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Car group tests

Subaru XV vs Kia Sportage

Crossovers are big news in the UK, so we see if the new Subaru XV can beat the class-leading Kia Sportage

Subaru XV vs Kia Sportage

Does the world need another compact crossover? Subaru thinks so – and believes its new XV can offer something genuinely different in this class.

Balancing the brand’s core strengths while attracting a whole new audience is no easy task, but the XV has the right attributes. It features Subaru’s trademark all-wheel-drive hardware and flat-four engines, yet has a brave new look, the promise of low emissions and improved quality.

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Subaru expects the XV to be its best-selling model by the middle of next year, so the pressure is on. Here we test the boxer diesel, which will account for two-thirds of sales.

We could have picked any number of rivals, but to test the XV’s mettle we’ve lined it up against a current favourite: the Kia Sportage. In desirable KX-3 trim this stylish car has permanent four-wheel drive, a punchy 2.0-litre diesel and is packed with kit. It should be a close contest.

Verdict

Breaking into this class is tougher than ever given the sheer number of talented crossovers on the market. Subaru has made a bold effort to offer something different from the norm with the XV, but in doing so, it has misjudged what small SUV buyers are looking for.

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The car lacks the badge kudos of an Audi Q3, the off-road reputation of a Land Rover Freelander 2 or the keen value for money of the Sportage. While the XV is priced to compete with all of these cars, it beats none of them.

You can sense the depth of engineering beneath the Subaru’s chunky bodywork, and the entertaining driving experience is what we’ve come to expect from the brand. But the dated cabin will be enough to deter most buyers before they’ve even taken a test drive. That’s a shame, because the new aftersales package shows that Subaru is trying hard to compete with rivals’ long warranties – although it’s still not enough to tip the scales in the XV’s favour.

The Kia Sportage is one of the best crossovers around and comfortably beats the Subaru in this contest. It can do pretty much everything the XV can do over rough terrain, but is quieter, more comfortable and much more refined. Best of all, it’s cheaper and better equipped than the Subaru.

Winner
Kia Sportage
★★★★

Another victory for the Kia – and proof that Japanese manufacturers need to take notes from their Korean counterparts. The Sportage feels like a quality product inside and out. It doesn’t match the XV for raw driver appeal, but its softer set-up and greater practicality make for a more rounded family car. The fact that it’s £1,670 cheaper and has stronger residuals widens the winning margin.

2nd
Subaru XV
★★

The XV has its charms. It’s well engineered, good to drive and highly capable off-road, but there are some glaring issues that are hard to ignore. Subaru seems to have wilfully ignored what buyers in this market want, and the hugely disappointing cabin, stiff ride and lack of refinement outweigh the positives. The high price and heavy depreciation mean it’s for committed Subaru fans only.

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