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.
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%