The Subaru XV e-Boxer features the normal Subaru qualities of a good driving experience and impressive off-road capability, plus, for the first time for the brand, a small amount of electrical assistance.
Perhaps we should start with the fact that your author owned Subarus as personal cars for nine years: a Subaru Forester Turbo for five years, then a Subaru Outback Diesel for four years. Both cars were excellent. They were great to drive on the road, more capable than most people would imagine off road (including in snow and ice), they were very practical, well-engineered, nothing ever went wrong, and the Outback Diesel averaged around 50mpg. So the latest XV has a lot to live up to. How did it perform?
Subaru has always been associated with good engineering, along with permanent symmetrical all-wheel drive and a Boxer engine with a low centre of gravity – all used to good effect by the Impreza in rallying. The XV incorporates these virtues, in a crossover body style which is currently in high demand by consumers. However this latest XV also incorporates hybrid technology – ie. the 4-cylinder, 2-litre petrol Boxer engine gains a 12.3kW electric motor and small 13.5kWh battery. Subaru, like Toyota, refers to this as ‘self-charging’ hybrid technology, as opposed to plug-in hybrid technology.
We think the XV looks good, especially in the bright blue paintwork of our test car. Although updated, the interior is still fairly traditional Subaru in terms of its appearance – it’s more practical rather than competing with the likes of Audi in terms of design and quality of materials.
Subaru has a history with delivering rewarding driving experiences and the XV has inherited some of those genes. The basic concept of the XV is good: it’s large enough to offer practical accommodation, but not too large to be unwieldy, and there’s minimal overhangs, particularly at the rear. The result is good handling, with lots of grip from the all-wheel drive system, and there’s not too much body roll, yet there’s also a decent ride.
Overall the XV provides a direct driving experience, and it’s an enjoyable car to pilot on winding B-roads. However it’s certainly different from the Impreza in one area: performance. Whereas the Impreza had a large turbo, the XV has a petrol engine with no turbo. And the XV has a CVT, or ‘Lineartronic’, transmission. The lack of turbo and the CVT mean that responses to inputs on the accelerator pedal aren’t immediate, and there’s quite a lot of revs and noise to accompany any urgent request for more speed. However the CVT is actually more direct than systems from some other Japanese manufacturers. There are also steering wheel-mounted paddles to allow (simulated) gear changes.
There are no drive modes, but there is ‘X-MODE’, for off-road driving, which incorporates hill descent control. And this is an area where the XV stands apart from other crossovers – whereas most rivals are styled to look like they can go off-road, but they can’t actually perform in the rough stuff, the XV is very capable off-road. A useful amount of ground clearance (220mm) helps, and its ability is assisted by tyres that are designed for both on and off-road use, with Bridgestone Dueller tyres being fitted to our test car.
A good driving position can be found thanks to the adjustability of the steering column and electric seat.
Infomedia technology hasn’t been a strong point of Subarus over recent years, and although the system in the XV is better than previous versions, it still falls short of the technology in many other cars in this class.
And although all the latest cars have lane departure warning systems, virtually all have some way to switch the system off, but it wasn’t obvious how to find a way to do this in the XV.
The official WLTP combined fuel economy for the Subaru XV e-Boxer is 35.7mpg (which is poor), with CO2 emissions of 180 g/km (which is high). The resultant high Benefit in Kind rate would explain why you’re not likely to see many Subaru XVs as company cars.
After a week of mixed driving the XV averaged 39.1mpg. However we did manage 41.3mpg during cross-country driving and 45.1mpg at motorway speeds. All of these figures are improvements on the official WLTP combined figure. The XV also has a useful real-world driving range of over 400 miles.
The hybrid system is only capable of assisting the XV to run on electric power while at a standstill or at very low speeds for very short distances, and there were many occasions when halted at traffic lights when the petrol engine was still running.
An interesting comparison is with the 1.6-litre petrol XV, which has an official WLTP combined fuel economy of 35.7mpg, with CO2 emissions of 180 g/km – in other words, virtually identical to the XV e-Boxer. Although the XV e-Boxer has a larger 2-litre engine, this shows that the electrification is only minimal and doesn’t really have that much impact on economy and emissions. The XV e-Boxer is also 167kg heavier, at 1,575kg v 1,408kg.
The Subaru XV 2.0i SE Premium e-Boxer Lineartronic costs £33,655. The model with SE trim costs £31,655. There’s also a 1.6-litre petrol XV.
There’s also the Forester e-Boxer SUV, and the larger Outback. There’s also the Levorg Estate and yes, the Impreza is still on sale. And finally there’s the excellent BRZ Coupe, although the current model is coming towards the end of its life.
The Subaru XV has a crossover body style that consumers want, and compared to most rivals, the XV is genuinely capable off-road. It’s also generally good to drive on-road. So there’s an appeal for certain car buyers, particularly those who live in rural areas. If you travel around the world to countries such as Switzerland, New Zealand, Canada and the more remote parts of North America, you’ll see lots of Subarus, showing that there is a demand in such places for the brand’s vehicles.
The challenge for Subaru in the UK is that most of our country has tarmac roads and there are lots of rivals in this segment, many of which have shiny, high-tech interiors, which is what many car buyers want.
Another challenge for Subaru is that there are more and more pure EVs on sale from other manufacturers, yet Subaru has only just made the move to hybrid technology, which doesn’t have much impact in reducing its emissions, so there’s a lot of catching up to be done. And to finish where we started, when the Subaru Outback Diesel was launched in 2008 it was averaging around 50mpg in real-world driving, so it’s difficult to see any progress in the area of fuel economy.
With Mitsubishi recently withdrawing from selling cars in the UK and Europe, primarily due to emissions compliance (despite selling the Outlander PHEV), only time will tell what the future of the Subaru brand will be in the UK.
The Subaru XV e-Boxer gains a Green Car Guide rating of 7 out of 10.