Published on Sunday 14 February 2016 10:05
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 cabin quality and efficiency. Now, Subaru has delivered just that in the form of this revised model. These enhancements 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 Discovery Sport-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 have done better in managing just that. Early versions though, struggled with high pricing, then commentators criticised efficiency and the plasticky cabin. Subaru says now that with this revised model, all of these things have been put right. If that's the case, can it now really trouble the class leaders in this segment? Let's find out.
Having already tweaked both ride and refinement on this car as recently as 2015, Subaru has contented itself to subtler tweaks for this package of changes, effectively limited to longer gear ratios that improve economy of the four cylinder Boxer engines on offer. This hasn't compromised driveability with the 147PS 2.0-litre diesel that most XV customers choose. It still puts out 350Nm of torque and still manages rest to 62mph in 9.3s. The alternative XV powerplant, a 150PS 2.0-litre normally aspirated petrol unit, gets longer gear ratios too. Here, there's 196Nm of torque and this is the engine you have to have if you want Subaru's smooth-shifting Lineartronic automatic CVT gearbox.
The petrol engine is a sweet thing. 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 in recent times benefitted from suspension improvements that enhance ride quality. Arguably preferable though, is the extra pulling power of the 2.0-litre diesel boxer engine. Whatever your choice bneneath the bonnet, your XV will come with Subaru's permanent Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system giving all-weather security.
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. Recent detail changes include updated 'hawk-eye' headlights, a redesigned front grille and bumper, a more discreet boot spoiler nd smarter LED rear combination lamps. As before, the 17-inch alloy wheels do look extremely sharp.
The main change made to this improved model though, is its upgraded interior, finished in higher quality materials and featuring smarter metallic and piano black trim as well as classy contrast stitching throughout the cabin. The driver's TFT LCD instrument binnacle has also been redesigned, now emitting a soft, contemporary blue glow.
There's also Subaru's latest factory-fit 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment and navigation system, which allows smartphone-style control, with a swipe and pinch control function for map displays. The infotainment system houses a standard-fit rear view camera, offering a super-wide 160-degree field of view behind the car when reversing. Other functions of the car - such as changing navigation settings or adjusting the power or temperature of the climate control - can be controlled though a latest-generation voice control facility, allowing the driver to keep their eyes on the road ahead. The system also enables Apple iPhone users to activate Siri Eyes-Free functionality, providing full voice control of their iOS mobile device when linked with the new infotainment system.
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
Both engines in the XV line-up offer improved fuel economy thanks to a range of detail tweaks. The 2.0-litre turbodiesel, equipped with a six-speed manual transmission, features longer gear ratios that improve fuel efficiency by 4%. The modified engine achieves 52.3mpg on the combined cycle, while CO2 emissions fall from 146 to 141g/km, placing the car in a lower BIK tax band (25%).
Subaru has also introduced a series of updates to the 150PS 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated petrol engine. Fuel efficiency increases by 2% to a combined average of 43.5mpg when equipped with Subaru's CVT Lineartronic transmission and emissions fall to 151g/km. Longer gear ratios for models fitted with the six-speed manual transmission promote greater efficiency at motorway speeds.
In short, it may be 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 at a reasonably powerful model in this class.