From £26,4656
Subaru has updated its Qashqai rival, but do the tweaks make it any more credible as a competitor to Nissan's class-leading success?

What is it?

Quite a rare sight on UK roads is what it is. Which is surprising, because the Subaru XV occupies a place in the booming compact crossover class, which is packed full of very impressive models such as the ubiquitous Nissan Qashqai.

Subaru launched the XV in 2012 against far less fierce competition than it faces now, but it has never managed to gather much momentum despite offering four-wheel drive and relatively conventional hatchback looks. So what we have here is another bite at the cherry for Subaru - a bit of a nip and tuck intended to turbocharge UK sales.

A concept of the next-generation XV was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year, but in the meantime, this update is much more modest. It features minor tweaks to the engines, chassis, interior and exterior as well as an improved infotainment system.

Subtle styling changes include new metal-tone front foglight surrounds and a new lower grille and bumper treatment. Tweaks to the headlight clusters also feature, along with a new set of diamond-cut black and silver alloy wheels and two new paint colours. The rear end remains largely unchanged, aside from revised LED tail-lights and a tweaked boot spoiler.

A simple engine line-up features 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol and diesel Boxer units. This facelift also means improved fuel economy and emissions figures for both petrols and diesels, with economy for the latter, driven here, rising to a claimed 52.3mpg and CO2 emissions falling by 5g/km to 141g/km.

Prices start from £21,995, with just two trims. We're trying the lower-level SE trim, which costs £23,995 in diesel form and is generously equipped with a rear parking camera and a touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, voice control and sat-nav.

What's it like?

The revised interior now features higher quality materials – apparently – but honestly, it still lags behind any rival. It’s adequate but feels like a patched-up approach rather than a cohesive rethink of interior design and comfort. There are soft-touch materials which create a premium air, but these are outweighed largely by hard, cheap plastics and scratchy seat fabric.


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Nonetheless, the seats are comfortable and space is more than adequate in the rear. Boot capacity is also decent, although it loses out to the Qashqai at 380 litres versus 430,  while towing capability, which is highly relevant for this car, is a respectable 1600kg.

To drive, there’s much work to be done. Despite modifications to the car’s suspension and Subaru's engineers looking to improve NVH, it’s still lagging some way behind the class leaders. You can really hear the suspension working, and taking speed bumps is a fairly jarring experience for the driver, let alone rear passengers. The 2.0-litre diesel has an unpleasant rattle at low revs but does quieten down at higher speeds.

Accelerating from 0-62mph in 9.3sec, the XV is an adequately quick car and there’s a healthy 258lb ft of torque in the mid-range for overtaking. The six-speed manual gearbox takes some getting used to though, with juddering upshifts which need to be ironed out with a gentle release of the clutch.

Handling is decent, aided by Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. With some limited time on some tight corners it gripped well enough, although body roll is still more pronounced compared to some rivals. Considering the healthy 220mm of ground clearance - a full 70mm more than a Qashqai - most of the manufacturer's devotees will consider the lean to be a fair trade. 

Should I buy one?

In a word, no. There is a certain charm in driving the underdog, bumbling along oblivious to those narcissistic enough to care about car image above all else. And it’s fair to say that a core audience – a generation of farmers and caravan towers – will be happy with it, offering enough mod cons and comfort to go with its impressive ground clearance, towing ability and four-wheel drive.

Its price might also sway a handful of people; the XV diesel with equivalent specification at £23,995 is around £3,000 less than the Qashqai.

Still, bring on the new generation.

Subaru XV 2.0D SE

Location Surrey; On sale now; Price £23,995; Engine 4 cyls horizontally opposed, 1995cc, diesel; Power 145bhp at 6200rpm; Torque 258lb ft at 4200rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1637kg; 0-62mph 9.3sec; Top speed 123mph; Economy 52.3mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 141g/km, 28%

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18 April 2016
That will be my father-in-law, who has just bought one. After a very long line of Foresters which are gradually getting too big for him. He's happy.

18 April 2016
I'm beginning to have a deep mistrust of car reviews accuracy in motoring magazines these days, including Autocars.
I didn't find the interior 'patched up' and lagging behind other makes, and anyway, it'll way outlive the German equivalents. Soft touch material all round is very comforting as you await recovery on the M6! Engine refinement? It's a diesel, unless you use wads of sound deadening material, dual mass flywheel etc. they sound like that.
What stopped me actually getting one of these was the lack of attention to me shown by my local dealer when I was in their showroom checking this and the Levorg over.
I also found that the review that you gave the Honda HRV (which I got instead) bears no relation criticism wise to my experience of owning the car.
Maybe what you road testers look for when testing cars bears no relation to what joe public actually cares about?

19 April 2016
I can relate to your comments regarding road testers and real life! Road testers live in a closeted world of 'on-the-limit' handling, test tracks and have limited ability to look objectively at the purchasing decisions of those of us who simply need a cost effective, reliable and trusted transport. Am i bothered if my car can compete around bedford aerodrome on the limit - No. Am i concerned if i am getting a well engineered, safe and effective car for day to day commuting and family trips - Yes. Long term tests tend to be better but even then road testers seem cosseted from reality. The HR-V is an excellent day-to-day road car in my opinion (i have a Civic thats been faultless for 3 years and 50,000 hard miles) and drives perfectly well giving 60 mpg. Road testers need to sell copy and if it doesn't thrash round silverstone like its competitors it is regarded as inferior. Stupid, simplistic opinions not relevant to the cut and thrust of daily life. Enjoy your excellent HR-V (and check out Honest John who has some excellent views on real life motoring!)

18 April 2016
The Subaru might not appeal to many drivers of Qashqais and the like but I suspect that if Autocar's test regime included some element of comparing the traction and off road capability of this car with other crossovers its virtues would shine a little brighter. I'm looking forward to reading a review of the recently face lifted Forester, a car I would happily have sat on my drive.


19 April 2016
3k less than a Quashqai? its bigger and has a better engine. Gearbox unforgivable but I think the interior is ok if not great for this type of car. Frankly not read much from this writer and I do wonder if this is a bit off the shelf "critical writing" rather than very insightful.

19 April 2016
"Should I buy it?"
Autocar: "No"
Me: "Why?"
Autocar: "Well, it's got a good level of comfort, four wheel drive and impressive towing. Plus its much cheaper than what we consider the class leader."

How is that in anyway helpful Autocar? I'd be amazed if the author dedicated more than 15 minutes to this write-up...

19 April 2016
A petrol model as the diesel is not available here in South Africa. It is supreme on dirt and rough roads, economical on the open road, tough as nails and looks pretty distinctive too. I've not felt all of the interior trim to determine whether it's soft touch or not because I generally only bother with manhandling the control interfaces. The only negative for me (apart from South African spec levels) is that the steering could be more direct. Fitting the 2.0 turbo motor would make for a great Q-car.

19 April 2016
We've the petrol one also. Neither a Farmer or a caravan owner but we have had other Subaru's in the past and the XV replaced my wife's WRX. Its great, we love it. We aren't SUV/Crossover fans however she needed something with a bit more room for the Lurcher and we've always done the hiking and camping thing in remote parts of this fair isle. In the end we didn't even bother looking or care for other manufactures. One of the reasons we love it is because its not a 'every other car is a Qashqai'!! We do go over a few fields but ultimately we know its going to endure the roads and tracks in Yorkshire, Northumberland etc. No its not quick but a little better with V-Power and Air Filter change and has a good burst over the higher rev range. Majority of the miles are back and forth to the office so the 33.9 verified mpg we're getting for those short trips is obviously pleasing compared to the 20-22mpg the WRX was achieving. When we both test drove it we couldn't believe how comfortable it was and it handles well with the standard Geolander's. No problems with quality either and I've owned a couple of Audi Avants. Is it better than the other SUV's on the market? Honestly I don't know but I'm pretty sure its better in most aspects that matter and it sure as hell stands out way more than a Cashcow and sets out what's it intended to do on and off the road. I'd guess that 95% of the Cashcows are front wheel drive only. Personally, I don't see the point of the XV so called competitors for our lifestyle, at this price, and for the size. Guess I would have considered a Mazda CX-5 if the petrol model had AWD, but it doesn't and we haven't!

19 April 2016
I'd agree that the author knows little about Subarus; I owned a BMW for some time and, for all its perceived quality, it was not a reliable car (even under warranty).

I'll be picking my third Subaru (the Levorg) this week.

19 April 2016
**************************Should I buy one?
In a word, no. There is a certain charm in driving the underdog, bumbling along oblivious to those narcissistic enough to care about car image above all else. And it’s fair to say that a core audience – a generation of farmers and caravan towers – will be happy with it, offering enough mod cons and comfort to go with its impressive ground clearance, towing ability and four-wheel drive.

Its price might also sway a handful of people; the XV diesel with equivalent specification at £23,995 is around £3,000 less than the Qashqai.

Still, bring on the new generation.*************************

In a word no? What on earth are you saying? Bring on the new generation??? Of what? handbag cars that match with your shoes and phone case? The very narcissistic swaying generation you mention?

This is a proper no nonsense car, there are a few about that don't care for frippery and fashion and it should be lauded for it. In a world where we are increasingly more conscious of "showing off" and blinging it up this is a decent pint of real ale as opposed to the latest "prosecco" faze. NO, do not bring on the new generation - the new generation is too self obsessed and shallow. A bit of grounding (excuse the pun - although I doubt you would in this car with its clearance!) is good for all and is a very healthy option in the market place. I have driven both the diesel and petrol versions of the pre facelift version and I was impressed on both counts. All show and no go is really starting to annoy me now. (Is it because I'm getting old??)


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