Professional road testers dont rate the Subaru XV; a carwow score of 5.6 places it very firmly in the must-try-harder camp (or the take-it-outside-and-shoot-it camp if youre feeling harsh). The crossover/SUV class is one of the toughest marketplaces to compete in and many think that the XVs talents are too thinly spread to make it a contender for most families.
I like Subarus utility models though and believe that the Forester and Outback are hugely under-rated by the mainstream motoring media. After spending a week with an XV, I can lay to rest the question of whether it is misunderstood – or a bit of a lemon…
The XV takes the generic crossover shape and softens it into something unthreatening and, well, a bit bland. Thats not necessarily a bad thing – but then it isnt a good thing, either.
My special edition Black features Crystal Black Silica paint along with silver resin guards front and back, silver sill trims, rear privacy glass and HID headlights. The changes are subtle, but noticeable and Id rather have them than not, even if they are more for decoration than protection.
The Black changes to the interior extend to, er, rubber mats, but thats ok, as there was nothing wrong with the standard level of trim in the first place.
So you get loads of air bags, heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers with a de-icing function, Bluetooth, rear vision camera, paddle-shifting for the CVT gearbox, stop/start, and air-con. Everything you need, in other words.
And its not a bad place to be, either as its lofty and comfortable and ergonomically sound even if it does feel a bit cheap in places, not least around the steering wheel shroud; there is a bit of black rubber to hide the telescopic steering column that wouldnt look out of place on an abattoirs freezer door.
Some of the plastic trim looks a bit industrial too but this is a relatively cheap car so it can be forgiven and it should be durable and easy to clean, which might be more important in a family car.
The XV is a bit of a plodder on the road. It doesnt do anything badly but then it doesnt do anything very well, either. The CVT gearbox, which should provide a seamlessly variable gear ratio, has artificial steps instead and is sometimes jerky in use, jolting into top gear when I wanted it to be unobtrusive.
But that is the extent of my gripes. The petrol engine is quiet enough and has enough power for the driver to be able to overtake with only a modicum of planning and it handles neatly enough that no-one will find much to complain about.
Seventeen-inch wheels with 55 profile tyres would normally be a recipe for a hard, jolting ride but that isnt the case; it rides very well, smothering potholes and poor road surfaces with aplomb.
I didnt take it off road but the symmetrical four-wheel-drive system and raised suspension, allied to Subarus legendary off-road experience, should make it a good choice for those who need to stray from high-friction tarmac.
The 150PS petrol engine develops 145 lb/ft of torque, enough to reach 62mph in 10.7 seconds and a top speed of 116mph. It does so in a pleasant enough fashion and is quiet enough that youll rarely notice whats going on under the bonnet.
Subaru claims that you get 42.8 mpg, but you wont. If you get 30mpg youll be doing well but then Subarus are known for being a bit thirsty…
Value for Money
The Black edition adds 1,600s worth of extra equipment for which buyers pay a 1,000 over the existing SE models. Only you can judge whether that represents good value to you but if you are feeling a bit impoverished I can tell you that Ive never driven an standard SE and felt that I was lacking anything important.
The real bargain is that the 147 PS diesel – which serves up a very respectable 258 lb-ft of torque delivered through a six-speed manual gearbox – costs just 500 more than the CVT petrol. Thats very good value for money and should be the most popular model as a result. CO2 emissions are 153 g/km for the petrol and 146 for the diesel, placing them into VED classes G and F respectively.
The XV is a disappointingly average car. It does nothing badly, but nothing spectacularly well. Its tough and beautifully engineered but lacks sparkle and any kind of (car)wow factor.
Where Subarus other models are intelligent and unique, the XV seems to have been built in a hurry to exploit the SUV/crossover class that Middle England aspires to. Thats a shame, because Subaru owners have traditionally prided themselves on being a bit left field and independently-minded enough not to follow the herd.
If I was buying an XV and there is much to like and very little to dislike Id go for the manual diesel. Its only 500 more than the car I drove and will be, if my experience in Foresters and Outbacks holds true for the XV, much nicer to drive and more economical. Itll tow more too; 1,600kg against 1,200, making it the default option for anyone who needs to tow a horsebox or a medium-sized caravan.
Still interested in the Subaru XV? Head over to our full summary review for more reviews, photos, videos and stats.