The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.0

The Subaru XV is aiming at the same market as the likes of the Ford Kuga and Volkswagen Tiguan, but it’s too expensive and not talented enough for us to recommend.

Reasons to buy

  • Smart-looking, stylish SUV
  • Full-time 4WD gives good off-road ability
  • Excellent performance in crash tests
Best on a budget
XV 1.6i S
All the style and safety kit of dearer models
Best seller
XV 2.0D SE
The best engine and the best-value trim
Blow the budget
XV 2.0 D SE Lux Premium
Turn your family-friendly SUV into a luxury car

How good does it look? 4/5

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we’re sure that most people will agree that the XV is one of the smarter-looking SUVs. The company wanted to make a car that lived up to the ‘Sport’ part of the SUV name and its designers have been very successful. The hexagonal grille and ‘hawk-eye’ headlights give the front of the car a distinctive appearance, while the way the cladding is cut away gives the car a subtly sporting look. This is then emphasised by the XV’s sleek profile – with an almost coupe-like curve to the roofline – and the smart alloy wheels.

What's the interior like? 2/5

Sadly, this is where the XV lets itself down. The relatively high price pitches it against some premium-badged opposition and its quality simply isn’t a match for theirs. In particular, the plastics across the dashboard look and feel hard and cheap – there are no smart, soft-touch surfaces here. Likewise, the controls don’t feel very classy and some people will find the layout of the controls awkward, particularly with the amount of functions that can be controlled from the steering wheel on higher trim levels.

How practical is it? 3/5

From the driver’s seat, you get the good view out that you would expect of a high-riding SUV; and, thanks the wide range of adjustment on the seat and wheel, it’s easy to get comfortable. There are no complaints about the amount of legroom in the rear seats, but do you do pay a price for the sleek roofline: headroom is less than in some rivals. To make matters worse, the boot is also on the small side by class standards.

What's it like to drive? 2/5

The XV differs from many of its rivals, in that it comes with full-time four-wheel drive, making it adept off-road. However, when you’re on Tarmac, it isn’t nearly so impressive. The ride quality in particular is disappointing, and the suspension picks up on too many of the poor surfaces that the UK’s road network throws at it. Even on the motorway, it doesn’t settle properly. To the XV’s credit, it has plenty of grip and good traction, and it handles securely, but the amount of body roll in bends will soon put you off pushing the car hard.

How powerful is it? 2/5

The diesel engine will be the biggest seller in the UK, and for good reason. It has a strong pull right through the rev range and gives decent performance. It certainly scores over the petrol engines, which have far less torque and need working much harder to give the same level of performance. Worse still, that means you hear them thrashing away much more than you do the diesel – especially when you add the optional CVT into the equation. This forces the engine to maintain high revs for an uncomfortably long time when you want quick acceleration. Overall, in fact, refinement is a weak point in the XV, as it also kicks up too much noise on the motorway, making long journeys unpleasant.

How much will it cost me? 2/5

The XV starts off with a handicap, as it costs a lot to buy in the first place. The price puts it into competition with the likes of the BMW X1 and Audi Q3, but its residual values are not nearly as strong as such premium-badged rivals. It’s quite costly to insure, too, and what’s more, as it has full-time four-wheel drive, its fuel economy is not as good as similarly priced two-wheel drive rivals. That said, compared to other all-wheel drive models, it’s more impressive, with the diesel model averaging more than 50mpg.

How reliable is it? 4/5

This is a new class of vehicle for Subaru, so it’s too early to have heard of any issues from owners of this or previous models, but the company has a reassuring reputation for producing reliable cars. As it’s based on the Impreza, the XV is based on proven technology, so we don’t expect any major problems.

How safe is it? 4/5

One of the most reassuring aspects of the XV is its safety. It scored a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests, and emerged as one of the safest cars in its class, with particularly high ratings for child protection. The full safety kit comes on every model in the range and includes front, side and curtain airbags, as well as one for the driver’s knee. Also standard are anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake-force distribution, as well as Subaru Vehicle Dynamics Control, with traction and stability control.

How much equipment do I get? 4/5

Among the standard equipment on every XV are alloy wheels, front and rear electric windows, remote central locking and air-conditioning. However, if you want Bluetooth and a USB input (for an iPod, for example), you’ll need to upgrade to SE specification, which also adds steering wheel-mounted controls, cruise control, a rear parking camera and Bluetooth. Top-spec SE Lux Premium models come with sat-nav, leather upholstery and an electrically adjustable driver’s seat.

Why buy? 3/5

With its full-time four-wheel drive and smart, sporty looks, the Subaru XV certainly stands out from among other SUVs.