In Japan spec, the XV hybrid seems well set up for local road conditions. That’s to say, largely urban-based driving at relatively low speeds where the motor-assist hybrid system and the electric motor in particular can do their stuff.
At the press of a button, the Subaru’s flat-four engages with that endearing whirring sound. As you drive, you find the electric motor will cut in and out unobstrusively on demand and from standstill, you can run up to 20 mph on battery power alone, up to about one mile. Naturally, stop/start is part of the package, too.
As set up for Japan, the XV hybrid is unusually refined, with very low road and mechanical noise. But there’s no specific EV mode that you can engage (as you can with a Prius) and despite the Boxer engine’s 150ps, aided by the electric motor’s 13.6 ps, the car is not that fast or dare one say it, all that exciting.
Driven gently, the XV is fine but for that sudden burst of overtaking acceleration, you really miss the lugging torque (258 lbft) of the UK’s XV Boxer diesel. Also the whining nose if the CVT on full chat is less than appealing although at the wheel, the 6-speed paddleshift is both sharp and precise.
You see, the XV Hybrid is relatively heavy, up to 150-160 kgs heavier than a comparable non hybrid XV in the home market, and heavier even than a UK XV diesel.
While Subaru isn’t quoting any performance figures, 0-60 mph feels like it would come up in around 9 secs. Top speed? Maybe 120 mph at a push, but of course performance is not what this car is all about.
Even so, it would be good to have more incisive handling and sharper feel at the wheel because in home tune, the XV Hybrid is unmistakeably soft, rolling easily on the onset of a turn and with vague over-centre feel at the wheel.
While there’s plenty of grip and traction and the XV's long travel suspension is unchanged for off-roading (ditto the high ground clearance), dynamically, it would surely need some rethink for Europe.
So does it work? Well, the hybrid technology is seamless and well packaged. Inside, the instrumentation is clear and sharp, while the multi-function display showing the continual energy flow between engine, motor and battery is endlessly fascinating.
But this gave us a 34.5mpg read-out driving through Tokyo and on the run out to Mt Fuji and back, so well down on that headline mpg rating. In round figures, there’s also a £1770 price premium for the Hybrid in Japan, so not for the first time, you have to pay extra to go green.