Subaru's XV now comes with a bigger engine, stereo camera EyeSight driver assistance and a revised infotainment system
Subaru XV: The eyes have it The XV handles a fast bend with minimal fuss and maximum confidence. Its 6.3-inch LCD infotainment monitor has enhanced connectivity and navigation. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Which do you rely on more - your eyes or your ears? Instinctively, most of us would say our eyes.

Subaru thinks so too. It is the first to employ a stereo camera system to help drivers stay in lane and avoid collisions. The EyeSight system will also prompt drivers fond of playing with their phones at the lights when the vehicle in front has started moving. And it will warn absent-minded ones who engage Drive instead of Reverse when there is an immovable object in front of them.

The car's adaptive cruise control system is also tied to EyeSight. All other such systems use radar, which "listens" for bounced back radio waves.

As with most systems, there are pros and cons. EyeSight allows for a sportier approach to keeping distance, braking and accelerating. In short, its behaviour is more akin to a human driver's (at least, a human driver in Singapore).

Its adaptive cruise control allows for a smaller gap between the XV and the vehicle in front. EyeSight also applies the brakes rather late - just as any race-driver would recommend. After having used radar-based systems, which typically have a longer range, EyeSight is a little unnerving. Initially, I found myself applying the brakes before the system. But after a while, I learnt to trust the system, which is more responsive than radar-based ones.

Now, the cons. Like human sight, Subaru's detection system can be hampered when visibility is hampered. During Monday morning's torrential downpour, the system failed and a "No EyeSight" sign flashed - a little alarmingly.

According to Subaru, the system will also act up in low-light conditions or against a strong light source (like the setting sun). It may not detect objects below 1m tall and may not correctly gauge the distance of vehicles with unconventional shapes (like low-floor trailers).

These are limitations which radar-based systems usually do not have. But I recall there have also been rare occasions when radar-based cruise control cut off for no apparent reason.

Even with its limitations, the EyeSight system is a desirable standard feature, especially for such a competitively priced vehicle.

The XV, launched in the middle of last year, is now powered by a 2-litre engine instead of the previous 1.6. This makes it appreciably more driveable, with a stronger low-end response and a smoother high end (past 4,000rpm). Overall refinement has improved as a result.

Other features such as a slope-holding button and offroad driving assistance X-mode function complete the XV's four-wheel-drive package. Like most Subarus, the XV has always excelled in ride and handling. The latest version is no exception. You can take it round a fast bend with minimal fuss and maximum confidence.

The new car comes with an improved 6.3-inch LCD infotainment monitor, with enhanced connectivity and navigation. Unfortunately, the Singapore map is not functional and could not be tested.

But even without this, the XV with its bigger, beefier power plant is a strong proposition in itself. With EyeSight, it is almost a deal you can make with one eye closed.