Independent, Expert EV Reviews & Advice Since 2006

Subaru XV Review

24 July 2012 by
Paul Clarke

Eco Facts

Model/Engine size: 2.0-litre Diesel SE

Fuel: Diesel

Fuel economy combined: 50.4 mpg

Green-Car-Guide rating: 8/10

Subaru XV Introduction

The Subaru XV 2.0-litre Diesel is a compact crossover with an official combined fuel economy of over 50mpg and which, unusually in its segment, is also genuinely capable off-road.

Subaru XV Summary

• Compact crossover contains Subaru all-wheel drive genes

• Good to drive on the road and very capable off-road

• Subaru really needs to up its game in the interior department

• Relatively expensive

Subaru XV 2.0-litre Diesel subaru-xv-002a.jpg Subaru XV Background

Subaru makes cars that combine a good on-road driving experience with highly capable off-road ability. Since the Boxer Diesel engine was introduced, Subaru has also offered some of the most economical all-wheel drive cars. However few motorists are aware of all this and Subaru remains a brand that is very overlooked.

Subaru’s products include the Outback, a large crossover, and the Forester, a Freelander-size SUV. With the compact crossover market growing so quickly, it was only natural that Subaru offered a car in this class – enter the Subaru XV.

Subaru XV Design & Engineering

The Subaru XV shares the same engineering base as the majority of Subaru products – symmetrical all-wheel drive linked to a Boxer engine. In the Subaru Impreza, this combination proved highly successful in rallies worldwide. The Boxer engine means that the cylinders are horizontally-opposed rather than vertical as in the majority of engines. This results in a lower centre of gravity for the car, meaning that Subarus should go round corners more securely than most rivals.

The XV follows the Impreza format, but, in the case of our test car, with a Boxer diesel engine. The Boxer diesel engine was introduced in 2008 and when it appeared in the Subaru Outback it meant that this car became the most economical 4×4 in its class by a considerable margin, and remained that way for a long time. However very few people – motorists and seemingly motoring journalists – were aware of this.

So the underpinnings of the XV are familiar, and tried and tested. However the body is new, and it’s designed to attract people who want a compact 4×4 with modern design. We think the exterior looks good – it’s certainly individual – although we’re not too sure about the ‘tangerine orange’ paintwork of our test car.

It’s the interior where there’s the issue. For many years Subaru has focused on the engineering of its vehicles rather than on the quality of its interiors. Whilst we would always choose a basically sound vehicle platform over an interior with all the latest gadgets, it’s now got to the stage where the difference in the quality of the interior between the XV and products such as the Audi Q3 is so huge that it makes you wonder if anyone at Subaru ever looks at other cars.

The XV has interior materials that look and feel cheap, and the overall design still appears to be based around functionality rather than aesthetics. This may be acceptable to Subaru’s traditional loyal followers, but if the brand is hoping to get new customers who are familiar with interiors from other manufacturers then they’re likely to be disappointed with the lack of design flair and the quality of materials inside the XV. On the plus side there’s a reasonable amount of space inside, with lots of rear legroom, although the boot is predictably smaller than that of the larger Forester.

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Subaru XV Driving Experience

Subaru produces cars that offer a better driving experience than most rivals, although once again the issue is that most car buyers wouldn’t think of considering a Subaru in the first place as it’s not a mainstream brand in the UK. However for those people who are open-minded enough to take the plunge, the Subaru XV offers a reward in the form of a car that still contains Impreza-handling genes.

With 147PS, the car has good performance, although the diesel engine is somewhat audible in the XV, especially when cold. It’s mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, and this isn’t the slickest-shifting of transmissions.

The XV is a similar size to the Impreza, but with a taller body and higher ground clearance. This results in the XV being fun to drive, more so than the larger Forester or Outback, but it’s not quite as ‘grounded’ as an Impreza. Its handling is more entertaining than the typical crossover, and this is combined with suspension that is highly effective at cushioning obstacles such as speed bumps. However this damping also means that the car can be somewhat bouncy, and the ride on poor road surfaces isn’t that refined. There’s also quite a lot of wind noise at motorway speeds.

It’s the combination of the on-road driving experience with genuine off-road ability that sets the XV apart from the vast majority of crossovers. Unlike most cars in this segment, the XV can venture far off tarmac roads. The highly-effective all-wheel drive system is the main reason for this, as it features rally-proven real all-wheel drive technology which provides excellent levels of traction, rather than the normal front-wheel drive-biased systems that you’ll find in most cars in this class. The XV also has a relatively short wheelbase and a short overhang at the rear (if not the front), along with decent ground clearance.

Its final secret weapon is its tyres. Most 4x4s from manufacturers other than the likes of Land Rover come as standard with road-biased tyres. However Subarus come with Yokohama Geolander tyres, which, as we can verify from over ten years of driving Subarus, are a highly effective combination tyre for mud, ice, snow and anything else that you can throw at it. There is a slight trade-off in terms of ultimate grip on dry tarmac roads if pushing on through corners. When this happens, this sensation of the chassis ultimately being more capable than the tyres when really pushed, combined with its fluid handling and its flexible engine, gives the XV an adjustability through corners reminiscent of the recently-launched Subaru BRZ sports car.

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Subaru XV Economy and Emissions

The Subaru XV’s economy isn’t quite class-leading in the same way that the Subaru Outback diesel was four years ago, nevertheless 50.4mpg is still highly respectable for a car with genuine 4×4 ability. This equates to 146g/km CO2. One feature that the XV doesn’t have is a stop-start system, and this omission is increasingly rare for a new car these days; other manufacturers use such technology to achieve impressive NEDC cycle fuel economy results. However due to the lack of such tech, which doesn’t usually translate into high levels of real-life miles per gallon, it does mean that in typical everyday driving the XV is likely to come relatively close to its official fuel economy figure. During mixed driving during our week with the car we achieved an average of 43.5mpg, and 50mpg when driving it carefully.

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Subaru XV Price, Equipment and Model Range

Compared to some manufacturers that offer an overwhelming choice of models, the XV range is refreshingly simple, with three trim levels, and one diesel and two petrol engine options. The petrol engines are a 113bhp 1.6-litre and a 148bhp 2.0-litre. We wouldn’t recommend a Subaru petrol engine without a turbo, there’s just not enough power; so go for the diesel. Unusually in this class, but usual for Subaru, there’s no front-wheel drive version.

All XVs come with alloys, air conditioning, electric windows and front foglights. With SE trim you gain Bluetooth, an MP3 input, rear camera and cruise control. You need to stretch to SE Lux Premium models to get sat nav and a sunroof.

The XV has excellent levels of safety, in particular child crash protection.

Subaru also has a good reliability record.

One issue to be aware of is that the XV is relatively expensive. The base 2-litre diesel S model costs £24,295, the SE model, as tested, costs £26,295, and the SE Lux Premium model costs £29,995. This is approaching the prices for premium rivals such as the Audi Q3 or BMW X1, which have much higher quality interiors and a more refined overall feel. They also have badges that more people will be familiar with. For the average car buyer wanting a crossover, a Nissan Qashqai will probably get their attention from a cost point of view.

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Subaru XV Conclusion

If you want a compact crossover that has fun handling on the road and that is also genuinely capable off-road then you should consider the Subaru XV. Compared to most cars in this class, which are aimed primarily at urban drivers, the XV is ideal for people living in the countryside who want the all-weather and all-road traction of all-wheel drive, but who don’t want a huge 4×4. It’s also economical.

The XV does have some Impreza genes in terms of its chassis and handling and so it can be fun to drive. It’s not refined in the way that an Audi Q3 is, and Subaru really must go and take a look at an Audi to see how other manufacturers design quality interiors. The XV is also relatively expensive. Based on all this, the Subaru XV gets a Green Car Guide rating of 8 out of 10.

Car Facts and Figures

Subaru XV 2.0-litre Diesel SE data

Fuel economy extra urban: 56.5 mpg

Fuel economy urban: 41.5 mpg

CO2 emissions: 146 g/km

Green rating: VED band F – £135 first year

Weight: 1415 Kg

Company car tax liability (2012/13): 23

Price: £26,295

Insurance group: 26

Power: 147PS

Max speed: 120 mph

0-62mph: 9.3 seconds

Paul Clarke


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