Long-term test (Introduction): Subaru XV 2,0i-S ES Lineartronic CVT

From the slice of basic MPV that’s the Toyota Avanza, to the shapely Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the boisterous Mini Coupé JCW and a Toyota Prius that’s proved decidedly oddball and frugal in equal measure, my run of less-than-conventional long-termers over the years has made for anything but dull reading.

And, with the arrival of the new Subaru XV that treads a fine line between boutique crossover and battleship, my run looks set to continue. Still, I’m a long way from complaining about my current set of wheels; far from it. With its blend of fashionable, chunky crossover styling, along with Subaru staples of AWD and a horizontally opposed engine, the XV is a popular member of Subaru’s local line-up.

While it may look familiar, the latest XV is not just a lightly massaged version of the first car with new brightwork tacked on, but an entirely new model that shares its global platform with the latest Impreza. It forms the foundations of a dynamically well-resolved vehicle, but the boot space/legroom ratio is frustratingly skewed towards the latter.

It also shares the Impreza’s very generous standard specification (the impressive smartphone-enabled infotainment system among the number, but more on that in a later update), but adds Subaru’s EyeSight suite of active-safety technologies. EyeSight’s battery of laser and camera sensors overseeing functions that include collision detection and mitigation, blind-spot assist, one of the most natural-feeling and progressive adaptive cruise-control systems I’ve encountered and a lanedeparture warning system.

A trip from Cape Town to Stanford revealed the XV to be a pleasing car to pilot. On the positive side, the ride is well resolved, refinement levels are impressive and everything feels substantial and solidly screwed together.

The powertrain is more of a mixed bag, though. Although the new engine’s 115 kW is five up on that of the previous car, it’s still modest for a 2,0-litre unit tasked with moving a heavy AWD crossover.

Although Subaru’s Lineartronic is one of the better CVTs, the combination of this transmission and a modestly powered engine feeding an AWD system requires a heavy foot for brisk progress; hence an initial average fuel-consumption figure of 9,2 L/100 km.

It’s early days, so I’m going to reserve further judgement regarding the powertrain’s quirks until the transition from Prius to XV has passed, a bit like waiting for those stiff new hiking boots to mould to your trotters.

After 1 month
Mileage now:
1 642 km
Fuel consumption (litres/100 km):
9,21 L/100 km
We like:
sharp styling; loads of standard kit
We dislike: surprisingly small boot; CVT

Long-term test (Update 1): Subaru XV 2,0i-S ES Lineartronic CVT

I’ve had somewhat of a difficult relationship with CVTs, both appreciating their smoothness and loathing their tendency to strangle the life out of smaller engines. Strangely enough, having spent a year as the custodian of a Toyota Prius, I found that CVT unit, although mated to a reedy Wilkinson cycle engine, wasn’t a major gripe with the car as it formed part of a setup that saw me visiting the petrol pumps only every 900 km.

Eight months later, in the company of the XV, I have to say that my attitude towards CVTs has cooled considerably. Although suitably smooth, this unit’s reluctance to let go of whatever infinitesimal ratio of the cones round which its belt winds means that the progress-versus-noise ratio is skewed towards the latter.

Overtaking requires a heavy foot and lots of planning and this rev-hungry manner means that consumption has crept close to 10,0 L/100 km; the XV’s round-town pottering drains the tank in less than 550 km.

Still, the XV continues to impress on the open-road, with its EyeSight adaptive cruise control playing a big role in removing the strain from long stints behind the wheel. The system was criticized for its aggressive deceleration response by tech editor Nicol Louw’s in his feature on these setups in March 2018; the XV braked from 120 to 60 km/h in just eight seconds. Granted, the impression of a last-minute response it engenders is disconcerting but, with time, I’ve learnt to appreciate the fact that, with the unpredictable braking habits many fellow road users adopt, a more aggressive response is usually better.

The XV continues to be a charming, wieldy car. Let’s see if its 15 000 km service will be similarly pleasurable.

After 8 months
Mileage now:
14 564 km
Fuel consumption (litres/100 km):
9,72 L/100 km
We like:
adaptive cruise control’s action (in my opinion, at least)
We dislike: CVT blunts overtaking ability

Long-term test (Update 2): Subaru XV 2,0i-S ES Lineartronic CVT

With a daily commute that’s recently trebled in distance and the XV’s mileage cap looming large, our long-term Subaru hasn’t been covering vast stretches of late. That’s not to say the XV has been gathering dust; the generous utility space opened up by dropping the rear seats has seen trips to the local municipal tip, while assisting a family member with transferring stock from their storage facility has kept this crossover honest.

Again, the XV’s packaging came in for a bit of criticism owing to it prioritising rear legroom over boot space, likely exacerbated by the space-gobbling storage for a full-sized spare wheel.

What motorway mileage the XV’s undertaken has been done with aplomb. From the slick infotainment system – complete with traffic jam-sniffing Waze app

integration via Android Auto – to the solid road holding afforded by the symmetrical AWD system, even during the welcome flurry of showers that have hit our region, the XV has been a relaxing motorway companion.

This is especially down to the well-measured EyeSight adaptive cruise-control system. Although fluid – some say a bit languid – in its operation, the system is nonetheless alert to hazards and has deftly applied the anchors on a couple of occasions when traffic has unexpectedly halted.

But, while it’s proved itself a balm to the pains of motorway commuting, there’s still no getting away from the feeling the company’s 2,5-litre petrol, or the smooth boxer diesel, would’ve been the powerplant of choice for the XV. As it stands, 115 kW from the naturally aspirated 2,0-litre doesn’t lend itself particularly well to brisk overtaking manoeuvres; it strains to build up a decent head of steam when presented with such tasks.

After 11 months
Mileage now:
18 987 km
Fuel consumption (litres/100 km): 7,61
L/100 km
We like:
motorway manners; EyeSight a commuting boon
We dislike: lack of overtaking oomph; small boot