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Subaru Impreza XV

 

Is it an SUV, or just a raised up Impreza?

What is it? This is a question I ask of a lot of new cars. It’s not intended in a derogatory way – unless it’s levelled at a BMW X6 – it’s just a way I can make a snap decision on where a particular car might sit in the market, without over thinking things.

So what’s the Subaru Impreza XV?

The obvious answer, the one I came up with straight off the bat, was a compact SUV. Subaru’s alternative to Mitsubishi’s upcoming ASX and Nissan’s Qashqai most importantly, but no doubt future examples expected out of Korea as well.

A compact SUV makes sense if everyone else is doing it, but when you look at the likes of BMW’s X1, MINI’s upcoming Countryman or more relevantly the ASX and Qashqai, they’re all distinct styling exercises in their own right. The Impreza XV; well, it’s just a raised up Impreza isn’t it?

Sure, there are rough and tumble plastic panel extensions and outdoorsy roof rails but everything else remains the same. Unlike the Qashqai or ASX you miss out on the scaled-down SUV body, which I think is the key appeal of these vehicles, it’s certainly not the all-wheel drive.

Nissan doesn’t even bother with an all-wheel drive Qashqai here. These vehicles are becoming popular for their roominess, luggage capacity, high up seating position – some of which will accommodate seven people – and the perceived safety of an SUV-style vehicle.

That said, as far as hatches go the current Impreza actually excels in all of the above. I’d recommend one in a heartbeat; it just doesn’t translate to a competitive alternative in this burgeoning compact SUV segment.

The conventional Impreza’s strong point is the dynamics on the road. With the low centre of gravity granted by its unique boxer four-cylinder engine and fantastic grip from the symmetrical, permanent all- wheel drive, it is a brilliantly easy to drive, well-planted and controllable car. This comes through in the XV too, albeit the raised ride height and slightly taller tyres have robbed some of the precision.

Rather than bite into the tarmac positively there’s a delay in the front end’s reactions; the tyres, the suspension, it’s all less stiff and absorbs the initial driver inputs before transferring them to the road. It has still got a good, safe feel for the family, but push things and you can expect the occasional heart-racing moment that you wouldn’t have in the lower riding versions.

It’s powered by the willing 110kW / 196Nm 2.0-litre boxer you’ll find under the bonnet of a 2.0R Impreza hatch so performance is perfectly adequate; though an aging four-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive hurt it on the economy front with a claimed 8.8L/100km.

At $35,990 (manual) or $36,990 (auto) the XV sits line ball with the Nissan and Mitsubishi, but there are a few extras here: all-wheel drive isn’t a draw card in rivals, but Subaru’s permanent system differs in that it’s always working rather than tooling around in front wheel drive 99 percent of its life. There are also fog lights and USB audio connectivity, which you won’t see on the base ASX or Qashqai.

Other standard equipment is more or less par for the course with Bluetooth hands-free, audio and cruise controls on the steering wheel, six airbags, stability control and ISOFIX kiddie restraints, climate A/C and a tilt/telescopic steering column.

But driving the XV you can’t escape the fact that a 2.0R Impreza can, at the end of the day, do everything this can do. Better. What is the Subaru Impreza XV? A stopgap that’s not really suitable as a compact SUV and not nearly as good as the typical hatchback on which it’s based.

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