Parkers overall rating: 3.9 out of 5 3.9
  • Two petrol engines to choose from
  • Just one transmission option
  • Nothing particularly exciting

The Subaru XV has a limited range of two petrol engines – a 1.6 and a 2.0-litre. Neither uses turbocharging to boost its performance, making it relatively unusual in a market saturated with smaller turbo petrols and diesels.

>> We rate the best hybrid SUVs for 2020

Driven: 2.0-litre Subaru XV

This will soon be replaced by the mild-hybrid version, but until then, this is the engine we’d suggest the vast majority of buyers will want to pick. With 156hp and 196Nm of torque, this brings the 0-62mph time down to 10.4 seconds and brings the top speed up to 120mph.

For a small premium over the 1.6 it’s significantly punchier and makes for a far better drive – especially if you need to hit motorway speeds with any regularity.

Subaru XV 2017 engine

It’s very smooth and quiet, especially considering its ‘boxer’ layout, which in other cars means it has a distinctive off-beat hum.

With this engine the XV will cover 0-62mph in 10.4 seconds with a top speed of 120mph. Neither of those figures sound particularly exciting until you realise just how much slower the 1.6 below is.

Mild hybrid 2.0-litre arrives late 2019

Due to arrive in the autumn is a mild-hybrid version of the 2.0-litre petrol engine. Performance is likely to remain similar, with estimated performance figures of 150hp and 194Nm of torque. Top speed remains the same at 120mph and 0-62mph takes 10.7 seconds.

While this may not seem like much in the way of progress, Subaru claims the electrical assistance offers better acceleration, requiring up to 30% less time to get up to speed when on the move.

The e-Boxer uses a 118v lithium-ion battery mounted in the boot to drive the 10kW electric motor. This can drive the XV on electric power alone for up to one mile, but this will spend the majority of the time assisting the petrol engine.

When it comes to off-roading, the X-Mode drive setting allows easy access to the electric motor’s torque, with 65Nm available immediately from standstill. This means you won’t have to work the petrol engine in order to gain momentum from stationary, making for a more relaxed way to tackle rougher terrain.

Driven: 1.6-litre XV

The smallest engine in the range produces 114hp and 150Nm of torque, taking 13.9 seconds to get from 0-62mph. Top speed is 109mph.

Subaru XV 2017 automatic gearbox

If you only drive at low speeds and don’t mind waiting a little longer to accelerate than other similar cars, the 1.6 could be serviceable for you. It’s a lower-cost option and does have marginally better fuel economy, but that’s contrasted by the fact that you’ll have to work it far harder than the 2.0 to reach any given speed.

While quiet at low RPM, this engine is also too noisy under hard acceleration and doesn’t have anywhere near the acceleration of the 2.0-litre.

The XV’s Lineartronic gearbox

There’s just the one transmission option here: a CVT automatic called Lineartronic. It works well, with artificial ‘steps’ engineered into the software to simulate the gear changes in a conventional automatic.

You can flick between these ratios yourself using the paddleshifters behind the steering wheel on the more powerful cars.

Steering wheel paddles on the 2017 Subaru XV

Unlike many other CVTs, if you put your foot to the floor you’ll get meaningful acceleration – especially with the 2.0-litre engine. 

Handling

  • Firm but supportive ride
  • Responsive steering and little bodyroll
  • Impressive off-road credentials

This is one of the XV’s strongest points. We found that while it does have a relatively large turning circle, which can hamper your ability to park, in general its handling is very good indeed.

We were very impressed with the lack of bodyroll compared to the old XV too – we tested them back-to-back and found the new car to be significantly more accomplished in the corners. 

The body control when cornering is also very impressive – there’s very little lean and it remains stable and composed, even when inadvertently going into a bend too quickly. You always feel in control and confident in the car's abilities on the road, and although it's not billed as such, there's a dose of responsive sportiness that means it's a rewarding drive when you're pressing on.

The all-wheel drive system appears to function far more successfully than that of its main competitors – if indeed they have it fitted at all. There’s plenty of grip on offer and while some may struggle to find it exciting, it is at least reassuring. You’ll need to try hard to get the XV unstuck in a fun way, but this will largely be irrelevant for most owners.

The steering is a little too light and while the XV isn’t the most involving car to take down your favourite road, it’s hardly mundane. Being more of a jacked-up hatchback than a full-bodied, high riding crossover, this SUV is more composed than many of its rivals.

There’s a slight weight penalty of 110kg on the hybrid E-Boxer model, but having the rear mounted 25kg battery helps towards better weight distribution and has little effect on the XV’s handling.

What about off-road in a Subaru XV?

For off-road driving you’ve got a pair of systems to help out. The first is X-Mode, which adjusts the engine, transmission, all-wheel drive and brakes accordingly, while hill-descent control keeps the XV moving at a certain speed when scaling steep hills, keeping it under control.

Subaru XV 2017 off-road

This works automatically when the vehicle detects you heading down a 10-degree downward slope, which is a far simpler solution to other companies, who often use the cruise control function to adjust the car’s speed. 

But while the XV is adept at some light off-roading with the grip available, the lack of ground clearance will hamper progress as the bumpers scrape easily on terrain.

How much can you tow with a Subaru XV?

Braked towing capacity for the e-Boxer is 1,270kg, compared with the petrol engine’s 1,400kg.