The humble station wagon just got a whole lot sleeker with the Subaru XV. Kate Ginn tries it out for size.
One of my former neighbours in Muscat, Ashwin, swore by his trusty Forester Subaru, recounting many kilometres and hours of trouble-free motoring.
When he bought another vehicle for his wife, I had half a mind to put in an offer for his Forester until he announced that he would never part with his beloved SUV.
Now, a few years later, I was getting my hands on my own Subaru, the XV, a crossover for the urban lifestyle and those with a little hankering for the SUV dream, albeit a compact one.
First off, I loved the colour of my test car. A khaki green, it reminded me of the desert and immediately summed up images of off-road adventures and exploring off Oman’s beaten track.
It looked pretty smart, too, with black roof rails, a colour-coded rear spoiler and aluminium alloy wheels adding a sprinkling of sportiness, which I imagine would appeal to younger drivers. It wasn’t exactly gritty; more urbane.
My car was the Premium model and also sported a power sunroof. Despite being in the middle of an Omani summer, I threw caution to the wind, opened the sunroof up fully at one point as we sped down the Sultan Qaboos highway, enjoying the feel of the breeze whipping through my hair.
I was pleasantly surprised at the interior of the XV. While lacking in high-tech wizardry, I liked the functional chunky, big buttons and the macho dials. The retro analogue clock on the digital display was also pretty cool.
It was very “Subaru”, unpretentious, practical and built to last.
A little touch of luxury came with the leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob.
I was impressed with the air conditioning, which gave out a nice, icy blast and the dual-zone system should keep both the driver and passenger happy.
The seats were comfortable and with a six-way manual adjustable driver’s seat, it should be a good fit for anyone.
It was easy to pair my iPhone using Bluetooth connectivity, allowing me to make calls and play my own music, and while the touchscreen doesn’t look the nicest, it does the job. Cranking up the audio system, the six speakers had a nice tone and decent sound quality.
I was interested to see how the XV would perform on the road. Slam your foot down on the aluminium accelerator pedal and the two-litre injection engine takes time before the 16 valves open up and the four cylinders kick in, but when it does, it’s quite a nifty little mover. I found it much more responsive switching over to manual and using the paddle shifts to take control, allowing me to move through the gears. This really allows the Subaru Boxer engine to show what it’s made of. Cruise control can always take over when you feel like a break.
Steering is light but tightens up for a more taut ride when you switch to manual.
With All Wheel Drive capability – all Subaru’s, including saloons, are AWD – the XV gives solid grip and control under all road conditions while making for a sportier handling than a 4×4. That said, I wouldn’t take the XV on extreme off-roading.
As you would expect from a Subaru, the XV has excellent safety features including front, front side and curtain airbags (in the front and rear, both sides), a brake-assist system, childproof rear door locking and side-door reinforcement beams.
I didn’t expect a rear camera and was impressed to discover it had one as I attempted to back out of a parking space.
With a slightly elevated driving position, the XV feels very stable and smooth, even at high speed, an important asset for a car pitched at the family market.
On this point, I was a little disappointed at the size of the boot space. I was expecting a cavernous area, a bit like the carpet bag that Mary Poppins touted around with her – from which she would pull out large objects such as a coat stand and mirror – to the amazement of the children. Instead, the XV’s boot seemed small and cramped and I couldn’t see much room to stash luggage or the pushchairs and toys that families have. You would need to drop down the rear seats to accommodate any larger objects, which is not possible if you have little ones on the back seat.
That aside, I enjoyed my run out with the XV and the brand. I can now see why my neighbour, Ashwin, was so reluctant to sell his Subaru.
Subaru XV Premium