Subaru XV review

Our Rating: 
2012 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The Subaru XV is the firm's first foray into the compact SUV class, and offers plenty of space, sleek looks and sharp handling

Sharp handling, rugged design, spacious interior
Unsettled ride, cheap interior plastics, noisy engines

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The Subaru XV is the firm's attempt to boost dwindling sales figures in Europe, by targeting the lucrative small SUV segment. It’s pitched at rivals such as the Nissan Qashqai, Mitsubishi ASX and Hyundai ix35, but top-spec cars overlap on price with more premium rivals like the Audi Q3 and BMW X1, too. There’s a choice of a 2.0-litre petrol engine, with CVT or manual gearboxes, and a 2.0-litre boxer diesel. All models get Subaru’s legendary permanent AWD as standard.

Our choice: XV 2.0D SE

Engines, performance and drive


Subaru has a reputation for building cars that handle well and the XV continues the trend. It’s more fun than you might think on twisting back roads, thanks to the sharp steering and tight body control, but the unwanted trade-off is a harsh ride and noisy suspension. The petrol engine provides decent pace, but the CVT gearbox is noisy and unresponsive, so we’d go for the manual. The diesel, which revs cleanly and has plenty of torque, is by far the best engine choice although the narrow power band means you’ll be using the smooth six-speed manual gearbox fairly often. The 4x4 system is very rugged though and because of the XV's low weight it feels really secure tackling rough terrain that would leave its crossover rivals stuck and stranded.

MPG, CO2 and running costs


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 is far from class-leading, but means a theoretical range of 670 miles between fill ups. The 2.0-litre petrol model emits 160g/km when fitted with a manual gearbox, and 153g/km if you choose the CVT automatic gearbox – a small improvement in efficiency but a big sacrifice in drivability. If you plan on covering big miles the diesel model will prove cheaper in the long run, otherwise either petrol is the smarter option. Despite coming with a reasonable amount of kit poor residuals and very high list prices mean the XV is a lot more expensive than a Skoda Yeti.

Interior, design and technology


With rough and ready models like the Forester and Outback, styling is always less of a consideration, but to attract more style-conscious buyers the Subaru XV gets a sleeker profile. The hexagonal grille and ‘hawk eye’ headlights are typical of the firm, while the plastic cladding and jutting rear bumper give the XV good road presence. All cars get 17-inch alloys as standard while diesels get the smart and functional roof rails too. On the inside, a minimalist but logical layout, with three large air-con dials and two information screens, is let down by cheap scratchy plastics that look a decade old - not an attractive feature on any brand new car.

Practicality, comfort and boot space


Lift the tailgate and the XV has a 380-litre boot, which is smaller than the Nissan Qashqai. But fold the seats flat and that expands into a 1,270-litre load area which should cater comfortably for a family’s needs. The leading edge of the boot floor can be lifted up and hooked to the lip of the tailgate, providing a smooth ramp for sliding bags into the boot. Wide door openings offer easy access to the interior, while the permanent four-wheel drive means the XV will be able to tackle adverse weather conditions better than a traditional front-wheel drive family hatchback and in really tricky conditions it can shift power from one set of wheels to whichever have the most grip almost instantly.

Reliability and Safety


The well-established Forester and Outback have endowed Subaru with a reputation for building reliable and rugged SUVs, so there’s no reason to think the XV won’t stand up well to daily driving and the wear and tear of everyday life. The interior plastics, although cheap to look at and unyielding to the touch, are robust. The XV comes with a good selection of safety kit too, including ABS, traction control, seven airbags, retractable pedals and a collapsible steering column. It has already scored the full five stars in its Euro NCAP crash test, including an impressive score of 90 per cent for child occupant protection. Every Subaru except the WRX STI now comes with a five year warranty included in the price.

Last updated: 5 May, 2012