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Small-scale electrification offers minor improvements in efficiency and responsiveness, but quirky Subaru XV remains a left-field choice

Our Verdict

Subaru XV 2.0i Lineartronic SE Premium 2018

Can the crossover stand out from the crowd not only off-road but on tarmac too?

  • First Drive

    Subaru XV e-Boxer 2019 UK review

    Small-scale electrification offers minor improvements in efficiency and responsiveness, but quirky Subaru XV remains a left-field choice
  • First Drive

    Subaru XV 2018 review

    The new Subaru XV is as practical and roomy as ever, and is now more inviting to sit in. Shame it isn't more athletic
Simon Davis
12 September 2019
Subaru XV e-Boxer 2019 UK

What is it?

This is the new Subaru XV e-Boxer and, unfortunately, there are absolutely no points up for grabs for guessing what that little ‘e’ might stand for.

With practically every other manufacturer under the sun making the move towards electrification it’s not surprising that the star-spangled Japanese marque has followed suit. It might not have been as quick on the uptake, but it doesn’t exactly have the Volkswagen Group’s arsenal of resources (or its market share, for that matter) to call upon. 

Speaking of the Volkswagen Group, ever since Dieselgate effectively stripped the Subaru XV of its oil-burning engine, it’s a car that’s been an easy target for criticism, too. Not only were the remaining 1.6 and 2.0-litre normally-aspirated petrol boxer engines particularly asthmatic, but being paired with a CVT gearbox and Subaru’s trademark symmetrical all-wheel-drive system meant they weren’t particularly refined or economical either. 

Of course, the XV was - and remains - stable, secure and reasonably comfortable on the road; and is still far handier off it than the average Seat Ateca. But those aforementioned shortcomings ultimately meant it failed to cut the proverbial mustard in the context of the wider class.

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What's it like?

Theoretically, this new e-Boxer unit should help to right some of those wrongs. It sees a small 16bhp electric motor (and 118V battery) paired to the existing 148bhp 2.0-litre flat four, which combine to drive all four wheels via a gently recalibrated version of Subaru’s CVT. This makes driving the XV on electric power alone a possibility, but don’t assume this is a bonafide Toyota-style hybrid powertrain.

In fact, the instances where you rely on electricity for forward propulsion are fairly fleeting. Keep your speed below 25mph and all but remove your foot from the throttle and you might be successful in achieving a few seconds of electric drive. Even from step-off the combustion engine will kick in after mere metres - and kick in it does. There’s a noticeable shunt from the driveline as the engine sparks to life and the CVT flares its revs in anticipation, before you set of in the usual slightly noisy fashion we’ve become accustomed to in Subaru products.

That said, if you lift off the throttle when travelling at speed the petrol engine will shut down, allowing for emissions-free coasting. It’s instances such as these that, Subaru says, contribute to the e-Boxer being up to 10% more fuel efficient than the standard 2.0-litre unit

The electric motor also contributes to a minor improvement in accelerative responsiveness, too, though this is very much still a powertrain that needs to be worked hard. The combustion engine’s 143lb ft of torque comes in at 4000rpm, but you need to push past 4500rpm to make what feels like meaningful progress. Just be prepared for the cacophony of noise from the engine and the CVT - not to mention the dip in economy - that accompanies such behaviour. 

This leaves you with the sense this hybridised powertrain is best suited to low-speed, stop-start urban environments rather than open-road settings. But even here, it lacks the refinement of the full-fat hybrid architecture you’d find in, say, a RAV4 or a Corolla. Toyota has been doing this for far longer than Subaru, however, so perhaps we’ll see the e-Boxer powertrain become smoother and more coherent in time.

Should I buy one?

With prices starting at £28,995, it’s not exactly cheap. But there’s a strong level of standard equipment; it feels well-built, spacious and strangely wholesome and honest inside; and it retains that secure, sure-footed handling the brand trades on. A veritable arsenal of driver aids and safety assist functions come courtesy of Subaru’s EyeSight suite, too.

It’s not an engaging car to drive, but Subaru is open about the fact its cars aren’t aimed at driving enthusiasts anymore. That makes it tough for us to genuinely like the XV e-Boxer, but those who care more about safety and moderate off-road ability probably won’t mind too much. 

Subaru XV 2.0i e-Boxer SE Premium Lineartronic

Where Riga, Latvia Price £30,995 On sale Now Engine 4cyls, 1995cc, petrol; plus electric motor Power 148/17bhp (petrol engine/electric motor) Torque 143/49lb ft (petrol/electric motor) Gearbox CVT Kerb weight 1553kg Top speed 120mph 0-62mph 10.7sec Fuel economy 35.8mpg (WLTP Combined) CO2 180g/km (WLTP Combined) Rivals Seat Ateca, Nissan Qashqai, Renault Kadjar

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Comments
11

12 September 2019

It's like they know there's a problem but think by adding a AA battery and electric motor from a pencil sharpener the problem will disappear. Also, what's the performance like on the dual carriageways etc when the AA is flat?  A ground up engine and GEARBOX rethink is necessary!

£30k will buy a far better, slighty smaller, XC40.

12 September 2019
xxxx wrote:

It's like they know there's a problem but think by adding a AA battery and electric motor from a pencil sharpener the problem will disappear. Also, what's the performance like on the dual carriageways etc when the AA is flat?  A ground up engine and GEARBOX rethink is necessary!

£30k will buy a far better, slighty smaller, XC40.

 

More of the same...hurling insults and absolutely no identification of a solution, in any detail whatsoever. Always clumsily grab a few lines of random text from the article and slam the product. What engine and transmission solutions have you in mind and I mean detailed analysis, rather than "new engine/reliable gearbox" flannel.

13 September 2019
Takeitslowly wrote:

xxxx wrote:

It's like they know there's a problem but think by adding a AA battery and electric motor from a pencil sharpener the problem will disappear. Also, what's the performance like on the dual carriageways etc when the AA is flat?  A ground up engine and GEARBOX rethink is necessary!

£30k will buy a far better, slighty smaller, XC40.

More of the same...hurling insults and absolutely no identification of a solution, in any detail whatsoever. Always clumsily grab a few lines of random text from the article and slam the product. What engine and transmission solutions have you in mind and I mean detailed analysis, rather than "new engine/reliable gearbox" flannel.

Before YOU insult do some reading, I said what the problem was then "A ground up engine and GEARBOX rethink is necessary" where did I say the gearbox was unrealiable?

If I explained further you wouldn't understand anyway. Idiot

14 September 2019
xxxx wrote:

Takeitslowly wrote:

xxxx wrote:

It's like they know there's a problem but think by adding a AA battery and electric motor from a pencil sharpener the problem will disappear. Also, what's the performance like on the dual carriageways etc when the AA is flat?  A ground up engine and GEARBOX rethink is necessary!

£30k will buy a far better, slighty smaller, XC40.

More of the same...hurling insults and absolutely no identification of a solution, in any detail whatsoever. Always clumsily grab a few lines of random text from the article and slam the product. What engine and transmission solutions have you in mind and I mean detailed analysis, rather than "new engine/reliable gearbox" flannel.

Before YOU insult do some reading, I said what the problem was then "A ground up engine and GEARBOX rethink is necessary" where did I say the gearbox was unrealiable?

If I explained further you wouldn't understand anyway. Idiot

 

Oops..."GEARBOX rethink", why would that be necessary (it is not), if it was NOT unreliable. 'Fraid you're tying yourself up in your mental confusion. Hypocritical to suggest that I am insulting you (actually your lack of coherent thought), then insult at the end of your "piece".

 

So explain it for the benefit of the REST of the readers, if not for me. A challenge, if you are up to it. (you are not).

12 September 2019

Part of the problem is pairing an inherently efficient CVT with an inherently inefficient torque converter, I dont know why Subaru does this but it just means you get the worst of all worlds.

12 September 2019

The limiting problems with Subaru have been their insistance on using their unique selling point (I have no objection to that - especially as I own a CVT Subaru Levorg) permanant AWD and that boxer engines are inheritantly unclean emissions wise, that was one of the reasons given why Alfa Romero switched to FIAT sourced powerplants.

Also for example, take my Subaru Levorg, available back then as a 1.6 turbo 168 BHP 185 ft/lb torque. The JDM and Asian markets also got a 2.0 296 BHP 300+ ft/lb torque petrol motor. Guess which one has the ability to be upgraded for more power, but the CVT gearbox can't handle the power increase? Yes, the 1.6 model. I'm sure that traditional Subaru fans in Europe, let alone the UK would have loved to get hold of the Levorg 2.0 STI if it had been offered to them.

Sure, they could fit more powerful engines into their cars for the rest of the world, as more powerful engines are fitted to their own Japanese domestic market. However, in several other continents they have to meet emission and try to get near acceptable fuel consumption targets. Equivilant Audi, BMW, Mercedes Skoda etc vehicles tend not to be permanent AWD and are also available in diesel.

 

12 September 2019

I like Subarus, but agree it’s a real shame they don’t bring hotter versions to the UK any more. They are a niche player here, so why not sell niche models at a higher margin?

Is it a lack of imagination from the importer? 

This XV might not excite road testers but it’s a brilliantly safe and dependable car. 

12 September 2019
Is there s more foolish thing in motoring than persisting with that ridiculous gearbox?

13 September 2019
There's nothing wrong with a CVT, they're smooth and economical cheap and reliable, far more preferable than a dct. In this instance it seems to be it's application to an underwhelming engine and hybrid system.

On a different note this appears very similar to Honda's ima which also added electric power to bolster engine power, though honda added it to small engines, which, in a similar vein to downsized turbos gave the performance of a larger engine.

13 September 2019

I would tend to agree, we have a 2.0 XV as a family car, my wife drives it, for ferrying the kids to school, and while it is a bit thirsty, am prepared to put up with that for the security and safety of the XV. We have had several Subaru's over the years and the reliability and build quality are second to none, even the German's can't get close in my opinion.

I think subaru are stuck in terms of UK / euro markets are very small for them compared to North America, so their vehicles tend to be geared towards those markets - auot's for lazy, obese yanks.

The XV i would have thought would have been great fitted with the 1.6 turbo that was in the Levorg. As someone else pointed out, its such a shame they do not import the sporteir models, such as the Levorg STI.

I think subaru UK are missing a trick

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