The Subaru XV is a rugged compact SUV that’s easy to drive, safe and also very capable on slippery roads. However, alternatives are more practical and cost less to buy and run
The Subaru XV is worth considering if you need a compact SUV that’s practical and not intimidating to drive, but also capable on slippery roads and muddy fields
Open the driver’s door and you’ll be greeted by a mostly black interior that’s livened up by contrast orange stitching. Large knobs and buttons ensure the dashboard is easy to use, but it isn’t as nicely built as the one you’ll find in the Skoda Karoq.
On the upside, the XV’s 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system is as big as the Karoq’s and comes with DAB radio and plenty of connectivity options such as Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Overall, the system in the Subaru is a tad more colourful and easier to use than the ones in other Japanese alternatives, but ultimately not as responsive as the Skoda’s system.
High-spec XV models get leather upholstery and front seats that look sporty but are actually comfortable. Space up front is good and you won’t struggle for headroom even if you’re tall. Move to the back seats and there’s a good amount of legroom and a decent amount of space above your head, too, provided your passengers aren’t much taller than six feet.
The XV is like a rock climber wearing business casuals – its off-road ability is there even if it’s hidden under average-hatchback body
Whatever size you are, when you’re driving the XV, you sit pretty upright and there aren’t any overly annoying blind spots when navigating tight city streets.
Take the XV out on a twisty country road and it feels more planted around tight corners than a Nissan Qashqai but the Subaru truly comes into its own when you venture off the beaten track. There, torque vectoring, a robust four-wheel-drive system and advanced hill-descent control make the most of what little traction there is.
Sadly, there aren’t many positives to be drawn from the Subaru’s engine range – you can only choose from two petrol models and neither are turbocharged – so they don’t have the effortless go offered by most alternatives. On top of that, both come with a CVT automatic gearbox that makes them produce a wearing flat groan under acceleration.
At least the XV’s safe, because the standard equipment includes emergency auto braking, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control and blind-spot alert.
So, if you get into the Subaru XV hoping it’s a Nissan Qashqai with a different badge you might be disappointed: it is neither as nicely built nor as cheap to run as the Qashqai. However, if you’re looking for a very safe, compact SUV that’s actually capable off-road, there are hardly any better choices.
If you want to look at some of the alternatives, scan through our list of The top 10 best SUVs on sale.