The Volkswagen Golf Alltrack is a little bigger than the Subari XV, but the XV’s cheaper and great to drive. So, which one’s best?

AUSTRALIA HAS GONE SUV mad in the last few years with this segment proving to be, and consistently too, the fastest growing new car segment. And now even the Golf is an SUV. Yes, late last year (September) the new Golf Alltrack arrived in Australia, providing more choice but also some competition to the VW Tiguan, which is, granted, now bigger than the previous generation model.

Following in the footsteps of the VW Passat Alltrack which we recently tested, the Golf Alltrack is based on the Golf Wagon but gets a number of bespoke elements to see it standout as a product in its own right.

There’s an argument to be made for comparing the Golf Alltrack with the Forester XT, but that car is just a little pricey and powerful for this argument. Rather we wanted to consider the Golf Alltrack against a compact SUV we’re very fond of here at Practical Motoring, and that is the Subaru XV. See, like the Golf Alltrack, the XV is based on, but is modified, a road-oriented passenger car, the Impreza. See, where we’re going…

Sure, it’s getting on a bit now and we know there’s a new model coming soon, but you can’t ignore that it’s a cracking drive, if a little underpowered; if only Subaru Australia imported the diesel-powered XT… The Golf Alltrack offers slightly more room in the backseat, but not so much more that it’s worth writing home about. Where the Alltrack wins out is the boot which is 605 litres while the XV makes do with just half that space at 310 litres.

Volkswagen Golf Alltrack

PRICING $37,990 +ORC WARRANTY THREE YEARS, UNLIMITED KILOMETRES SAFETY FIVE STAR ANCAP ENGINE 1.8-LITRE TURBOCHARGED FOUR-CYLINDER PETROL POWER/TORQUE 132KW/280NM TRANSMISSION SIX-SPEED DSG BODY 4578MM (L); 1799MM (W); 1499MM (H) WEIGHT 1479KG FUEL TANK 55 LITRES THIRST 6.9L/100KM

The recently-released Volkswagen Golf Alltrack arrived in September last year to help Volkswagen bridge the gap between its road-based passenger cars and its SUV range. Based on the Golf wagon, the Alltrack offers a 20mm raised ride height, to 175mm and a new 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that makes 132kW and 280Nm of torque from 1350-4500rpm.

The Golf Alltrack is available in one specification only and lists from $37,990+ORC. There are two extra cost option packages, the Driver Assistance Package $1300 and the Sports Luxury Package $2500, while metallic/pearl effect paint adds $500.

The Golf Alltrack is well equipped for the money, getting a leather interior, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, reversing camera and parking distance sensors as well as seven airbags and a five star ANCAP rating.

The Altrack stands out from the rest of the range thanks to its more aggressive looking front- and rear-end. Standard fit are model specific 17-inch alloys that look far too pretty to scratch on a gravel road. On the inside, the Golf Alltrack is more or less the same as a Golf wagon, although it does get a few unique touches, including a leather wrapped steering wheel with infotainment and communication controls, ambient lighting in the door trim and LED reading lights, it also offers Apple Car Play and Android Auto connectivity which can then be controlled via the 6.5-inch touch screen unit.

Being based on the Golf wagon means the Alltrack gets 605 litres of bootspace when the rear seats are in place and 1620 litres with the seats folded down (although they don’t go completely flat). The bootspace itself measures 1055mm long by 1003mm wide with the rear seats up, making it plenty big enough for a family of four’s gear.

The front seats look cool, but they aren’t overly comfortable. There’s little under thigh support and the seating position sees you laying back more than you might normally. Over in the back seats there’s plenty of room for two kids or two adults. The transmission tunnel intrudes a lot and so someone sitting in the middle seat would have to share the footwells of the two outboard passengers.

On dirt the Golf Alltrack is competent but it doesn’t feel totally at home with its stiff suspension banging and crashing into lumps and ruts in the road. And because the Alltrack isn’t a permanent all-wheel drive, it behaves like a front driver until it detects slip and then the latest-generation Haldex 5 coupling will engage the rear axle with the ability to send 100% of torque to the back.

Away from the dirt and back on the bitumen, the Golf Alltrack feels more at home. Indeed, it rides and handles very much like any other Golf, meaning its firm but always feels very well planted on the road. There’s almost no body roll and the steering wheel feels meaty in the hands and is both well weighted and direct in its action.

Subaru XV

PRICE From $26,490+ORC WARRANTY THREE-YEARS UNLIMITED KILOMETRES SAFETY 5 STAR ANCAP ENGINE 2.0-LITRE FOUR-CYLINDER (BOXER) PETROL ENGINE POWER/TORQUE 110KW/196NM TRANSMISSION CVT BODY 4450MM (L); 1780MM (W); 1615MM (H) WEIGHT 1405-1435KG FUEL TANK 60 LITRES THIRST 7.3(MT)-7.0(CVT)L/100KM

The Subaru XV hasn’t fundamentally changed since it was first launched in 2011 and although it’s now due for a major change it’s still a very good compact SUV. Subaru revised pricing for the XV last year with the range now costing significantly less than it did a couple of years ago. For instance, the entry level 2.0 lists from $26,490+ORC, the mid-spec 2.0i-L lists from $29,990+ORC, and the top-spec 2.0i-S lists from $32,490+ORC. So, on price alone the top-spec 2.0i-S beats out the Golf Alltrack.

The Subaru XV stands apart from the Impreza range, like the Golf Alltrack. It runs a different nose, stands taller, and is a smidgen shorter in the wheelbase (2635mm v 2645mm), and really is Subaru’s first ‘proper’ model in the growing sub-compact SUV segment.

Styling has never really been a Subaru strong point, and the brand has had plenty of misses, and only the odd hit over the years. But, to me, the Subaru XV is one of its more convincing designs. On the inside, the dash layout is minimalist but logical, dominated by three large air-con dials and information screens. All of the controls are easy to use on the fly and there’s plenty of storage space. That said, while the design was fresh when it was introduced and marked a significant improvement in Subaru interiors, the brand has done little since which, I guess, is both good and bad. See it means the XV doesn’t feel out of date, but nor does it feel especially progressive and the Golf’s dashboard design and material quality is vastly superior.

As mentioned, while the XV was/is a big step up in improvement over previous Subaru models, some of the interior plastics do feel a little cheap although the centre stack and dashboard plastics are attractive. Despite its improvements, Subaru still has a long way to go to match its European and now Korean rivals. While the majority of materials are soft touch, there are still too many scratchy plastics and poorly finished edges.

Back seat passengers are well catered for with decent headroom and excellent knee and legroom, thanks to the concaved backs of the front seats, and there’s plenty of room in the front, too. The seat frames are straight out of the Liberty which is how Subaru’s achieved the commanding driving position; the seats are both comfortable and grippy with decent lateral support. Indeed, they’re superior to those of the Alltrack which feel a little too low for a crossover.

The low boot floor makes it easy to load and unload the XV, but the boot size of just 310 litres is less than you get in the back of a Nissan Dualis (410L) and a lot less than you get in the Alltrack but it’s a wagon instead of a hatch. Drop the 60:40 split-fold rear seats and boot-space grows to around 1200 litres. There’s a full-size spare wheel under the boot floor, which can be easily accessed. Dimensionally, the XV is an impressive story; it’s just 1615mm high, which is only 200mm taller than a standard Impreza hatch, and exactly the same height as a Mitsubishi ASX. Yet, with a staggering 220mm of ground clearance. That betters the Golf Alltrack and it also betters a lot of so-called off-road vehicles.

The Subaru XV runs a 2.0-litre four-cylinder Boxer engine, producing 110kW at 6200rpm and 196Nm at 4200rpm. This is mated to either a six-speed manual (standard) or a Continuously Variable Transmission (cost optional) with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifts. My pick for using the XV to tackle the daily grind would be the CVT; the gearshifts are smooth and the CVT manages to smooth out any power deficiencies that are shown up by the manual model.

The Subaru XV might offer the sort of ground clearance you expect from a 4×4, but it’s more enjoyable on a twisting road (either bitumen or dirt) than you might think. Indeed, almost none of the XV’s competitors, with the possible exception of the Skoda Yeti, can match its comfortable ride and nimble handling. It’s far and away a more enjoyable car to drive quickly than the Golf Alltrack, although the Golf’s power and torque advantage make that car’s progress feel a little more effortless.

The Subaru XV is an impressive package. Sure, it’s more aimed at the dirt road set (hence the high ground clearance) than those after a school-run SUV, but across all surfaces the XV is well insulated with only a faint whistle of wind noise from around the big wing mirrors, and muted road and suspension noise.

Verdict

The decision as to which one to buy will come down to a horses for courses decision. Meaning, if you live in a regional area and spend a lot of time on dirt roads, or even poorer quality bitumen then the XV with its permanent all-wheel drive, good ground clearance and excellent driving dynamics will be the pick.

You’ll have to stretch a bit more financially to get to the Golf Alltrack, but if you only occasionally take a rough road excursion but like the rugged styling of the Alltrack and its excellent build quality (and why wouldn’t you) and need a cavernous boot then it would be the pick of the two.

In terms of features, the Alltrack edges out the XV and its smartphone syncing via either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is a big tick alone. So, as much as we like the XV, it’s getting a little tired now, so for that reason and for the fact it looks good, drives well and offers a big boot the nod goes to the Golf Alltrack. But if you wanted to spend a little more and compare the Golf Alltrack with, say, the Subaru Forester then the Forester would easily win, thanks among other things, the fact it gets Subaru’s clever EyeSight safety system, great ground clearance, heaps of power and plenty of room inside for a family.

2 Comments

  1. Wolfgang Meier
    August 8, 2016 at 6:42 pm — Reply

    What kind of comparison is this? If you live in a regional area you’ll go for the XV. If you only occasionally take a rough road it’s the Golf Alltrack. Got that! But obviously Isaak wants to give Subaru a special push because out of nowhere he brings in the… Subaru Forester??? Seriously? Yeah. And if you wanted to spend a little more and compare the Subaru Forester
    with, say, the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack then the Passat would easily win!

    • August 9, 2016 at 5:49 am — Reply

      I was merely adding a vehicle in that offers more power and torque and a bigger boot… it’s more expensive than the Golf Alltrack, but people might reasonably consider the two side by side. As for the Passat Alltrack, no, you would compare that with the Outback, not the Forester. – Isaac

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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober