First drive: 2018 Subaru XV 2.0i-P

Here’s a quick feel of Subaru’s new and improved XV crossover after a full-day press drive…

Subaru XV 1

Really? New? It looks the same as before!
Yes, though that may be the case to the untrained eye. As far as its skin goes, Subaru has opted to go down a more modest approach, giving what was already a good-looking crossover a mild nip and tuck. Compared to the older XV, this new one is indeed sleeker with shapelier headlights, bolder grille and larger wheels.

Underneath, Subaru’s gone to town with the new XV’s bones and heart as well, with the latter (powertrain) boasting up to 80% new or revised parts. Chassis rigidity has been enhanced by 70% and while the 220mm ground clearance remains unchanged, Subaru were keen to highlight that this new XV has gotten a much lower centre of gravity than the car it replaces too.

Complementing the revised horizontally-opposed ‘boxer’ four-cylinder heart, which now boasts direct injection as well, are the revised symmetrical all-wheel-drive (AWD) with X-Mode and 7-speed Lineartronic CVT automatic box paired with it – both being signature items of the Japanese marque. Also new here is an Active Torque Vectoring system that promises enhanced agility.

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Anything else that’s new we can’t see?
Yes, and it lies with the cabin. There’s a new dash lifted straight off the Impreza, new off-grey fabric seat covers, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob with a tangerine contrast stitching, and a plethora of silver, grey and carbon-fibre-esque trimmings all round.

In terms of creature comforts, the flagship 2.0i-P variant we sampled comes brimmed with dual-zone automatic air-conditioning, as well as a neat 8-inch touchscreen infotainment unit paired with a six-speaker setup, offering Bluetooth connectivity and reverse camera view, not forgetting power-adjustable driver seat and steering-mounted paddle-shifters too.

Yes, it may not seem like it, but this new and improved 2018 Subaru XV holds plenty of improvements and enhancements all-round over its predecessor. Sure, there are several hit and misses when compared against core rivals like the Honda HR-V and Mitsubishi ASX, but the new XV makes up for these drawbacks through other talents, with driving dynamics being one of which…

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So… Does it drive as well as it looks then?
The short answer here is yes, and it even boasts a dash of added versatility too thanks to both its ground clearance and enhanced AWD driveline mentioned earlier. Having driven through urban, highway and B-road setting in our southbound press drive, the new XV held up rather well in fact.

Unlike most other crossovers of similar price and size, the XV is perhaps the only one that feels much closely to a car than a 4x4 or SUV. You could say it feels more like an Impreza sedan here, especially when tacking some twisty B-roads. The icing to this cake is the supple ride the XV boasts, with the springs and dampers exuding a taut, balanced and very refined ride.

Complementing the XV’s agility too is its surprisingly responsive powertrain. Sure, it’s no WRX STI here with its naturally-aspirated four-banger and CVT automatic. However, the abundance of mid-range torque means there’s ample amounts of traction for just about any situation and, if you haven’t driven a Subaru Lineartronic CVT yet, it’s actually one of the smoothest and refined ones out there.

Also worth mentioning here is the newly added Active Torque Vectoring system that grants the XV with greater agility. We could go on all day on how this intelligent system works, but we’ll just keep things simple and report that it works as advertised.

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What about getting in and out of the rough?
This is perhaps where the enhanced Symmetrical AWD with X-Mode combo shines the most. The latter is in fact an additional diff-locking mechanism that ensures traction goes to all four wheels, allowing one to clear steep, muddy ruts easily.

The only limitation here in fact are the road-biased tyres, which don’t seem too shabby in the rough too. We’ve put the system through a series of other tests during our drive which included a set of roller ramps and, simply put, Subaru’s multi-year stints winning World Rally Championships in the past hasn’t gone to waste.

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Is it safe and practical?
The short answers here again are yes and yes. We’ll kick off with safety first, and this crossover doesn’t disappoint. Besides ABS + EBD and BA, there’s also Subaru’s VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control) suite, ISOFIX child seat anchors, not to mention seven airbags lining the cabin.

On the day-to-day practicality side, there’s enough storage cubbies and cup-holders all-round the cabin to sate the typical needs of a family of five to say the least. Drop the 60:40 split folding rear seats and you’ll be able to double (or triple) the XV’s standard 345-litre boot space at the back.

All in all, the XV will tick all the right boxes for its intended buying crowd, that being small or mid-sized families with an ‘active urban lifestyle’. Of course, there’s that final question of price and, for some, the XV could be a tad too rich…

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Is it worth buying?
At RM125,868 sans insurance and registration, the new 2018 Subaru XV 2.0i-P is not a cheap proposition, especially in the company of arguably capable rivals like the aforementioned Honda and Mitsubishi – the latter especially.

Nevertheless, if you really wanted a compact crossover that didn’t feel like an SUV, the XV is a good starting point indeed. By the way, we’ve already picked one up for a weekend road test, and we’ll have a much greater and in-depth feel of the new XV in our upcoming March 2018 issue, so look out for that…

2018 Subaru XV 2.0i-P

Thoriq Azmi
Author: Thoriq Azmi
Former DJ. Driver, rider & word-stringer @ Top Gear MY. Geek. Leftie. #fuelledbythoriq