Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Review: 2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i-Sport and XV 2.0i

In any family, there’s always a degree of sibling rivalry going on. Whether it’s comparing which one shoots hoops better or aces more tests, pitting siblings in what seems to be a head-to-head grudge match is almost unavoidable in any family. Naturally, this comparison is much more heated when you’re talking about twins—people typically comment that one is more handsome or smarter than the other.

Now you can imagine the predicament that parent Subaru has over its new twins: the all-new Impreza and the XV. Born from the same basic architecture, they share the same engine, the same chassis, and even the same price (well, very close anyway). Thankfully though, this parent isn’t playing favorites. Both the Impreza and the XV are downright impressive vehicles which offer everything you’ve come to expect from Subaru and then some.

The Impreza shouldn’t be a stranger anymore to the Filipino buyer. Already on its fourth generation, the all-new model exudes a bolder exterior with an edgier sense of style. The overall stance is hunkered down, emphasizing stability and sportiness. The front-end features more angles while still keeping the aircraft-inspired design concept intact. It looks like the Legacy but in a smaller, much more concentrated form. While the Impreza looks convincing in boardroom meetings, the XV conveys a much more relaxed, more active lifestyle. Swapping the dressy wingtip shoes for serious mountaineering gear, the XV adds some protective body cladding, standard roof rail, and an additional 75 mm of ground clearance—making it just as tall as the Forester. All in all, Subaru’s new design theme works very well whether it’s the Impreza or the XV. The only choice you need to make is whether you’d like a more formal four-door (Impreza) or a more youthful five-door hatchback (XV).

Inside, the differentiation between these two start to blur. Without looking at the exterior while passing by a glass façade, the interior treatment between the Impreza and XV are exactly the same, and that’s not a bad thing. Like other Subaru of late, the interior is clean, simple, and straight-forward. Everything from the dashboard to the center stack to the audio system is easily understood and well-organized—free from excess knobs and toggle switches. Even the instrument cluster with its large speedometer and tachometer is very legible and the steering wheel controls are nicely laid out and easy to master. In the fit and finish department, they show the highest levels of quality. The cabin’s execution is top-notch with soft-touch plastics, well-wearing satin aluminum-like accent trim, and crisp engaging controls.

Although Subaru has always been regarded as an enthusiast car, the Impreza and XV twins offer ample interior room befitting a practical family. The seats, for both front and back, offer excellent support for long-distance drives and there’s also a good array of adjustments for the perfect driving position. The front occupants will love the good hip and shoulder room even for the most heavyset passenger to enjoy the car. At the back, the rear seats do lack hip support, but at least there’s commendable knee room and the added comfort of adjustable headrests for all occupants. If luggage space is important, both of these cars offer 60/40 split-folding rear seats for flexibility. Even with the seats up though, the Impreza can swallow four full-course golf bags while the XV can manage three.

Both the Impreza and the XV represent the new way of thinking in Subaru. Instead of delivering just a driver-centric car, they deliver a driver-centric car with a conscience. Under the hood of both these cars is the next-generation “boxer” engine called the FB20. This engine is designed primarily for fuel efficiency and lower maintenance cost without sacrificing the sporty nature Subaru is known for. With a 2.0-liter displacement, it generates 150 horsepower and 196 Nm of torque—figures which the Impreza and XV in the middle of the compact car pack. Mated to this engine is a Continuously Variable Transmission or CVT which optimize both power delivery and fuel economy. Although there are some complaints about the Impreza and XV’s supposed lack of grunt; it’s all down to the way it’s driven.

Owners who simply mash the throttle, thinking they’ll wring out more acceleration will be disappointed, as all they’ll get is the CVT’s drone. The Impreza, or the XV for that matter, simply aren’t designed for this kind of driving. Instead, by applying the throttle in a more linear, more relaxed fashion results in a smoother, surprisingly quicker acceleration. Plus the CVT becomes unobtrusive. If done right, you’ll be surprised at how these two cars are quick on their feet and yet can return fuel mileage in the same league as sub-compact cars. In fact, the Impreza did an impressive 11.36 km/L in the city while the XV wasn’t too far behind at 9.61 km/L. On highways, these cars can reach up to 16.12 km/L.

Ensuring great agility through corners, the Impreza and XV’s suspension borrows some technology from its high-performance WRX STI brother. Upfront, the MacPherson strut now incorporates a lower L-arm for better cornering balance, while at the back, the double wishbone benefits from pillow ball bushings for improved tire contact and traction. Granted there are minor differences to the handling (after all, the XV does ride higher), they both provide a nicely balanced ride on all road surfaces. The suspension is never crashy and provides a comfortable ride quality without feeling wafty. Plus, having power sent to all four wheels inspires confidence from behind the wheel, feeling genuinely reassuring while being tossed about, even on wet surfaces.

An electric power steering system is standard on the Impreza and XV, accounting for some of the gain in fuel economy. And while many of these systems give off a feeling of detachment and false involvement, the Subaru unit is linear and direct with good on-center feel. The Impreza has an edge over the XV because of its sportier tune and lower ride height, but both of these cars are equally fun-to-drive and engaging. All-in, the Impreza and XV are refined—much more refined than any of its competitors.

Handsome looks, excellent fit and finish, great fuel efficiency, and remarkable on-road performance—these traits must cost a pretty penny. Thankfully that’s not the case with either Impreza or XV. At P 1,298,000 for the Impreza 2.0i-Sport, it already nets you Bluetooth hands-free, iPod connectivity, leather seats, a rear parking camera, dual zone climate control, a colored multi-function center display, and even a moon roof. And just a stone’s throw away, the XV 2.0i starts at P 1,398,000. However, if you want similar levels of luxury found on the range-topping Impreza, you do have to shell out an additional P 80,000 for the XV 2.0i Premium.

Subaru has sprinkled equal amounts of TLC in designing, engineering, and even pricing the new Impreza and XV. They may be twins, but they’re both excellent cars which deserve a good look. They’re both imbued with the best road manners while giving solid value and good pricing. In other words, this set of twins is a cut above the rest thanks to familial love from parent Subaru.

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