in virtually all conditions.
Surprisingly for a small SUV there is ample space front and back.
Two growing boys had no complaints with head, leg and knee room in the second row, although those in the back go without air vents or access to modern vitals like USB ports.
In front of the shifter there are two USB slots and an auxiliary jack along with a handy space for phones, while the console has daily commonsense covered with dual cupholders (as well as another pair in the rear fold-down arm rest) along with door pockets that have integrated bottle holders.
The steering wheel has a busy alignment of buttons, toggles and levers, but once accustomed it’s straightforward operationally.
While losing the space-saver spare tyre is disappointing due to the hybrid battery system, gains come via boot space. An extra 35 litres is available compared to the standard XV to swallow a family weekly grocery shop, while the rear seats drop 60-40 which is useful for carrying flatpack furniture or sporting equipment.
The four-cylinder petrol engine is aided by a 12.3kW/66kW electric motor/small capacity lithium-ion battery pack that garners energy from daily driving operations — so there is no plug-in charging required.
Operating in full electric vehicle is limited to below 40km/h. That’s fine if you are stuck in traffic regularly or do a lot of short trips around town.
Yet covering more than 800km, we saw average fuel consumption of seven litres for every 100km. That’s not a bad result and only about 0.5 litres more than the official figure from Subaru.
Compared to the Forester, which shares the same drivetrain, the XV feels more agile and responsive. The power is down only 5kW on the standard XV petrol variants, and additional mid-range punch is provided by the hybrid system for improved performance.
Those keen to tackle gravel roads can do so with confidence courtesy of the 220mm ground clearance and X-Mode system which can alter traction settings via a console switch. Although without a full-size spare, it would be a gamble.
Japanese fit and finish with outstanding safety credentials. The fuel savings aren’t massive but the all-wheel performance and extra grunt are worth the investment.
Effervescent looks best suit my personality and lifestyle, plus now I can add “greenie” to the repertoire.
TOYOTA C-HR KOBA $40,600 D/A
Another groovy little offering, but Toyota’s hybrid system is more effective. It has average fuel consumption of just 4.3L/100km from its 1.8-litre Atkinson cycle set-up that generates 90kW combined, although only front-wheel drive.
HYUNDAI KONA EV HIGHLANDER $69,350 D/A
Hyundai offers the most convincing mainstream electric vehicle we’ve seen yet. A big step up in price, also in spec and performance. Fast electric motor good for 150kW/395Nm. Best EV in a SUV shell for this money.
Those wanting a hybrid XV shouldn’t bank on big fuel savings, rather improved mid-range performance wrapped by a groovy package.
AT A GLANCE
SUBARU XV HYBRID
PRICE $39,360 drive-away (upper end of small SUVs)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 5 years/unlimited km (on par); $2433 for 5 years (pricey)
SAFETY 5 stars, 7 airbags, AEB, adaptive cruise, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitor, rear AEB (excellent)
THIRST 6.5L/100km (7 on test)
SPARE Repair kit (no off-roading)
BOOT 345L/919L (roomy)