Remember the Subaru Impreza XV? No, of course you don’t. That’s because it was a very forgettable car.
It's not that the Impreza is a bad place to start; it remains one of the best compact cars you can buy new or in the second market, but put one on stilts and it very quickly looks out of place and loses all that low centre of gravity goodness we love about the Impreza.
Still, can't deny compact crossovers are the flavour of the month. Subaru need something to bridge the gap between the sporty, but low to the ground Impreza and the raised up, easy to drive but bulkier Forester. So they've stuck at it and come up with this, the new XV, hold the Impreza.
Subaru has "new found confidence" in the XV which is now more than the brand's compact car experiencing a growth spurt, although let's face it, it's still the same platform and looks essentially the same as what the next Impreza will be. Nevertheless, I think they may have done enough to get a foot in the door this time.
Straight away it's better to look at, partially because of the new generation styling direction but the crossover configuration looks all together more intentional this time around. The cool 17" alloys are standard across the range and are unique to the XV and the chunky bodywork lends itself more to the outdoors adventure type.
It's available in three specifications starting with the XV 2.0i manual or auto ($38,990 or $40,990 respectively) and predictably the Subaru essentials like permanent all-wheel drive and world-class crash resilience and safety features like stability control and seven airbags are all built in.
Impressively though, even the entry level gets premium devices such as a reversing camera and large multi-info screen. There's also USB / iPod connectivity, cruise and audio controls on the steering wheel and Bluetooth hands free and audio streaming. In the automatic version you can also control the ratio changes yourself via flappy paddles behind the steering wheel.
Jump up the range and the $44,990 2.0i-L adds dual zone climate A/C, leather
trim steering wheel and gear knob, privacy glass, a sunroof and factory fitted sat nav. Nice. One Journo on the launch claimed the navigation was terrible to use. The same bloke once asked me why he couldn't hear anything on his new ipod. Answer: headphones not plugged in. It's not the most intuitive system, but ask your kids, they'll sort you out in no time.
The range topper picks a few luxury items like leather upholstery, high intensity discharge headlights and heated, electrically adjustable seating. It's getting up there in price though at $48,990.
I'd argue the mid-spec option represents the best bang for buck.
Under the hood is the familiar feeling, but revised 2.0 flat four engine developing 110kW and 196Nm, itself a great performer, but paired with Subaru's new generation CVT it's a bit of a screamer. A shame, but it's a necessary evil to achieve the XV's average fuel economy of 7.0 l/100km which isn't class leading but one of the buy offs for the boxer's meatier torque curve.
As with the most Subaru's, ride and handling is a strong point, we sampled the XV over plenty of gravel and it excelled with the all-wheel drive delivering a very reassured feel on loose surfaces an uncharacteristically intrusive ESP system the only real complaint. On the road, save for some understandable body roll, it remained composed at high speeds and still offers a degree of communication to the driver through the steering wheel - a concept seemingly forgotten by many of the competitors.
Worth a look, but only if you frequent gravel roads or genuinely require the 220mm ground clearance. As good as it is, the new Impreza will trump it dynamically and could be worth waiting for.