Family Driving – Subaru XV

This one is interesting – the Subaru XV is classed as an SUV but for me, it’s more of a hatch back riding on higher suspension. Subaru like to call it a Compact Crossover SUV – it’s a hatchback.

I was excited to get behind the wheel of a Subaru again, the last time was around a year ago when I was lucky enough to pilot the WRX STI Impreza Final Edition, for me this was a bit of a childhood dream, to be driving an Impreza. Growing up in the 90’s Colin McCrea was a hero, I bought his Play Station games and seeing his control of a car and his ‘If in doubt flat out’ mentality was awe-inspiring. I’ve seen Jimmy McCrea behind the wheel of the famous L 555 BAT Impreza, trying to keep my cool and stop my inner child screaming and jumping around as Jimmy flicked the Impreza from side to side, sliding around fellow rally legends Ari Vatanen, Markku Allen, Stig Blomqvist, Timo Salonen and Mikki Biasion.

So, to my next experience being a Subaru XV, it has a fair bit to live up to…

Obviously it’s an impossible comparison but there are some hints of the brands legacy in a car which doesn’t know which category it belongs. The seating position is good, the steering wheel is nice, coupled with responsive steering and competent handling. It won’t leave you with an ear splitting smile on the bends instead just a bit more confident on the country lanes or exiting a round about.

So, let’s get in to it…

The Engine

Uh, I wish I didn’t have to start here, the 1.6 Linertronic is a Horizontally-opposed, 4-cylinder boxer engine matched with a CVT gearbox with 114ps and 150Nm of torque. Plant your foot and for all the revs you’ll feel as if you’re going nowhere fast, 0-60 comes in 13.2 seconds and by todays standards that is very, very slow, smaller engines will get there quicker with much less noise from the engine. I also found it thirsty, averaging 34mpg when I drove it around for a week.

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I found the engine underwhelming and a bit of hard work, to look at the positives, it does well in Japan and the US but over here, I didn’t enjoy it.

Handling

As mentioned above I found it competent around the bends, it wasn’t something which I was left hankering for more corners but it was just that, fine.

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Off road, with the X-mode which gives you hill descent control and some clever electronic differential things. It handles the bumpy stuff just fine and pottering about at low speeds is far more capable than most soft-roaders which this would come up against.

Family life

The back will comfortably hold two iso-fix car seats, which are very easy to locate and house. It actually made switching car seats between cars so easy it would take minutes. in stead of being lost between the leather on the seat, you can just slide up the iso-fix housing cover and pop your little one’s seat in. The cabin is light, thanks to the sunroof and roomy, there never felt a cramped feeling, being six foot I usually have to have the seat further forward than I would usually like, with a child seat behind me, here though there seemed to be plenty of room.

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The boot is where the XV is let down, the size of a large hatch back, the floor of the boot is higher than you would think due to the differential at the back. Meaning the iCandy Peach and carry cot was a struggle to get in along with everything else for two kids.

The roof rails are also a welcome addition meaning a roof box could be attached to boost storage space for longer journeys.

Would I buy one?

The Subaru XV isn’t for me, the engine let’s it down as does the boot space, there’s many things which are likeable but the car is hitting an identity crisis, it doesn’t really know if it’s a hatch or an SUV.

I think there’s better places you could put your money with this model coming in at £24,000 and the 2.0 coming in closer to £28,000 it’s starting to creep in to Volvo XC40 territory.

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Family driving – Isuzu D-Max AT35

This is a first – as mentioned previously, I’m going to start writing about all things automotive as well as cycling. The write ups will be based on what the vehicle was like as a whole, for use as a family (I’ve two little rug rats, a two-year-old called Barnaby and a three-month-old called Elijah) and the practicality of living with it for a week. I’m very lucky that manufacturers are trusting me with their vehicles and also very thankful that they’re supplying them to me on loan for a week.

There is no escaping one thing with the AT35, it’s colossal size, this is a marriage between Isuzu and the crazy Icelandic company Arctic Trucks, hence the name. AT standing for Arctic Trucks and 35 for the size of the wheel, 35 inches. THIRTY-FIVE INCHES OF WHEEL, they’re seriously big, all weather all terrain tyres and you only get four, no spare, can you imagine the weight of a fully inflated wheel which has a 17″ alloy too. You’d need to be Geoff Capes to lift it.

The main updates which Arctic Trucks bring to the D-Max are, R17 315/70 35″ Nokian
Rotiva Tyres, 17″ x 10″ Alloy Wheels, Fox Performance Series Suspension and Flared Wheel Arch Extensions. Arctic Trucks bolt all this on to a fairly Standard D-Max, along with leather seats which has the Arctic Trucks logo stitched in. There are other features too, like heated front seats, Sat Nav, keyless start, rear camera and much needed rear parking sensors along with cruise control and the all-important IsoFix for your car seats!

But what does all this added extra do for the 2019 Pick-up of the year? The Fox Suspension boosts the ride height of a standard D-Max by 125mm meaning apart from an actual articulated lorry, you’re pretty much the highest thing on the road, which is a great driving position down the country lanes and is very comfortable on the motorway but around town is a little bit… well, you’re not exactly what some would describe as subtle. So, let’s look at what the car is like…

The Engine

When you look at this D-Max on steroids and when you sit in the driver’s seat for the first time you want to turn the engine on and hear a V8 bark in to life and burble away to match the looks. However, my two-year-old described it ‘Like tractor.’ it’s a 1.9 4, in line diesel good for 164ps and 360lb ft of torque and a 125,000- or five-year warranty. It’s known to be a very reliable motor and I don’t dispute it; however, it leaves straight line performance lacking. The hulk wasn’t built to sprint though, was he? The AT35 is unrivalled by other off-road pick-ups and would give a Defender a run for its money off-road. Towing, the AT35 can pull up to 3500kg and carry 1055kg in the bed – handy for all your building supplies, or iCandy peach and carry cot along with your Waitrose shopping.

Handling

The big tyres and bigger suspension do become a factor here, you can certainly feel the bumps as you’re going down the road and with no significant weight in the bed, going over speed bumps the back does buck around as you head over them. You have to put in more to the steering wheel than you would think in order to go around corners and attacking lanes at speed is a bit like expecting a cruise-liner to park in Venice. Three-point turns can become 5 point turns due to the vehicle’s length and wheel lock. Again, the AT35 can defend its self here and say it’s not designed to be going around corners on rails, nor to be negating supermarket car parks. But if it wasn’t built to do the everyday well as well as the excursion off-road, what was it built for?

A final note on the handling, I found the steering wheel a bit slippy and at low speeds the steering is very heavy due to the big tyres. Added together, you find yourself really going at the steering to get it going.

Family life

There is just so much space – so much space. There’s room for two iso-fix car seats in the back and you can fit someone in between them, maybe not for long journeys but for under an hour, a family of four and a mother-in-law can head out, pretty much anywhere, for the day.

The iso-fix is easy to locate. I have a Britax Romer Dual Fix for Barnaby and a Maxi-Cosi Easy Fix base with Maxi-Cosi pebble for Elijah. I found putting the seats in and taking them out again super easy and the height of the D-max helped, there was no digging around getting a sore back as you’re hunched over.

Obviously, there’s plenty of room in the bed, you’ll need a cover, hard top or otherwise though. Having a hard-top means, you basically have a boot the size of a small car so trips to Centre Parcs can be handled easily. I usually find it a bit of a squeeze to get my iCandy Peach chassis and carry cot in to the boot along with all the other things for a baby and two-year-old. However, here there was no issue. You could put that in, your weeks shopping and enough luggage for a two-week holiday and you wouldn’t even notice.

Turning up to kiddy clubs was a change though, the AT35 certainly stands out in the car park, I felt a little embarrassed at times opening the door other times it was just fun and made me smile.

Would I buy one?

I had many questions from on the AT35 and many people who were just stunned by the size and wanted to just see. I loved having to climb in and hop out, knowing that literally nothing could stop me in my tracks and the low-end grunt from the engine and size of the tyres.

I loved it, it was great fun. The utility feel of the AT35 inside left something to be desired but almost made me feel like I could take anything on.

The on the road price for this model was £46,203 and almost £54,000 for the top of the range Safir model. I don’t think that showed on the inside – there was plenty of plastic and while you had nice things like a much needed rear view camera, SatNav, heated seats, electric driver’s seat and leather upholstery it was not refined like a Mercedes X-class would be or like a luxury SUV of a similar price.

One thing you can’t buy in those vehicles though is the sense of fun and the knowledge that if you do find yourself all of a sudden dropped in the middle of a farmer’s field, there’ll be no issue in having to get out.

A smidge over 10 Grand less and this would be so appealing. If you could get all this car for £35,000 Absolutely, I’d buy one.

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