Subaru XV 2.0 petrol

Our verdict on the petrol versions of Subaru’s new Qashqai rival

Overall Auto Express Rating

2.0 out of 5

Although the petrol Subaru XVs are decent performers, they’re outshone by the diesel. The CVT gearbox is noisy and unresponsive – avoid it at all costs. This car makes a lot of sense for Subaru and should attract new customers to the brand. However, it doesn’t excel in any key area – price, practicality or comfort – which means most buyers will find something better elsewhere.

The 2.0-litre boxer diesel model we tested last week is expected to be the biggest-selling Subaru XV, but there are also two updated petrol engines. The 1.6 and 2.0-litre boxers are available with either a manual or a revised Lineartronic CVT auto gearbox. We’ve driven both.

The 2.0-litre offers pretty good straight-line performance, but the punchy diesel model is 1.4 seconds quicker from 0-62mph. The petrol car is less efficient, too – its 42.8mpg average is 7.6mpg worse than the diesel’s, although the petrol is around £2,000 cheaper. There’s a distinctive thrum from the engine bay on the move, but any sporty note is drowned out by the whine of the CVT gearbox.

It’s not just the noise that makes this transmission frustrating. Although Subaru has put some simulated steps into the gear ratios, controlled by wheel-mounted paddles, the throttle response is blunt and you never really find yourself in the engine’s sweet spot.

The only plus point is fuel economy – a CVT-equipped 2.0-litre petrol model returns 1.9mpg more than a manual XV. But that’s a small gain when laid against such dramatic compromises in the driving experience.

It’s a similar story with the 1.6-litre engine. It produces only 111bhp, so progress is even more of a struggle. That’s a shame, because Subaru put a lot of effort into developing the XV’s chassis to out-handle the competition. This really shows on twisty country roads.

The permanent four-wheel drive helps it grip hard in corners, the steering is light yet precise and the body resists roll brilliantly, making this a surprisingly fun car to drive fast. Unfortunately, the pay-off for this is a harsh ride, which is a bad call on Subaru’s part. It’s difficult to imagine the typical XV buyer valuing dynamic prowess more than good ride comfort.

The chunky exterior styling sits somewhere between existing Subaru SUVs – the rugged Forester and Outlander – and more premium rivals, such as the Audi Q3. It’s an attractive look, and the new design of alloys adds some sparkle to the overall effect.

Regrettably, the same can’t be said of the interior. Subaru has gone for a classy feel, with soft-touch dash and door trim, plus the layout is uncluttered and logical. But there’s still far too much hard, scratchy plastic in places that owners will come into contact with every day.

Rear legroom is generous and the 380-litre boot is average for the class – which sums up the XV rather neatly. It’s a brave departure for Subaru, but fails to offer anything new or exciting.

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