First Drive

2016 Subaru XV 2.0D review

Updated version of Subaru's small SUV gets a much-needed refresh inside and out for 2016, but it still lags behind the best crossovers in almost every area. We've driven it in the UK

Words By What Car? Staff

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The Subaru XV is one member of the ever-expanding compact crossover class – a class spearheaded by the Nissan Qashqai, but with other noteworthy offerings like the Mazda CX-5 and Volkswagen Tiguan.

First introduced in 2012, the XV driven here has been subject to a bit of a refresh in a bid to kickstart sales. This means tweaks to the engines, chassis, interior, exterior, and an improved infotainment system.

The model range is simple: a 2.0-litre petrol or a 2.0-litre diesel, available in two trims. There’s SE – the car we’re driving here – or SE Premium. It's priced from Β£21,995 for the petrol SE up to Β£26,995 for the diesel SE Premium.

Even our SE car comes with a long list of standard equipment, including sat-nav, a 7in touchscreen with voice control, rear parking camera, Bluetooth, front heated seats, and cruise control. Add in the standard four-wheel-drive system, and the XV does stack up well in terms of value.

Here, we’re testing the 2.0-litre diesel, the version set to be most popular in the UK, which has improved fuel economy and emissions, with a claimed combined 52.3mpg. CO2 emissions have dropped by 5g/km to 141g/km.

With the new XV previewed at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, even this current model is long in the tooth, despite this recent facelift, so be armed with our Target Price and haggle in the showroom.

What’s the 2016 Subaru XV 2.0D like to drive?

If first impressions matter, the Subaru isn’t in luck. The 2.0-litre diesel has an unpleasant rattle at low revs, especially from cold. It can’t compare to the much quieter diesels used by Nissan or Volkswagen. At least is stays largely smooth as the revs build.

On the plus side, it is powerful; 0-62mph takes 9.3sec and there’s plenty of in-gear pull from low revs, allowing for decent acceleration when overtaking. This betters many of its rivals which use smaller diesel engines. Of course, the pay-off is that fuel economy and emissions are far worse, meaning higher fuel and tax bills. The XV's manual gearbox also takes a bit of getting used to, and its clutch is a little unforgiving.

The XV has enough pulling power to be a capable towing vehicle, able to lug up to 1600kg. That covers off most single-axle caravans, single horse boxes, and smaller boats. The ride, which supposedly features improvements for this updated model, is still behind the best in the class. Large speed bumps and pot holes in particular send a sudden jolt in to the cabin, accompanied by a thud from the suspension.

Subaru's singature permanent four-wheel-drive system equates to good grip on the road at speed, though body roll is still present. Still, for those who need it, off-roading is a far more viable reality than with many compact crossovers, which are most popular in two-wheel-drive. Yet despite being confident in the XV's sure-footedness, its light steering is better suited to low speed town manoeuvres than inspiring fun on a B-road blast.

What’s the 2016 Subaru XV 2.0D like inside?

The Subaru XV has been designed with practicality in mind, with good front and rear leg and head room for adults. There’s also a capacious boot. Sure, its 380 litres is smaller than a Nissan Qashqai's 430 litres, but its boxy shape makes it a sensible space for loading and there’s plenty of hooks for bags and an underfloor compartment for valuables.

The interior quality is mixed. The occasional soft-touch premium material is mixed in with cheap plastics and coarse seat material. The seats nonetheless are comfortable, and have ISOFIX child safety seat tethers fitted as standard in the back.

Overall, safety is impressive in the XV, achieving top scores in EuroNCAP’s crash testing, with the XV’s side impact protection singled out for specific praise. Standard interior equipment is also very good, even if its packaging is dated. It means an expensive range starting price, though. With a rear parking camera, sat nav, Bluetooth, AUX-IN, and much more included, the XV certainly makes life easier on the tech front.

Should I buy one?

Although the XV suffers a high range start point price, the XV SE's price will sway some potential buyers when it's compared with its equivalently equppied rivals. While the Qashqai's starting price is less than the Subaru’s, the XV 2.0D SE is Β£23,995, which is around Β£3,000 less than an equivalent-level Qashqai.

However, to answer the question, no, you probably shouldn't. On the XV's side are its four-wheel-drive, good performance, high safety specification, and respectable space for occupants. Against it though are bad engine and road noise, a poor ride, high running costs, an uninspiring drive, and a cheap-feeling interior. Unfortunately its overall inability to match or beat its competitors in most areas still holds it back.

Rachel Burgess

What Car says...

Rated 2 out of 5


Nissan Qashqai

Mazda CX-5

Subaru XV 2.0D SE Engine size 2.0-litre diesel Price from Β£23,995 Power 145bhp Torque 258lb ft 0-62mph 9.3sec Top speed 123mph Fuel economy 52.3mpg (combined) CO2 141g/km