Subaru aims for top 10 with XV compact SUV
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It's a busy market -- from the cheaper Japanese brands to the luxury European makers -- but for Subaru New Zealand, the compact SUV segment is personal.
Subaru has just launched the second generation XV small SUV with impressive prices and high specifications.
The first XV was launched in 2012 and has been a popular model for Subaru NZ but in recent years has been overtaken by two-wheel-drive small SUVs, such as the Mazda CX-3, Toyota's C-HR and Honda's HR-V. So to take back market share, Subaru has launched two models (rather than three from generation one) with an entry price point of $34,990 for the Sport model and $5000 more for the Premium.
Impressively, both have had a price reduction over the outgoing models plus an increase in technology.
The two variants have Subaru's all-wheel-drive system, this time including X-Mode to help with control on rough roads, steep terrain and slippery surfaces.
Both also have 2-litre direct injection petrol engine producing 115kW of power at 6000rpm and 196Nm of torque at 4000rpm.
The Sport model sits on 18in tyres and the Premium on 19in. Both have Subaru's EyeSight system that includes emergency braking and now lane keep assist.
The Premium model gets Vision Assist that includes blind spot monitoring.
Subaru NZ's managing director, Wallis Dumper, said he expected a 50-50 split in sale of both models,
"The market is growing and we want to stay ahead of the market. This car is key to that because it's a small SUV," he said. "Price is very important and with the Sport and Premium we'll do very well with the car. We had to preorder but I think we'll do well."
He expected to sell 500 XVs this year, 800 in 2018 and hit 1000 by 2019.
While New Zealand is in the top 15 for Subaru dealerships worldwide, Dumper hopes the popularity of the XV will push the distributor to top 10 within the next few years.
Subaru NZ's acting marketing manager, Louise Lusty, emphasised the importance of having the right-priced vehicle in that segment.
"Our objective is, quite simply, to increase sales. We are launching in growing segment of small SUV below $40,000 but competing against 2WD," she said.
"The XV is definitely style-focused and has bold colours."
The XV goes on sale this month. Driven picked the Premium for the six-hour drive from Napier to Auckland at the end of the media launch in the Hawkes Bay.
The drive went via Taupo township (for a coffee break) before detouring to Hamilton airport to drop off a colleague and then on to Auckland via the country roads and SH39 before taking the quiet roads west of SH1 through to Huntly and beyond.
I used the advanced cruise control throughout most of the drive and applaud Subaru for providing an easy-to-use system that kept pace with the traffic.
Another great feature in my XV was the icy road condition warning in the dark forest roads to Taupo. And, once in Auckland, the "car in front has moved" signal was a lifesaver -- it stopped the car behind tooting at me.
The XV is a step up from the previous model, thanks to the new lineartronic transmission system that replaces the CVT system.