Capable SUV won’t appeal to all but some will love it
- Capable on and off the road
- Expected to be hugely reliable
- Simple, hardy cabin design
- Easy to drive and use
- Inefficient engines
- Expensive to buy and run
- Myriad rivals cheaper to finance
- Relatively few dealerships
The second generation of Subaru XV is a very clever styling effort. Because although it might not look hugely different from the previous model, it's actually a brand-new car, which Subaru says is improved in every way over its interesting predecessor.
The new XV, which went on sale in the UK early in 2018, is built on Subaru's new vehicle platform. It's lighter, stiffer and stronger than before – and if you look under its stylish new skin, you'll see that the platform also underpins the latest Impreza.
It’s an interesting car inamuch as Subaru spans market segments with this car. Although it could easily be mistaken for being yet another high-riding front-wheel driove crossover, it's actually a full-blooded SUV. So, it's likely to appeal to buyers in the market for cars such as the the Toyota Rav4, Jeep Renegade and the Volvo XC40. But it's far lower profile looking than them.
Subaru XV: Genuinely capable – at a cost
But while all of those cars offer a relatively mainstream approach, with low-cost motoring and cheap lease deals high up on the agenda, the Subaru takes a different approach. Its core attributes are safety, dependability and a decent drive, and it scores well on these fronts.
However, that’s at the cost of the XV being quite expensive to finance through a PCP deal (at launch there was a modest £1,500 deposit contribution to offset the 4.9% APR rate) although compared with other four-wheel drive automatic rivals, it's acceptable.
The opening list price from launch of £24,995 was also on the high side for a 1.6-litre offering – although the jump to the range-topping 2.0i SE Lineartronic looks favourable at £28,495).
In terms of fuel costs, the XV looks a little tough to justify, too. That's because the engines are relatively inefficient compared with the raft of diesel and smaller-capacity turbo motors available in the above rivals.
X-mode: all-wheel drive, all the time
Another factor not helping the XV’s fuel economy is the fact that it uses a permanent all-wheel drive system. Much of the XV's competition is available with front-wheel drive only, which is less demanding on the powertrain and so more efficient.
However, four-wheel does mean the XV is very capable off-road. In fact, it’s almost certainly the best in the entire class when it comes to tackling rough terrain. It comes with the X-mode driving program as standard. This is a get-out-of-jail free card for anyone who gets stuck in a muddier situation than they might be expecting.
Activating X-mode is simple – you press a button behind the gearlever, and that puts the XV into an off-road mode. This means you get Hill Descent Control and the transmission is set into a configuration to tackle rougher roads, with electronic limited slip.
There’s no manual gearbox option on offer, with Subaru instead offering its Lineartronic CVT automatic instead. This works better than most other types of this transmission because it features steps in power delivery that make the XV feel like a normal automatic car.
It's punchy and responsive with little of the lag you find in rival automatic transmission set-ups, although a standard six-speed manual gearbox would be more in keeping with the market this car is aimed at.
Subaru XV: Now even safer
Compared with the outgoing XV, the 2018 model has made a big step forward in terms of safety. It scores five stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests, and features as standard a set of driver-assistance features called Eyesight that work smoother and more cohesively on the road than any others we’ve tried.
Key safety functions of the XV include adaptive cruise control, active lane-departure and blindspot monitoring alongside automatic emergency braking. We've tested all of these systems, including its AEB set-up, and they work flawlessly and without issues.
The cabin design is simple and intuitive, with physical buttons for most controls instead of the touchscreen-reliant set-up favoured by some rivals. The materials don’t feel of particularly high quality, but they’re clearly extremely hard-wearing and suit the sorts of work Subaru expects the XV to be put to. The infotainment system is on the pace, and in terms of design, it's similar to the previous XV, but markedly higher quality.
There’s also a decent-sized boot for a car of these dimensions, and the doors open very wide for easy ingress and egress. There’s excellent visibility from the driver’s seat too.
The Parkers Verdict
We like the Subaru XV. It might not be for everyone, and on rational grounds, it's a tough car to justify. It’s a niche offering that appeals to those looking for genuine off-road capability and a car they can rely on for many years to come.
But it's superbly well-engineered, and we can't help but admire the fact that Subaru has stuck with its flat-four engine and symetrical four-wheel drive system on the grounds of technical purity. The buyer might not readily feel the benefits of both, but they help with the long-term ownership experience.
It’s also worth noting that the Subaru XV is well-equipped and very safe, thanks to its active driving assistance systems, and the excellent Eyesight set-up. We can't gloss over the fact that's it's expensive for what it is, and not particularly cheap to finance. The dealer network is thin, too, which – allied with its costliness, automatically discounts it for many.