After a mid-life update, we take Subaru’s compact crossover for a week’s testing to see what it’s like
What do we have here?
For many people, the mention of Subaru still evokes memories of Colin McRae and Richard Burns hurtling down a dusty track or clinging to a mountainside in an Impreza world rally car.
It’s that all-wheel drive prowess that continues to underpin the modern-day Subaru range.
We’re taking a look at the facelifted XV which is a five-door compact crossover, essentially a hatchback with a raised ride height, rugged bodykit and permanent all-wheel drive. It sits above the Impreza in the range and is the cheapest SUV/Crossover that Subaru sell.
Originally launched in 2012 the mid-life refresh gets updated ‘hawk-eye’ headlights, redesigned front grille and front bumper. At the back, there’s a new boot spoiler, LED taillights while new alloy wheels finish the look.
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Inside, Subaru has worked to upgrade the feel and perception of the interior with better quality materials. It now gets new metallic and piano black trim and neat contrasting stitching.
On the tech front, there’s a new 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system, available with navigation on other trim levels while the TFT LCD screen in the instrument binnacle has also been redesigned.
It comes with a choice of two engines, one petrol and one diesel, two transmissions a six-speed manual and six-speed CVT automatic gearbox, and two trim levels; SE and SE Premium with prices starting from £22,180.
The petrol option is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder boxer engine that develops 148bhp and 145lb ft of torque. With a manual gearbox, it’ll get from 0-62mph in 10.5 seconds (10.7s for the auto).
If you want a diesel, it’s a 2.0-litre turbo that develops 145bhp and 258lb ft of torque with a 0-62mph time of 9.3 seconds. It is only available with the manual gearbox and emits 141g/km of CO2.
We’re testing the entry-level 2.0-litre petrol in SE trim with an automatic gearbox.
How does it drive?
Setting off, it’s a little jerky and you’ll quickly notice the lack of turbo with this naturally aspirated engine. It’s short of low down grunt with max torque arriving at 4,200rpm and power at 6,200rpm meaning you have to rev it hard to get the best from the engine. It’s not too slow once away with 0-62mph taking 10.7 seconds but it sounds strained and is rather invasive.
The grip is pretty good, especially when pulling away but the natural response for this car is to understeer on sharper bends on a slippery surface, however, you’ll feel the all-wheel drive system working to get you back on track.
And it’s that all-wheel drive system along with its 220mm of ground clearance helps the XV excel off-road. There’s plenty of suspension travel and body control over heavily contoured surfaces with excellent grip.
The automatic gearbox comes with steering wheel mounted paddles which are quick to react whether shifting up or down. Leave it in auto though and it’s not quite as good with gearshifts being more noticeable. After a period of hard acceleration, as you decide to ease off, the car changes gears and surges forward a little more, which is rather unsettling.
On a smooth A-road or motorway, the ride is pretty relaxed. It’s good at dealing with potholes and storm drains but suffers more with smaller road imperfections meaning it can go from feeling quite comfortable and relaxed to being fidgety very quickly.
The steering is light and consistently weighted which helps you to pick your line through the corners. And the XV will keep to that line. There’s some roll going into the corner but it’s the shift of weight inertia as you exit that is disappointing and creates a jelly-like wobble from side to side, meaning you’ll have less confidence to commit to the next corner.
That suspension that dealt so well with the potholes is rather noisy and you’ll hear it being worked over the bumps.
What's it like inside?
The dash looks neat and tidy while the leather wrapped wheel, central and door armrest along with the piano black inserts add a premium feel. The top of the dash gets soft-touch plastics although these are replaced by harder ones lower down. The door panels do have a little too much flex.
From the driver’s seat, there’s plenty of height adjustment which is controlled by a pump-action lever, while a second lever operates the weight sprung backrest.
We failed to find a perfect backrest position and the central armrest is a little too far back, although the seats are supportive and there’s plenty of head room.
The steering wheel adjusts for reach and tilt and is wrapped in leather with orange contrasting trim and a satin grey insert. It has controls for operating the phone, cruise control, trip computer, music controls and voice command.
Ahead of the wheel is a clear and neatly designed instrument panel with blue lighting and stainless-steel surrounds for the dials.
On the dash, the infotainment with its piano black surround amalgamates neatly, while there’s a secondary display at the top of the dash which features information about the car, including; trip computer; temperature settings; and steering angle for when off-roading. However, this display does, distractingly, reflect on to the windscreen at night.
Three central dials with chrome and piano black finish control the ventilation and are easy to use, while the infotainment touchscreen can need a secondary touch to react to your command.
In the front, the doors have space for a bottle of water and more, there’s a large anti-slip tray ahead of the gear lever with 2 USB ports, there are two central cupholders beneath a sliding cover and a small central storage bin under the armrest.
There are a few oddities, though. The first is the controller for the top central display is located high between the air vents, then there’s the tiny door lock button which can be hard to locate and finally the small heated seats switch which is located just in front of the central armrest.
In the back, there’s decent leg and head room. Three can sit across due to the transmission tunnel being tall but narrow, although head room is reduced.
The boot is shaped like a hatchback, which reduces capacity in comparison to other SUV rivals. The XV has 380-litres of capacity versus 430-litres of a Suzuki S-Cross and Nissan Qashqai, while a Skoda Yeti has 416-litres.
Overall the boot floor is flat and folds to reveal additional storage compartments underneath.
The XV is claimed to return 43.5mpg on a combined cycle with the automatic gearbox although we easily achieved 35mpg. It emits 151g/km of CO2.
That means one-year road tax will cost £185 and it falls into the 27% BIK company car tax banding.
Insurance groups for this model are 21E.
Every Subaru XV is offered with Subaru’s comprehensive five-year, 100,000-mile warranty.
In this configuration and at this price, the Subaru is a great option for those needing off-roading ability at the lowest price possible and don’t want a large cumbersome 4x4.
It’ll also appeal to loyal fans of the Subaru brand with its no-nonsense approach, although a Jeep Renegade and Suzuki S-Cross run it close.
However, it’s out fought in almost every area by the current swath of crossovers and SUVs which are better to drive and more comfortable.