Subaru's XV crossover model has been revised with a smarter interior, a re-tuned chassis and extra refinement. And it's still more capable off road than you might expect a car in the family-sized Qashqai segment to be. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The Subaru XV has always been a smart-looking family-sized crossover vehicle offering the best all-wheel drive system in its class and some charismatic engines. The original version really just needed a higher quality interior, shaper driving dynamics and a bit more technology. That's now what's on offer here. As a result, we think that makes it a model you can't ignore in the Qashqai-class segment. It's the sort of car that will have you praying for snow in the forecast.
The family-sized Crossover. Arguably, it's one of the motor industry's fastest growing market segments, a class of car that's usually these days more about fashion than substance. So what if you could get one with Qashqai-like style matched to Land Rover-like off road capability? What if this class of car, in other words, could actually walk the walk as well as talk the talk? That'd be quite something. That'd be unique. And that's exactly what this improved Subaru XV claims to be designed to deliver.
If any brand was going to be able to create a car able to do this, you'd put money on Subaru to do it. They were building models of this kind way before the concept became fashionable, with a history going all the way back to 1995 and the launch of the Legacy Outback, a chunky all-wheel drive estate then followed by more overtly SUV-like Forester and Tribeca designs. None of which really caught the imagination of British buyers. The XV though, has done better in this regard since its original launch here back in 2012 and should take another tep forward in this revised form.
Subaru claims that this improved XV is a more dynamic steer than before, its engineers having focused on improving the car in terms of steering and pedal feedback, vehicle response, refinement and off road capability. They've been aided in that by this enhanced model's adoption of a new platform said to be as much as 70-100% more rigid than the previous chassis. Substantial improvements to the suspension system have also been made, which help achieve a lower centre of gravity that allows more precise steering control, superior straight line stability and more stable cornering performance - aided by 'Active Torque Vectoring' and the fact that apparently body roll has been reduced by 50%. And all of this whilst maintaining this model's useful 220mm of ground clearance.
As before, the car uses Subaru's unique Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, but now it also gets the X-MODE system we've seen on some of the brand's larger models. X-MODE is designed to increase drivability by optimising integrated control of the engine, the All-Wheel Drive system and the brakes to provide additional control when tyres slip and lose traction on a slippery road surface, including when descending hills. As before, two 'Boxer' 2.0-litre engines are being offered, most customers likely to continue to opt for the 170bhp diesel unit. Which is a pity because most of the changes have been made to the petrol powerplant. Around 80% of the parts now used in this Direct Injection engine have apparently been changed to make it quieter, cleaner and more frugal. The Lineartronic auto gearbox this unit can be mated to is now also more responsive and efficient.
Design and Build
The XV remains quite a handsome thing, with cohesive, chunky styling. Subaru has re-designed this revised model around what it calls a 'Wide & Low stance' that's supposed to make it look sportier. The hexagonal front grille, the 'hawk-eye' headlamps and the rear light clusters are all quite different to those used before. The side profile remains much as it was, with a character line that runs from front wheel arch to rear shoulder and rises energetically.
Inside, there's higher quality seating with classier upholstery. In the centre of the instrument panel lies an 8.0-inch touchscreen display for the infotainment system, with the usual smartphone connectivity via Subaru's Starlink media system. This can brief you on weather and traffic reports, plus the set-up can also provide wireless audio, news updates and a calendar and in addition, its functionality extends to a range of apps that can be downloaded onto users' phones or tablets. Otherwise, things are much as before. The 380-litre boot is a little smaller than you'd expect but fold the rear seats down and things improve dramatically, with an excellent 1,270 litres on offer. Rear legroom is good and there's plenty of adjustability in the driving position but the seats could use a little more support.
Market and Model
Prices haven't changed too much, so the line-up continues to be pitched into much the same £23,000 to £28,000 bracket. Some Qashqai-class rivals initially look cheaper, but that's because they don't offer 4WD on affordable variants and because they offer feeble entry-level engines that the XV range doesn't bother with. Equipment levels include most of the usual features you'd expect in a car of this price. Even entry-level models feature 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, daytime LED running lights and automatic air conditioning as standard.
With this revised model, some of the main improvements relate to safety provision. The new platform used allows impact energy absorption to be improved by 40%, plus there are plenty of preventative safety features too. 'EyeSight', Subaru's camera-based safety package, delivers features such as Pre-Collision Braking Control, Adaptive Cruise Control and a Lane Keep Assist function. There's also an improved High Beam Assist system for 'Steering Responsive Headlights' that are able to move their beam right or left whilst cornering or at junctions to illuminate the direction of travel. In addition, there's also a 'Rear Vehicle Detection' system offering blind spot detection, lane change assistance and reversing assistance to enhance all-round preventive safety.
Cost of Ownership
Opt, as most customers will, for the XV diesel and you'll be getting a car that can return a combined fuel economy figure of 50.4 mpg and will emit 146g/km of carbon dioxide. Go for the petrol 2.0-litre model and you'll attain the best figures with the CVT gearbox. With the auto gearbox fitted, you'll get well over 40mpg and under 150g/km in auto form. So it's time to lay the legend of the fearsomely thirsty Subaru to rest at last. A decently sized 60-litre fuel tank gives all models a useful touring range - some 660 miles if you go diesel. And all but the least expensive XV models get an ECO meter in the Multi Function Display that helps you optimise your driving efficiency over time.
Residual values certainly aren't going to be on a par with BMW and Audi, but Subaru is committed to doing what it can to make the ownership experience as painless as possible. To that end, you get a comprehensive five year / 125,000 mile warranty that's one of the best in the industry.
The Crossover genre is one that Subaru ought to excel at. All the ingredients are already in place. The company can draw upon a long tradition of rugged, multi purpose all-wheel drive cars. The issue though in this segment is all about packaging and presenting this clever engineering in a way that's accessible and appealing to mainstream customers. With this improved XV, most of this is now sorted. It looks good, it's a reasonable size, it drives well and it will undoubtedly be very reliable.
Previously, some of these attributes got hidden in the showroom as customers, fresh from looking at, say, rival Nissan Qashqai or Peugeot 3008 models, got inside this XV and found themselves disappointed by the rather down-market cabin. It was vital for Subaru to put this right. Now that they have, there's little excuse not to include this Japanese contender if you're looking for a reasonably powerful model in this class.