What is it?
This is the all-new Subaru XV, what the UK importer calls its entry into the ‘compact crossover’ market. In reality, it is modified version of the new-generation Impreza hatchback, which sees the base of the A-pillars moved forwards by 200mm, increasing room for the front passengers and resulting in a longer wheelbase.
The XV is equipped with full-time all-wheel drive and an unusually generous 220mm ground clearance, some 5mm more than the Forester. There’s a choice of three flat-four boxer engines, a 113bhp 1.6-litre and 145bhp 2.0-litre petrol and a 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel. A six-speed manual box is standard and a CVT optional on the petrol engines.
The entry-level S-spec models gets a decent spec including air-con, front, side, curtain and knee bags, ABS, traction and the highly effective vehicle dynamic control system which brakes individual wheels extremely rapidly to stabilise the car when it is on the point of losing control.
The SE-spec tested here adds HID headlamps and washers, dual zone climate control, colour dash display and rear-view camera, six-speaker stereo, Bluetooth and USB connections. You have to go up to the SE Lux Premium to get leather, keyless entry and start, power driver’s seat and a Pioneer sat-nav.
What’s it like?
We’ve already driven this car abroad, but our first UK taste shows it to be a bit of rough diamond. Although it is priced very close to the Audi Q3 and BMW X1, and seems to be in direct competition with both, the XV is a very different vehicle. While the German pair sell on their brand image, polished styling and plush interiors, the Subaru is much more of a serious tool.
For a start, the XV will easily out-perform both off-road, thanks to the permanent all-wheel drive and exceptional ground clearance. Although it doesn’t have hill descent control and a low range transmission, the XV can be regarded as serious off-roader.
The boxer diesel is also particularly impressive. It completely lacks the typical diesel rumble of conventional in-line engines, and it’s gutsy and willing, even with less than 1000 miles under its piston rings. Indeed, on an intra-urban 11-mile journey it returned over 50mpg. It’s also particularly game in typical quick UK motorway running.
Despite a claim that it is the lightest car in its class, the XV outpointed the Q3 overall in the EuroNCAP lab crash tests, including delivering the best results for protecting an 18 month-old infant passenger.
On the downside, the XV’s chassis was a little unpolished on the medieval roads of middle England. It felt more than a little teetering and disconnected on the undulating surfaces of the Fosse Way, which is perhaps not surprising considering the car’s unusual ride height.
However, the XV is a car that gets you to your destination in no-nonsense way. It is not particularly polished in the way it goes down the road and the way it steers, it suffers from a bit of tempestuous airflow around the cabin at motorway speeds and the boot is on the small side. However, the XV has a pervading sense of unstoppability: there isn’t much that would stand in its way. The raised driving position is also very effective.