Subaru XV SUV
"The Subaru XV is a practical family car with standard four-wheel drive, but ultimately it's a niche choice"
- Standard four-wheel drive
- Robust build quality
- Good to drive
- Small boot
- Some cheap trim
- Limited engine choice
The Subaru XV is regarded as an SUV, if only because there's no more obvious category to place it in. It actually looks more like a pumped-up estate car, with a similar style to the smaller Subaru Levorg, but a taller roof and raised ride height. It looks sportier and less bulky than more conventional SUVs, and this gives it a unique appeal compared to its Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sportage, Skoda Karoq and Hyundai Tucson rivals. With Subaru's rally-winning pedigree, it's in with a chance of drawing buyers away from the premium Audi Q3, Mercedes GLA and BMW X2, as well.
The Subaru XV is now into its second generation, and while the latest car looks very similar to its predecessor, the two actually have very little in common. There have been gains in practicality, with the boot growing to 385 litres, but this is still small compared to most of its rivals.
The latest XV is definitely more modern and attractive inside, though, with tactile soft-touch materials lifting the interior ambience. Everything feels well assembled and the layout is generally logical – although the controls of some rivals are more intuitive to operate. The eight-inch infotainment touchscreen displays graphics that are clear and simple to understand, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included.
Automatic LED headlights, heated power-folding mirrors and heated front seats are standard on all models, while adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance are all enabled by Subaru's clever EyeSight cameras mounted below the rear-view mirror.
There's no diesel engine option for the XV – its core engine is a 2.0-litre petrol with 154bhp, and a 112bhp 1.6-litre petrol is also available. Neither is especially economical, though – 35.3mpg from the 1.6-litre is the best you can expect.
A mild-hybrid e-Boxer model was added to the XV range in 2019. It uses a 148bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine in combination with an electric motor that’s powered by a small battery located under the boot floor, allowing for pure-electric driving at speeds of up to 25mph. Official fuel economy figures don’t improve massively, with a claimed WLTP figure of 35.7mpg. All engines feature a continuously variable transmission (CVT) as standard.
Some rivals are both more powerful and more fuel-efficient, but the XV does have four-wheel drive as standard – something that some SUVs don't even offer as an option. The XV's X-Mode system puts its four driven wheels to good use, providing extra control when driving off-road. Factor in a hill-descent assistance system and the XV will take you further off the beaten track than most of its rivals.
An upright stance ensures the XV is roomy for passengers, but the boot is on the small side. Despite this, a practical shape makes it possible to make good use of the luggage space, so most families shouldn’t have any issues.
Subaru finished strongly in our 2019 Driver Power survey, with the brand finishing in sixth place for owner satisfaction and the XV sitting at 50th place in our best cars to own list.This should provide reassurance, as will the car's five-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating, which came after the XV set a top result in Japanese testing.
The Subaru XV may not be an obvious family SUV choice, but makes a genuinely interesting alternative to the usual suspects. If your active lifestyle makes real off-road ability desirable, it could be worth considering. Those for whom SUVs appeal on style alone, though, will find better value for money elsewhere.