The difference is in the ‘box!
How we’ve had it before
As some of you may know, Leisure Wheels recently organised an FUV (Fashion Utility Vehicle) shoot-out. The aim was to test some of the newest and trendiest SUVs in South Africa, and the competitors were the BMW X1, Ford Kuga, Jeep Wrangler, Range Rover Evoque, Mini Countryman, Mitsubishi ASX, Nissan Juke, Toyota FJ and Subaru XV.
Obviously, these vehicles differ greatly in price, size and segment, but they all have one thing in common: they’re fashionable. So, we asked a group of fashionable ladies to score the nine vehicles for us. They had to judge the interior, exterior, road performance and value-for-money offering of each vehicle.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Evoque won. But there were a couple of surprises. The Ford Kuga did exceptionally well, taking second place. The Jeep Wrangler didn’t do well at all, posting the second-lowest score.
The Subaru XV’s performance, however, was the most surprising of all. It came last. And I couldn’t really understand it, since I’ve always liked Subaru’s vehicles very much.
The XV’s woes
Having pondered the issue for a while (and driven the XV myself), I think I’ve figured out why the XV didn’t score terribly well.
Firstly, our judges didn’t score the XV’s on-road performance very high. They felt that the gearbox wasn’t great, and that the vehicle wasn’t particularly fun to drive.
The gearbox gripes can probably be attributed to the CVT ‘box. These gearboxes are, well, controversial at the best of times, and when compared to auto ‘boxes such as that of the X1 and Kuga, they’re a bit disappointing.
The lack of fun behind the wheel can perhaps be attributed to unrealistic expectations. Subaru is known for its rorty and sporty vehicles. And, indeed, the XV looks very sporty. But, alas, it’s not. Subaru’s focus with the creation of the XV was very much on fuel economy, and not performance. So if you get into it expecting oodles of power, you’ll be disappointed.
The interior is also not particularly interesting. To be sure, it is comfy and offers loads of comfort and entertainment features, but it looks a bit bland. Compared to the plush interior of a vehicle such as the Evoque or the flashy cabin of the Nissan Juke, the XV’s interior looks a bit too much like that of a hatch. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t have that “wow factor”.
That said, I fell in love with the XV when I drove it recently. I had the model with the six-speed manual shifter, and I was really impressed with it. With 110 kW of power, it didn’t boast blistering performance, but it didn’t feel underpowered either. Moreover, it offered exceptional fuel economy, especially if you consider that it is an AWD vehicle. I managed to get around 8,4 litres per 100km in a combination of highway and city driving – not too shabby at all.
What impressed me most, though, was its off-road performance. Like the Forester, the XV is an underrated off-roader. With its relatively low roof, it doesn’t look as if it could venture too far off road, but do not be deceived: it is very capable in the rough stuff. Thanks to excellent ground clearance (220mm), it can go where few other crossovers could follow. I tested it on a terrible road in the Magaliesberg mountains, and it never missed a beat.
Yes, the XV looks sportier than it actually is, but don’t let a lack of performance put you off. The XV does a whole bunch of things very well. It offers a comfortable, relaxed drive. It is very economical for an AWD vehicle. It is surprisingly capable off road. And it is competitively priced.
It might not be as “fashionable” as some other vehicles out there, but fashion, after all, isn’t everything.