"The Subaru XV is a safe, well made crossover that is fun to drive."
The XV compact SUV is a new type of car for Subaru. It's aimed at the hugely successful Nissan Qashqai, although top-spec models overlap on price with premium cars like the Audi Q3 and BMW X1. There's a choice of three engines – 1.6 and 2.0-litre petrols and a 2.0-litre diesel – plus manual or CVT gearboxes. All engines have Subaru's famous horizontally opposed ‘boxer’ layout. Although the XV is designed mainly for urban use, all cars come with permanent four-wheel drive, offering extra grip in bad conditions and moderate off-road ability.
Subaru is renowned for building cars that handle well, and the XV is no exception. While the steering is light, it feels sharp and body control is good for such a tall car. The new CVT auto box maximises efficiency, but is noisy and hampers throttle response. The manual shifts smoothly and is more satisfying to use. The 112bhp 1.6 and 148bhp 2.0-litre petrol engines deliver decent pace, yet they’re quite noisy and could be smoother. The 145bhp diesel is the one to go for, as it's strong and responsive. Just bear in mind that the narrow power band means you’ll have to change gear often.
Rear legroom is excellent, helped by the concave shape of the front seats, while up front there's plenty of space, too. But the front seats could offer more support to stop occupants sliding around in corners. To achieve the XV's impressive handling and lack of body roll, the suspension is firm, and you feel this on bad surfaces in town. It's a shame as that's where most XVs will end up being used. Subaru could have traded some dynamic ability for added comfort.
Subaru is known for its reliable and rugged SUVs, like the Forester and Outback, so the XV should stand up well to the wear and tear of everyday life. Although the interior plastics look and feel cheap, the car is well put together inside. It comes with a good selection of safety kit as well, including ABS, traction control, seven airbags, retractable pedals and a collapsible steering column. The XV has already scored the full five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests, and it scored an impressive 90 per cent for child occupant protection.
With the rear seats in place, the XV has a smaller boot than the Nissan Qashqai, at 380 litres. But it has a 410-litre advantage when you fold the rear seats flat, with a 1,270-litre capacity. The leading edge of the boot floor can be lifted up and hooked to the lip of the tailgate, to give a smooth ramp for sliding bags into the boot. Wide door openings offer easy access to the interior, while the permanent four-wheel drive allows the XV to tackle adverse weather conditions better than traditional front-wheel-drive family hatchbacks.
Value for money
With prices from around £21,000 for a 1.6-litre petrol model, the XV is expensive next to the Nissan Qashqai and Mitsubishi ASX. In fact, for the price of the diesel model (which starts at around £24,000) you could have a base-spec Audi Q3 2.0 TDI – a more desirable car with a quality interior and a more comfortable ride. However, high-spec models get plenty of kit, including Bluetooth, an iPod connection, leather, dual air-con and a six-speaker stereo.
In terms of fuel economy and CO2 emissions, the XV 2.0D is on a par with rival models with similar power outputs. It returns 50.4mpg and emits 146g/km, which means a theoretical range of 670-miles between fill ups. The 1.6 and 2.0-litre petrol models emit 151g/km and 160g/km respectively with a manual gearbox, and 146g/km and 153g/km respectively with the CVT automatic gearbox. If you plan on covering big miles the diesel model will prove cheaper in the long run, otherwise the cheaper purchase price and fact that unleaded is cheaper per litre means that either petrol is a better option.