Subaru XV long-term test review
The XV spearheads Subaru’s counter attack on the raft of mainstream, medium-sized SUVs. We’re running one for six months to find out how it stacks up...
The car: Subaru XV 2.0i SE Premium Lineartronic
Run by: Claire Evans, consumer editor
Why it’s here: To see if improvements introduced for the 2018 version have made it a worthy adversary to its many rivals
Needs to: Get me to work whatever the weather and provide comfortable transport for my family at weekends
Price £28,510 Price as tested £29,060 Miles 3181 Official economy 55.4mpg Test economy 35.4mpg Options fitted Quartz blue pearl paint (£550)
27 April 2018 – getting to know the Subaru XV
The XV may look like any other compact SUV, but under that rakish bodywork is a permanent four-wheel-drive system that will two-wheel-drive rivals to shame when the weather takes a turn for the worse.
So my first test for the XV was tackling a little known route from my home to the other side of our village. I live in the highest, populated point on the North Downs (255 metres above sea level), and while it’s a beautiful spot with great views across Surrey when the sun’s shining, as soon as the temperature dips below zero driving conditions become treacherous.
The route I had in mind for the XV would enable me to bypass the village’s main road, which gets clogged up with abandoned two-wheel-drive cars if it snows, and get to work instead of being resigned to staying at home.
A sign at the start of the track says ‘No vehicular access to village’, but I figured I’d find a way through in the XV. I was right, after I’d pressed a button to put it in X-Mode it deftly clambered up the chalky path, its wheelbase small enough for me to steer it round any big gaping holes and its always-on Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system providing oodles of grip. On the way back down the Hill Descent Control moderated the car’s speed and engine braking to letting it make surefooted progress, with no slip-sliding around.
Smart on the inside
With that task completed, I had time to get better acquainted with the XV’s interior. SE Premium is the plusher of the two trim levels on offer, and it comes with leather seats – heated up front – that look good and have eight-way electrical adjustment making it easy to get comfortable.
Interestingly, Subaru has put shortcut buttons for some of the XV’s active safety systems on the steering wheel alongside the usual stereo and cruise control functions. I found this useful because while I appreciate alerts about lane departure while I’d driving on the motorway, I can easily switch these off when I’m driving along narrow urban streets where I frequently have to cross onto the wrong side of the road to go round parked cars.
Talking of safety equipment, Subaru’s really pushed the boat out with the XV – its standard safety kit list looks like it’s come straight out of a Volvo brochure. In fact, What Car? was so impressed by the suite of systems that we shortlisted the XV for our Safety Award 2018. The Eyesight twin-camera system alerts the driver to potential collisions and activates the brakes if necessary, and there’s also a sophisticated rear vehicle detection system. What I appreciate most about all this active protection is the fact that it’s not intrusive in normal driving, so you don’t know it’s there unless you need it.
Some good things, some less good
OK, I admit I’m a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to the latest technology. Although I’ve mastered using my phone via the car’s Apple CarPlay system, I find it a faff to update my phone with my favourite music, so I’m enjoying making use of the XV’s standard CD player.
Not everything has impressed me, though. The 2.0-litre Boxer engine pulls well, but it can be noisy under hard acceleration. This is accentuated by the standard CVT gearbox, which makes the engine rev highly if you try to push ahead with vigour.
The only other downside of living with the XV is that fuel economy is poor around town, although I this is a small trade-off for the peace of mind of the four-wheel-drive capability.