If a five-seat family car that prioritises a grippy chassis over comfort appeals, then Subaru's XV might fit the bill

What is it?

The Subaru XV is a five-seat, lofty driving-position family hatch with a raised ride height and all-wheel drive as standard.

Pitched at the Nissan Qashqai/Hyundai iX35 genre, the Subaru XV hopes to add a dash of sportiness to a class where practicality, comfort and a quality cabin combine as the winning formula.

Suspension is struts at the front and a double-wishbone arrangement at the rear with Subaru’s 50:50-split all-wheel drive system, including a central viscous limited-slip, as standard.

There are three Boxer engine choices — a 144bhp 2.0-litre diesel, 147bhp 2.0-litre petrol and 112bhp 1.6-litre petrol. The 2.0-litre units are mated to a six-speed manual as standard; the 1.6 gets a five-speeder. Remarkably, manual transmissions also come with a mud-plugging low-ratio transfer box as standard. A CVT auto is optional on both petrols.

Subaru will launch next April with the 2.0-litre units; the 1.6 arrives in the late 2012.

You also have to look at the XV — shorthand for Cross Over — as a thinly-disguised replacement for the Impreza hatch. In fact, strip off the cladding and drop the ride height and the XV is next year’s Impreza.

What's it like?

The driving bias is towards grip and cornering power, rather than comfort and everyday usability, which will satisfy some drivers. But the bulk of buyers will find the lumpy low-speed ride, noisy bump-thump over broken road surfaces and fidgety motorway progress unsettling.

Pleasingly, the XV steers faithfully and can be placed accurately on the road, although there’s not much feedback through the wheel rim. Particularly impressive is the manner in which the AWD resists understeer in all models. The conclusion is that the chassis could take more power, although Subaru says that more powerful engines, particularly a circa-170bhp diesel, still aren’t on the horizon, nearly three years after its revolutionary Boxer oil-burner was launched.

The pick of the engines is the delightfully revvy 2.0-litre Boxer diesel, although the thrumming 2.0-litre petrol runs it a close second. Unfortunately, the 1.6-litre Boxer is woefully underpowered and has to be worked at high revs to extract performance. At least it makes a pleasing noise when extended.

The Boxer diesel we drove also had a disconcerting background drone and radiated a surprising amount of noise outside the car. Subaru says it is considering beefed-up noise insulation, both inside the cabin and under the bonnet, to counter this.

Visibility is excellent, courtesy of remarkably thin A-pillars.

Rear legroom is also good. Inside, the plastics and interior design are a huge step forward over the hard fittings in the old Impreza. But the competition has moved on, too, leaving the feeling that the XV lacks flair and quality. Another area that needs attention is the front seating, which lacks support from both the side bolsters and under-thigh.

The 380 litre capacity boot is a shallow shape and the target market of families, probably encumbered with young kids, will surely struggle to accommodate the masses of gear that inevitably go with that territory.

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Should I buy one?

If a five-seat family car that prioritises a grippy chassis over comfort and interior quality appeals, or if you live in an area where AWD is essential, the Subaru XV might fit the bill. But there are other more rounded, and more keenly-priced competitors that will prove much easier to live with day-to-day.

Subaru XV 2.0D

Price: £26k (est); Top speed: 123mph; 0-62mph: 9.3sec; Economy: 50.4mpg (combined); CO2: 146g/km; Engine type: 1998cc, 16v 4cyl horizontally-opposed Boxer turbo-diesel; Power: 144bhp at 3600rpm; Torque: 258lbft at 1600-2400rpm; Gearbox: Six-speed manual

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Wiwat Chang 3 February 2012

Re: Subaru XV 2.0D

Is the XV replacing the Forester in the UK/ Europe?

K1NZ 20 December 2011

Re: Subaru XV 2.0D

I read a reveiw on this in my local paper last week and the reveiw raved aboutthis car, said the ride was good and the steering faithful. Im from Christchurch, New Zealand and some of you may have herd our city got written off by an earthquake in September 2010 then again in February earlier this year, and we must have the worst roads ever! very few places you can find with a smooth patch of road, but yet they praised the ride quality in the XV, i am geussing they calibrate the NZ and UK suspension differently though. Also mentioned was how it under-cuts its Rivals (Quashqai, IX-35) alot on price here. I would say that the strong yen has something to do with the UK pricing but could Subaru UK be being a bit greedy with there pricing?

jer 14 December 2011

Re: Subaru XV 2.0D

All the comments are quite true, but I like the look, its obviously better than the Legacy. Engine a bit slow price a bit high, disappointed with ride. Not unique in those repsects.