Published on Sunday 4 October 2015 22:17
Ten Second Review
The Subaru XV has always been a smart-looking family-sized crossover vehicle offering the best all-wheel drive system in its class and some charismatic engines. The original version though, needed improvement in terms of both refinement and cabin quality. Now, Subaru has delivered just that in the form of this revised version. These enhancement come on top of class-leading safety and off road prowess, along with affordable pricing. As a result, we think that makes it a car you can't ignore in the Qashqai-class segment.
The family-sized Crossover. Arguably, it's one of the motor industry's fastest growing market segments 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.
This car though, ought to do just that. Yes, it struggled here when first it was launched, initially hobbled by high pricing, then by a plasticky cabin. Now that all these things have been put right, can it really trouble the class leaders in this segment? Let's find out.
The major changes here relates to ride and refinement. The dampers have had their pitch rate lowered, allowing a slightly more comfortable ride and a minor reduction in bodyroll. Extra sound-proofing makes this car quieter at speed too. Otherwise, the recipe is much the same, with a Symmetrical 4WD system that will embarrass Qashqai-class rivals in the rough.
As before, 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 remains quite 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. The 17-inch alloy wheels do look extremely sharp.
The main change made to this improved model though is its upgraded interior, which now features improved materials and an all-new 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment and navigation system with voice control. The system's smartphone functionality extends to a range of apps that can be downloaded onto users' phones or tablets, which pair-up via Subaru's Starlink media system - these include weather and traffic reports, wireless audio, news updates and a calendar. The higher-quality look includes the adoption of a smarter instrument binnacle and plush metallic and piano black accents throughout the cabin for the central console, dashboard and steering wheel switchgear and arm rests.
Otherwise, things are much as before. The 380-litre boot is a little smaller than you'd expect but fold the rear seats down 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.
Market and Model
Pricing starts a little higher than it does with some rivals, but that's only because Subaru declines to offer feeble petrol and diesel entry-level derivatives. Instead, there's an all-2.0-litre range of models priced in the £22,000 to £26,000 bracket. There are two trim levels - 'SE' and 'SE Premum' and, as before, you'll need the 2.0-litre petrol model if you want the £1,500 option of Lineartronic automatic transmission.
The 2.0-litre diesels start from £24,000.
Equipment levels include most of the usual features you'd expect in a car of this price. 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.aThere are also features like cruise control, a rear-view camera, Bluetooth functionality and USB/iPod connectivity.a Meanwhile, top-of-the-range SE Premium models also come with a sunroof, Keyless Smart Entry, push-button start, leather seats and satellite navigation. aAll 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 now sorted. It looks good, it's a reasonable size, it drives well and it will undoubtedly be very reliable.
Previously, some of these attributes got hidden in the showroom as customers, fresh from looking at, say, rival Nissan Qashqai or Peugeot 3008 models, got inside this XV and found themselves disappointed by the rather down-market cabin. It was vital for Subaru to put this right. Now that they have, there's little excuse not to include this Japanese contender if you're looking a a reasonably powerful model in this class.