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March 22, 2013

Driving the Moment: Subaru XV in Bali

Photos by Ulysses Ang
Bali, Indonesia—Coming up to a blind corner, our car looked like it would barely fit into the right-hander when a motorcycle suddenly cut in. The brakes were applied and we came to a screeching halt. Driving in Bali required a lot of confidence and concentration given the tight streets and bustling roads. Everywhere you looked, there were souvenir shops, lost-in-the-moment tourists, sidewalk cafes, and parked buses—the sort of organized chaos pretty much prevalent all over South East Asia. Thankfully though, that day in Bali, we were behind the wheel of a Subaru XV, a car so well packaged that it’s seemingly designed to tackle the challenge of everyday life with poise and composure.

The Subaru XV is fast becoming a regular sight on Philippine roads with more than 800 units sold to date. Unlike other crossovers in the market, the XV manages to combine the drivability of a sporty sedan with some serious ground clearance. Of course, the XV is every bit a Subaru and contains the brand’s hallmark features such as the horizontally-opposed Boxer engine and Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. It’s bolstered even more with its affordable pricing and competitive list of standard creature features. The Subaru XV feels every inch like a winner in Manila, but it really shines on the crowded streets of Bali.

The XV’s short overhangs and excellent visibility all contribute in making it highly maneuverable in traffic. More than once, these attributes were advantageous, making the XV slot in-between two or three motorcycles with ease (and this was a right-hand drive car). Then, the low center of gravity, long-travel suspension, and well-tuned shock absorbers all contribute to a confident ride without compromising passenger comfort. Without mincing words, the roads around Bali were a mix of broken asphalt and non-existent pavement, and yet the XV handled like a charm. Even for those in the backseat, the XV was largely comfortable. Lastly, the wide power band of the new-generation FB20 2.0-liter engine and the Lineartronic CVT helped in giving the XV instantaneous power when needed. This made overtaking a breeze, while keeping the fuel consumption low.

What’s even more surprising is that each and every Subaru XV we drove in Bali were not produced in Japan, but at Motor Image Group’s very own assembly plant in Malaysia. Built at Motor Image parent company Tan Chong International Limited facilities in Malaysia, it passes Subaru parent company Fuji Heavy Industries’ exacting standards despite having at least 65 percent of its parts and components sourced in Malaysia. It truly shows the ability and dedication of Motor Image to grow the Subaru brand in Asia. The specifications and standard equipment somewhat varies from the Japan-sourced XV available to Filipino buyers but it feels, drives, and handles remarkably the same. And that’s largely the point.

The decision to produce the Subaru XV in Malaysia will have a huge impact for Subaru in the region. Mr. Glenn Tan, Executive Director of Motor Image is confident in increasing revenues where the Malaysian-made XV will be exported and sold to (Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand) while growing Subaru’s regional sales to over 14,000 units annually.

“Sales for the Subaru XV have been better than we expected and we want to build long-term relationships based on the superior qualities and features of the Subaru XV and provide a consistently high level of service to customers,” said Mr. Tan. “We are encouraged by the response, and in efforts to make the Subaru brand more available in the region, Motor Image will continue to focus on the expansion and strengthening of our sales and distribution network within the region,” he added.

Although Subaru’s decision to manufacture the XV in Malaysia will have no effect for Filipino customers (the local market XV will still be sourced in Japan in the foreseeable future), Mr. Tan has revealed several of Motor Image Pilipinas’s plans for 2013.

Chief among them is the launch of the much awaited all-new Subaru Forester at the Manila International Auto Show running from April 4-7, 2013. Despite being a month away from its official launch, official sales of the Forester has begun, and Mr. Tan along with Motor Image Pilipinas General Manager Mike Luyun has revealed the pricing: P 1.398M for the normally-aspirated 2.0 i-L and P 1.868M for the turbocharged 2.0 XT. This equates to no price increase for the 2.0-liter model and a small P 100,000 jump for the XT. However, both will be reasonably loaded with auto on/off HID headlights, Bluetooth hands-free, Apple iPod interface, and the new X-Mode system as standard. The XT meanwhile will receive an 8-speaker Harman-Kardon sound system along with leather seats, dual zone climate control, moon roof, power driver’s seat and tail gate. And those are all on top of the brand-new turbocharged FA20 engine which also happens to power the company’s BRZ, albeit in normally-aspirated form.

On top of Motor Image Pilipinas’s shock announcement, they also revealed the 2013 XV on sale starting April which losses the moon roof but will have a lower SRP of P 1.298M (equating to a price drop of P 100,000). The moon roof-equipped 2.0i will remain until supplies last. Meanwhile, the XV 2.0 i-Premium retains its P 1.478M price tag but will gain leather seats. The inter-lapping prices of the XV and the Forester (even the Impreza if you think about it) will be fairly unique for the Philippine automotive industry, where clear demarcation between model pricing is the norm. Mr. Tan believes Subaru’s strategy will offer a more diverse range of choice for the Filipino consumer.

“If a customer wants more luxury features in a sleeker body like the XV or a chunkier, more macho experience together with space in the form of the Forester, there’s a Subaru especially designed for you,” he said.

Finally, in order to fulfill the Filipino buyer’s insatiable appetite for Subaru, Motor Image Pilipinas has also announced further dealership expansion in the Philippines. This includes  Manila Bay in Metro Manila, Batangas City and Sta. Rosa, Laguna in Luzon, Iloilo in the Visayas, and Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao. With the exception of Manila Bay, all the other dealers will be operated by Motor Image Pilipinas’s business partners.

The Subaru XV drive in Bali brings the point across of Motor Image’s aggressive expansion in more ways than one. First, it shows that they are ready to invest heavily in marketing, distributing, and now, even manufacturing Subaru vehicles in the region. Second, it shows how Motor Image knows this market really well by selecting the highly-capable XV as its first CKD vehicle.

With vehicles like the XV and the upcoming all-new Forester as well as the brand’s dealership expansion, it’s clear that Motor Image and Subaru is finally shunning its niche and quirky image and ready to mix it up with the big boys. With its formidable line-up, impressive pricing, and loyal (almost cult) following, Subaru is readying itself for prime time and they certainly have the armaments to do so.

1 comment:

  1. Hi! I am thinking of buying a Subaru.
    Can you help me decide between:
    Forester 2.0i-L

    Thanks for your advise.


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