Subaru XV: Practical urban crossover

Subaru engineers have cleverly hidden LED lights behind the mirror and linked them to the turn signals (above).
Subaru engineers have cleverly hidden LED lights behind the mirror and linked them to the turn signals.ST PHOTOS: TOH YONG CHUAN
Subaru engineers have cleverly hidden LED lights behind the mirror and linked them to the turn signals (above).
Subaru engineers have cleverly hidden LED lights behind the mirror and linked them to the turn signals.ST PHOTOS: TOH YONG CHUAN
Subaru engineers have cleverly hidden LED lights behind the mirror and linked them to the turn signals (above).
Subaru engineers have cleverly hidden LED lights behind the mirror and linked them to the turn signals (above).ST PHOTOS: TOH YONG CHUAN

The facelifted Subaru XV has clever turn signal lights which give it a premium feel

Carmakers typically name their cars in one of two ways. They either use whole words (such as Toyota Corolla or Volkswagen Golf) or alpha-numerical terms (such as Audi A4 or Volvo XC90).

There is no right or wrong way. It depends on whether a carmaker prefers to focus on its brand or its models. And they usually apply what they have decided on across the board.

But not Subaru. Of the seven cars in its current local line-up, four have names with proper words (Forester, Legacy, Outback and Levorg) while three have alphabetical names (WRX, BRZ and XV).

The XV started life in Japan in 2011 as the Impreza XV, as it was based on the Impreza hatchback with a raised suspension. It is now simply known as the XV.

The latest version has a mild facelift. Visually, the car gets a new bumper, front grille and headlights.

The most prominent change is a pair of L-shaped chrome strips framing the fog lights. The sharper headlights and hexagonal grille bring the XV in line with how other Subaru models are styled.

  • SPECS/SUBARU XV 1.6i-S

    Price: $107,800 with COE

    Engine: 1,600cc 16-valve flat-4

    Transmission: Continuously variable transmission

    Power: 114bhp at 5,800rpm

    Torque: 150Nm at 4,000rpm

    0-100kmh: 13.8 seconds

    Top speed: 175kmh

    Fuel consumption: 6.3 litres/100km

    Agent: MotorImage

There is no change to the XV's 1.6-litre 114bhp/150Nm engine, which is mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Inside the car, the changes include a new three-spoke steering wheel which looks like it was lifted from the Outback. Then, there is a generous application of orange stitching on the steering wheel and gear shift knob.

As I flicked the turn signal before driving the XV out of MotorImage's Toa Payoh showroom, I saw signal arrows lighting up at the side mirror.

Subaru engineers have cleverly hidden LED lights behind the mirror and the lights show their presence only when the turn signals are activated.

This unusual feature instantly raises the premium feel of the XV by a notch.

The car is effortless to drive. Its high sitting position gives drivers better visibility all round.

And its compact size makes it a breeze to squeeze into tight parking spaces .

At expressway cruising speeds, the car feels planted despite it having a higher centre of gravity than sedans or hatchbacks.

While there is an expected amount of body roll when it negotiates curves such as those along Old Upper Thomson Road, its all-wheel-drive set-up gives it predictable and neutral handling.

What I find more difficult to get used to is the "Boxer" engine. While it has all the positive attributes of having its cylinders laid out horizontally (such as better balance and weight distribution), it protests loudly and responds with too much hesitation on full throttle.

The car's 0-to-100kmh timing is an unremarkable 13.8 seconds. And its steering is devoid of the involving feel that Subaru cars such as the WRX and Levorg are known for.

Its CVT also saps the driving fun - power delivery is too linear, a characteristic of such transmissions.

Even so, the XV is as honest as an urban crossover can get. It does not pretend to have off-road abilities like the Outback or Forester, even though it looks rugged with its roof rails and unpainted wheel arches.

It also does not have the ambition of speed like the WRX or the level of refinement of the Legacy.

But it offers the brand's core attributes - all-wheel-drive and a Boxer engine in a practical package. In short, it is a Subaru by any other name.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2016, with the headline 'Practical urban crossover'. Print Edition | Subscribe