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Subaru XV 2.0 SE Premium 2018 review

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Subaru XV 2.0 SE Premium 2018 review


What is it?
This is the new, second-generation model of the Subaru XV, the Japanese brand's smallest SUV, sampled in Europe for the first time ahead of UK sales beginning in January 2018.

You know what you’re going to get with Subaru, and there are no surprises here. The XV combines all-wheel drive, boxer engines and boxy design, as pretty much all of its predecessors have since the brand arrived in the UK three decades ago. As such, it will seem reassuringly familiar to the company’s small but loyal customer base, although it will likely struggle to exert a broader appeal among more lifestyle-ish crossovers. 

No matter: Subaru is keen to stress that the XV should still be considered a proper off-roader rather than a pretend one. As such, it has good ground clearance, permanent all-wheel drive instead of a part-time system and hill descent control as standard. That’s enough to stand out as something close to a USP in this segment these days.

Although its design looks very similar to that of the old XV, this car is almost entirely new, in terms of structure at least, sitting on the same Subaru Global Platform that underpins the new Impreza. As such, it's stronger and considerably safer than its predecessor, having recently received one of the highest NCAP scores recorded to date.

The mechanical side of the package is more familiar. There are only two engines to choose from, both naturally aspirated petrol boxers. Subaru’s soon-to-die horizontally opposed diesel won’t be offered. The entry-level 1.6-litre has just 110bhp, while the 2.0-litre makes a more respectable 151bhp.

A six-speed manual gearbox is offered in some markets, but it won’t be coming to Europe, with a CVT automatic our only choice. Apparently, this is because the manual won’t work with Subaru’s active safety Eyesight system, a vital part of that NCAP rating.

Prices start at £24,995 for the 1.6 SE and rise to £28,495 for the range-topping 2.0 SE Premium.
What's it like?
While there’s still much to like about the XV, including the fact that Subaru is one of an ever decreasing number of car makers to offer something truly different, there are some fairly substantial flaws as well.

Principal among those is the powertrain. There’s no surprise that the entry-level 1.6-litre is gutless; Subaru admits to a yawning 13.9sec 0-62mph time, and on the road, the engine lacks both punch and sparkle. Overtaking moves that would be effortless in almost any other car become marginal in this XV. Subaru acknowledges that its appeal will be limited, reckoning it will likely take less than 20% of British XV sales.

And although the 2.0-litre unit is better, it’s still not very good. It lacks the low-down torque of its turbocharged rivals – at the last count, all of them – and needs to be pushed hard to deliver good acceleration. The motor sounds loud and surprisingly harsh when extended, with none of the aural appeal that used to characterise Subaru’s products. It takes a perverse talent to make a boxer engine sound this ordinary.

The gearbox is decent by CVT standards. That's faint praise indeed, but despite having seven programmed 'ratios' to try and make it feel like a conventional automatic, it still suffers from slurred changes under harder use and slushy reactions that negate the engine’s crisp responses. This is particularly noticeable off-road, where it becomes hard to regulate speed when trying to crawl over lumpier obstacles.

As we've said, though, there are still plenty of good things about the XV. It handles with a tidy competence and a lack of slop; understeer is resisted impressively well for something a car of size and shape, and the all-wheel drive system finds impressive traction even when asked to deal with mud and snow. This XV is much more refined than its predecessor at cruising speeds and rides extremely well, too, soaking up broken surfaces at speeds that would shake most crossovers to pieces.

It’s practical, too, with decent space in both the front and back as well as a well-proportioned boot. The interior design still feels pretty old-fashioned, but materials feel a measure plusher than the scratchy ones in the old XV.

The Eyesight system works well, too, spotting obstacles and reacting without ever seeming over-keen. 
Should I buy one?
Standard equipment is generous and, with that factored in, the XV looks like reasonable value compared to crossover alternatives. Even the entry-level 1.6 SE gets Eyesight, active headlights and an infotainment touchscreen with Android and Apple integration. Plusher SE Premium adds leather trim, electrically adjustable seats and a sunroof.

But the XV feels like a sermon delivered to the choir, a car aimed squarely at the brand’s faithful followers. Anyone coming from the previous XV or an older Subaru will find a car that is incrementally improved in almost every regard. But it doesn't do much to broaden the brand’s appeal to less ardent believers, with indifferent performance, poor fuel economy, uncompetitive CO2 emissions and an unaccomplished gearbox, plus a design that’s more utilitarian than chic.

A turbocharged engine will be introduced reasonably soon, and that will likely improve matters, but if Subaru wants to improve on its miniscule 0.2% share of the UK's new car market, it will have to create cars with more mainstream appeal than this.

Subaru XV 2.0 SE Premium

Where Riga, Latvia On sale Now Price £28,495 Engine 1995cc, flat-four, petrol Power 151bhp at 6000rpm Torque 144lb ft at 4000rpm Gearbox CVT Kerbweight 1439kg Top speed 120mph 0-62mph 10.4sec Fuel economy 40.9mpg CO2 rating 155g/km Rivals Nissan Qashqai, Seat Ateca

Subaru XV 2.0 SE Premium 2018 review


Subaru XV 2.0 SE Premium 2018 review


Subaru XV 2.0 SE Premium 2018 review



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