Priced from £22,000 (est) Release date February 2018
The Subaru XV is an important step in the manufacturer’s SUV assault. It’s built on a brand new platform that will underpin a new wave of Subaru models - starting with the Impreza - and this is our first chance to sample it.
In recent years, Subaru has put more focus into its SUVs and has enjoyed more success with this strategy, breaking its sales record in each of the past five years, with lots of cars sold in North America and Japan. However, sales in Europe have been modest, and the previous XV was not an especially good car; in fact, it was quite a bad one. Its handling was poor, it was comparatively expensive and it was beaten in pretty much every area by its rivals.
This new model has had a substantial reworking, with revised engines, a new chassis and a redesigned interior and exterior. It sounds comprehensive, but is it a big step forwards?
2018 Subaru XV on the road
We were only able to drive the XV on a short test track and off-road route, but we were still able to get a decent feel for the dynamics.
The steering is much improved and better weighted, although it still provides little in the way of feel to let you know exactly what the front tyres are doing. The XV feels more agile than before, though, and body lean is better controlled, thanks to a stiffer suspension set-up. That said, there are better-handling SUVs; rivals such as the Seat Ateca are noticeably better to drive. Our smooth test track was no place to assess ride quality, so that'll have to wait for a drive on the road.
The engine line-up will consist of two petrol engines: a 2.0-litre unit and a 1.6. There is no longer any diesel option. This is a shame, because the 2.0-litre diesel in the old model was our pick of the engine line-up and was gutsier from low revs than the 2.0-litre petrol.
The updated 2.0-litre petrol engine tested here has been revised to improve performance and efficiency, but no official figures are available just yet to confirm just how much better it is. To drive, it doesn’t feel particularly quick but is decently smooth, only lacking that initial low-down pull.
Subaru's automatic Lineartronic gearbox is a CVT but has seven 'simulated' gears that you can cycle through using paddle shifters on the steering wheel. However, it’s best left in automatic mode, where it does a good job of keeping progress smooth – although, as with all CVT gearboxes, the engine does tend to rev unpleasantly under heavy acceleration. No manual option will be available.
The XV does have a trump card, though, and that is its off-road ability. Many SUVs in this class may look like off-roaders, but few of them can match those looks with genuine capability. With the XV, four-wheel drive comes as standard, it offers a generous 220mm of ground clearance and the new model gets an ‘X-Mode’ - a driving setting that optimises the four-wheel drive system to work best over tricky surfaces at low speeds and also includes hill descent control. In our experience, the XV will go farther off road than many of its rivals, and that ability is certainly one of the car’s strongest assets.
2018 Subaru XV interior
The XV's interior has had an overhaul for 2017. The dated-looking dash has been replaced with an 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system – which is likely to be standard on all models – to give it a cleaner, more modern look. The materials generally feel higher in quality, although the physical shortcut buttons below the touchscreen feel decidedly cheap.
Space up front is good, with plenty of steering wheel and driver's seat adjustability to get comfy, as well as good visibility. In the back, leg room is excellent – better than that on offer in most rivals – while head and shoulder room are also generous, so a couple of tall adults won’t feel hemmed in on longer journeys.
However, while there’s plenty of space in the rear seats, the boot is a little disappointing. It’s smaller than a Nissan Qashqai's, Seat Ateca's and even the outgoing Skoda Yeti's and is quite narrow in places due to the wheel arches encroaching.
On a more positive note, the new XV majors on safety, getting Subaru’s autonomous Eyesight emergency braking system as standard, helping it to achieve outstanding crash test results in Japan. The Euro NCAP crash test results are still to come.
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