Subaru XV SUV
New from £32,260 / £573 p/m
Words by: Dan Trent
"In a world full of SUVs and crossovers play-acting as proper 4x4s, the Subaru XV is an oddity, given it goes the other way by concealing genuine off-road ability beneath mildly toughened up hatchback styling. This has always been Subaru’s selling point, its popularity with country folk in the UK and ‘snow belt’ drivers in the US vindicating its reputation for building dependable vehicles suited to tough driving conditions. The updated XV reinvents this to a degree with its hybrid-enhanced version of Subaru’s signature ‘boxer’ engine, updated looks and improved tech but does little to break out beyond the brand’s typically niche audience and looks pretty expensive to run."
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Running costs for a Subaru XV
Credit to Subaru for keeping its model range very simple, with a single engine and gearbox option for the updated XV and just two trim levels. Even the base one is generously equipped, the top version adding garnish like a sunroof and leather upholstery. Beyond that it’s all included, and the serious stuff like the four-wheel drive system, hybrid powertrain and the safety tech you get included makes some sense of the bottom-line price. For all the supposed efficiency improvements the hybrid should bring we found it actually quite thirsty, while the high CO2 emissions will rule it out for company users on the basis you can’t plug it in to score more electric-only miles as you might with some more mainstream rivals.
Reliability of a Subaru XV
Subaru has a tiny market share in the UK, so it’s hard to make meaningful judgements of reliability by the usual comparison tables. Traditionally its customers are a loyal bunch, though, and buy the cars because they need something that won’t let them down in the middle of a snowstorm on a windswept moor somewhere. We’ll hope the XV lives up to this reputation, on the basis the standard three-year warranty is nothing to write home about. That does include breakdown recovery for the same period, though, and the hybrid’s battery system is guaranteed for eight years or 100,000 miles.
Safety for a Subaru XV
For a small brand Subaru has invested an impressive amount of effort in its EyeSight branded driver assistance system, using cameras integrated into the windscreen and capable of intervening in a range of safety critical situations. As such it will automatically apply the brakes or cut the power if it thinks you’re about to drive into the back of someone or something, wander out of lane or pull away into the path of an obstacle. Most impressively – and unlike many manufacturers - Subaru includes this and more on all trim levels, rather than burying it in cost-option upgrade packages. Bravo for that. Then there’s the reassurance of one of the most capable four-wheel drive systems this side of a Land Rover, the XV’s two-level X-Mode giving you the confidence it will keep going if the roads are covered in snow or have run out completely and left you navigating a muddy track to get to your destination.
How comfortable is the Subaru XV
Subarus tended to feel a bit cheap and plasticky inside but this updated XV thankfully feels more substantial in its top leather-lined trim, albeit still a bit old-school and not especially fancy. That’s true to the brand values, though, and driver and front-seat passenger are well catered for. It’s a little tighter in the back given the big hump in the middle of the floor for the four-wheel drive system and a relatively small boot thanks to the hybrid battery. On the flipside for all the crossover stance it feels usefully compact for threading along the narrow, twisty lanes the target audience will likely be driving on. It’s also got a nice balance between the soft, bump gobbling suspension of a traditional off-roader and the precise body control of the more conventional hatchback it resembles, underlining the fact this is a true crossover in substance rather than just style. Which is refreshing. Nor do you have to understand the mechanical intricacies of Subaru’s trademark ‘boxer’ engine layout and its partnership with the smooth hybrid system to appreciate its refinement compared with more conventional petrols or diesels.
Features of the Subaru XV
The small touch-screen in the centre of the dash and – gasp! – slot for a CD player beneath it rather date the XV’s interior, and the system powering it isn’t the slickest in the world. But once you’ve plugged your phone in and fired up your apps via CarPlay or Android Auto you probably won’t be too fussed about that. Maybe we’re just old-fashioned as well but the simple, physical controls for things like heating and volume were appreciated. In terms of trim levels the base one has all the stuff you really need like LED headlights and heated seats, along with every safety system under the sun. Upgrading to the Premium level adds nice-to-haves like a sunroof and leather upholstery for a slightly more upmarket feel and, frankly, for the relatively modest additional cost, there are few reasons not to. The fact the only option on any XV is metallic paint points to how generous Subaru has been with the kit, too.
Power for a Subaru XV
Fans of old-school Imprezas with big wings and bonnet scoops inspired by Subaru’s 90s rallying successes may be glum at the thought of turbos being replaced by hybrid systems. But, in truth, the technology does a similar job and helps boost the performance of the 2.0-litre petrol engine at its core in much the same way. Rather than a rush of boost this manifests as a discreet electrical kick to the throttle, the XV picking up more enthusiastically than the numbers on the specification suggest. And this, rather than plug-in charging and the ability to cruise for meaningful distances on electric power alone, is clearly Subaru’s focus. The standard automatic gearbox was also a concern, given the way it works. Known in the jargon as a ‘CVT’, these can leave the engine revs feeling disconnected from the amount of forward progress you’re getting, and there’s still some of that clamour if you select the ‘S’ mode. Keep it in the Intelligent setting, squeeze the throttle rather than stamp on it and you get a much more relaxed experience, the electric motor working in harmony with the petrol engine rather than being shouted down.
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