First DriveThe Subaru XV is a clear step up from the previous model, with impressive off-road ability, but no diesel option could stunt sales success
First DriveSubaru 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?
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.
Where the XV really suffers is in terms of static showroom appeal. The Subaru’s interior is unrelentingly functional. Although the top of the dashboard benefits from soft-feel paint, the rest of the cabin revels in square-cut practicality and rugged old-school plastics. Thanks to the car’s Japanese build, it’s likely this cabin will be tight and rattle-free in a decade’s time but, compared to the soft-feel, be-jewelled, Audi and BMW cabins, the XV’s interior is its great weakness.
Should I buy one?
Subaru’s UK importer is aware of the XV’s limitations and the sheer strength of the Yen (the Pound/Yen exchange rate has virtually halved over the last couple of years) means that the XV cannot undercut its premium European rivals
To help draw in private buyers, Subaru UK has created ‘Subaru ETC’, which stands for EveryThing Covered. For the first three years of ownership buyers will get free dent, scratch and alloy wheel repairs, an annual wheel alignment check (important on a 4x4), a monthly clean and annual valet, winter tyre storage, accident management with the first £300 insurance excess covered, lost car and house keys replaced in 24 hours, the first MOT and £300 in costs free and collection and delivery for the servicing.
The company claims this has a value of over £7000, which might, perhaps, go some way to bridging the perceived value gap with the Germans.
On the other hand, if you are the kind of driver who is more interested in an all-weather, all-terrain car that is more of a well-engineered tool than luxury consumer durable and you intend to keep the XV for the long-term, this Subaru may prove to be better value than its rivals over the long-run. It has a very distinct and appealing character.
Subaru XV 2.0D SE
Price: £26,295; Top speed: 120mph; 0-62mph: 9.3sec; Economy: 50.4mpg; Co2: 146g/km; Kerb weight: 1415kg; Engine: In-line four, 1998cc; Installation: Front, transverse, 4wd; Power: 145bhp at 6000rpm; Torque: 258lb ft at 1600rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual