Rugged new Subaru XV SUV has power to surprise
PUBLISHED: 14:29 08 May 2018 | UPDATED: 14:29 08 May 2018
Motoring editor Andy Russell is pleasantly surprised by the all-round abilities of Subaru's new XV, now much better placed to get to grips with compact crossover rivals and rough terrain.
Subaru’s XV compact crossover had a bit of an identity crisis in my eyes. More hatchback than SUV, it had four-wheel drive but without the sophisticated electronic add-ons of the Japanese brand’s bigger SUVs. So it wasn’t as capable off-road, was expensive compared to many mainstream family hatchbacks but not as classy as premium brands.
Subaru is a niche manufacturer and, despite a loyal customer following, the original XV never quite found its niche.
That’s changed with the all-new XV – Subaru knows where it’s going with this entry model to its rugged range.
Looks and image
At first glance, it doesn’t look much different to the original model launched six years ago but it’s new from the ground up, with a stiffer platform and body which improves the way it drives on and on-road, sharper styling and classier interior.
The XV has matured and is now a credible alternative to both mainstream and prestige SUVs, especially if you want serious 4x4 ability with its 220mm ground clearance.
Under the bonnet
Diesel power makes way for 114PS 1.6 and 156PS 2.0-litre Boxer petrol engines, only available with Subaru’s Lineartronic automaic continuously-variable transmission (CVT).
Being naturally-aspirated, they don’t have the low-down pull of turbo rivals but these horizontally-opposed, four-cylinder engines are smooth and refined worked hard, often the case for brisk pick-up as not a lot happens until the second half of the rev range.
The test car’s 2.0-litre unit, adding £1,510 to the price, gains manual paddle shifters and bigger 18in wheels but the performance is still only adequate so it’s better to take a relaxed approach. The transmission has seven set ‘gear ratios’, making it feel more like a conventional auto, avoiding the soaring revs that afflicts so many CVTs when kicked down. It’s the best Lineartronic I’ve driven.
Lift off the throttle and it coasts a long way which helps economy – 36mpg running around, 41mpg overall and 44mpg on a run.
How it drives
Subaru has geared the suspension for on-road comfort and off-road capability and the soft set-up deftly takes poor surfaces in its stride – be they potholes and pocked Tarmac or the bumps and lumps of rough off-road terrain – without numbing all feedback.
The addition of electronic X-Mode and hill-descent control get to grips with slippery conditions, maximising traction by controlling the engine, transmission, brakes and all-wheel drive.
The XV may not be as agile as some more road-oriented crossovers and SUVs but gives a good account of itself through twists and turns with decent body control and plenty of grip from the trademark symmetrical all-wheel drive – much appreciated in torrential rain with lots of surface water.
Space and comfort
A long wheelbase makes the cabin surprisingly spacious, given the car’s footprint, with plenty of leg and headroom for tall adults all round, even with that sloping roofline.
It’s not so clever for loads with its 385-litre boot, well short of class leaders, and a raised sill. Rear seat backs split 60/40 and fold flat but leave a little ramp up from the boot floor.
At the wheel
The XV fascia looks familiar but has a larger eight-inch touchscreen, soft-touch plastic trim at high-level contact points and twin-row orange stitching on the dashboard, door panels and seats add to the upmarket ambience. A separate display above the touchscreen increases the amount of information on show.
Rotary knobs for heating and buttons for ventilation are big enough to use wearing gloves, in keeping with the XV’s outdoors image, while heated front seats are very effective.
Some switchgear takes some finding – the button for turning off lane departure warning is near the rear view mirror and a USB and auxiliary port is hidden away at the back of a cubbyhole – out of view and even harder to plug into.
This Subaru XV is a pleasant surprise and, if you need the reassurance of all-wheel drive but don’t want to go the conventional SUV route, it makes a lot of sense.
SPEC AND TECH
Price: Subaru XV 2.0i SE Premium Lineartronic £28,510 (range from £25,000)
Engine: 1,995cc, 156PS, horizontally-opposed, four-cylinder petrol with CVT automatic transmission
Performance: 0-62mph 10.4 seconds; top speed 120mph
MPG: Urban 32.5; extra urban 48.7; combined 40.9
CO2 emissions: 155g/km
Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 32pc
Insurance group: 16 (out of 50)
Warranty: Five years or 100,000 miles
Will it fit in the garage? L 4,465mm; W (excluding door mirrors) 1,800mm; H 1,615mm