Published on Saturday 25 October 2014 18:26
Ten Second Review
The Subaru XV is a smart-looking crossover vehicle that offers the best all-wheel drive system in its class and some charismatic engines. Recent changes to pricing and upgrades to safety and refinement now make it one of the more affordable choices in its sector and it remains one of the most capable and secure options when the weather turns really nasty.
The Crossover. Arguably, it's the motor industry's fastest growing market segment and in Subaru's XV, that's exactly what we have here. But this class of car is usually these days more about fashion than substance. So what if you could get one with Qashqai-like style matched to Freelander-like off road capability? What if this class of car, in other words, could actually walk the walk as well as talk the talk? That'd be quite something. That'd be unique. And that's exactly what this XV claims to be designed to deliver.
If any brand was going to be able to create a car able to do this, you'd put money on Subaru to do it. They were building models of this kind way before the concept became fashionable, with a history going all the way back to 1995 and the launch of the Legacy Outback, a chunky all-wheel drive estate then followed by more overtly SUV-like Forester and Tribeca designs. None of which really caught the imagination of British buyers. But this car might, already one of Subaru's strongest sellers following the introduction of super-affordable pricing and a breath of fresh air amongst prissier models in this segment. Let's check it out.
Two engines are now offered. Petrol people get a 2.0-litre unit, offered with the option of a continuously variable automatic transmission. The petrol engine is a sweet thing, its cylinders horizontally opposed in typical Subaru 'boxer' tradition. There's the trademark off-beat thrum which is not unpleasant and makes a welcome change to more conventional but rather soulless turbo fours. This powerplant has recently benefitted from suspension improvements that enhance ride quality Arguably preferable though is the 2.0-litre diesel boxer engine. It packs a 170bhp punch and, like the rest of the XV range, drives all four wheels for all-weather security. With both powerplants, refinement has now been improved and the steering's sharper too.
On the road, visibility is excellent, thanks to slim windscreen pillars and the seating position is nicely elevated. It steps off the line really smartly and the XV's body control is better than you'd expect. Drive it a bit faster and you'll be impressed by the sheer amount of front end grip. It's the sort of car that will have you praying for snow in the forecast.
Design and Build
The XV is a handsome thing, with cohesive, chunky styling. The details are neatly resolved too. Look at those smartly integrated tail light clusters, the dished flanks and the eagle-eye headlamps. It's certainly leagues better looking than the old Tribeca SUV. How does it compare with the likes of the Qashqai and the Skoda Yeti in terms of packaging? That's not quite so clear cut. For a start, there's no seven seat option which will rule it out for some families and the 380-litre boot means that you might need to pack a little lighter than you'd expect. Fold the rear seats down though and things improve dramatically, with an excellent 1,270 litres on offer. Rear legroom is good and there's plenty of adjustability in the driving position but the seats could use a little more support.
The dashboard is tidy and while there are some soft-touch materials on the dash roll top, look further down the fascia and the plastic reverts to Subaru traditional hard grey plastics. Still, that's the case for many of its rivals so it would be churlish to mark the XV down too harshly in that regard. The centre console, door cards and glovebox lid could all be improved. The 17-inch alloy wheels do look extremely sharp.
Market and Model
If you looked at this car at its original Spring 2012 launch and thought it slightly pricey, have a look at it again. Changes in currency rates amongst other things have allowed Subaru's UK importers to sharpen the bottom line quite a bit and the range is now pitched in the £22,000 to £26,000 bracket - which makes it look a lot better against rival Crossovers like Qashqais and Peugeot 3008s.
Equipment levels include most of the usual features you'd expect in a £20,000-£25,000 car. Even entry-level SE models feature ABS, traction control, Subaru Vehicle Dynamics Control (SVDC), front, side, curtain and knee airbags, 17-inch alloy wheels, daytime LED running lights and automatic air conditioning as standard.There are also features like cruise control, a rear-view camera, Bluetooth functionality and USB/iPod connectivity. Meanwhile, top-of-the-range SE Premium models also come with a sunroof, Keyless Smart Entry, push-button start, leather seats and satellite navigation. All models are fitted with roof rails. Plus across the range, family buyers will be reassured by the award of a EuroNCAP five star rating.
Cost of Ownership
Opt, as most customers will , for the XV diesel and you'll be getting a car that can return a combined fuel economy figure of 50.4 mpg and will emit 146g/km of carbon dioxide. Go for the petrol 2.0-litre model and you'll attain the best figures with the CVT gearbox. With the auto gearbox fitted, you'll get a best of 42.8mpg and 153g/km in auto form. The manual manages 40.9mpg and 160g/km. So it's time to lay the legend of the fearsomely thirsty Subaru to rest at last. A decently sized 60-litre fuel tank gives all models a useful touring range - some 660 miles if you go diesel. And all but the least expensive XV models get an ECO meter in the Multi Function Display that helps you optimise your driving efficiency over time.
Residual values certainly aren't going to be on a par with BMW and Audi and it's here that owners may feel the most financial hardship, but Subaru is committed to doing what it can to make the ownership experience as painless as possible. To that end, you get a comprehensive five year / 125,000 mile warranty that's one of the best in the industry.
The crossover genre is one that Subaru ought to excel at. All the ingredients are already in place. The company can draw upon a long tradition of rugged, multi purpose all-wheel drive cars. The issue though in this segment is all about packaging and presenting this clever engineering in a way that's accessible and appealing to mainstream customers. With the XV, most of this is sorted. It looks good, it's a reasonable size, it drives well and it will undoubtedly be very reliable.
Only the value proposition was originally in question, but now that the UK importers have sorted this out and sharpened up pricing, the market needs to start taking this Subaru seriously. Even if it does, the XV probably won't trouble the best sellers list anytime soon. Still, it remains an interesting and entertaining entrant. If you're a keen driver and want a car with all-weather ability that will still discharge the family duties, it's well worth a place on your shortlist.