An increasing number of manufacturers are offering all-wheel drive on their SUVs and claiming an increase in off-road prowess. The truth of the matter is that some of these cars can be defeated by damp grass on a slight gradient. Subaru has long stood for no nonsense, permanent all-wheel drive capability, but in today’s fashion conscious world of SUVs, can the Subaru XV deliver on both style and substance? Competition is tough from class favourites such as the best-selling Nissan Qashqai, super-practical Skoda Karoq and stylish Peugeot 3008.
|Price: From £24,995-£26,570
Did you know? Over 99% of all Subaru cars built in the last decade are still on the road.
There is no denying that the Subaru XV is one of, if not the most, capable off-road car in its class. The brand’s reputation for rugged transport that will get you to where you need to go — no matter how treacherous the terrain — lives on in this SUV.
This car also majors on safety tech with an impressive list of equipment that comes as standard. Subaru clearly has its priorities right and puts some rivals to shame in this department.
The XV makes a sacrifice in terms of economy for its permanent all-wheel drive, and a total lack of diesel options puts it at a big disadvantage to much of the competition. High day-to-day running costs will discourage many.
A Nissan Qashqai is more fuel efficient and a Peugeot 3008 better suited to family life, in fact most people will take the Subaru’s all-terrain underpinnings for granted. Arguably the majority won’t even need them… Right up until the moment you do. When you need to be somewhere but Mother Nature has other ideas, you’ll be grateful for the engineering beneath you.
Unmatched all-terrain capability
Lots of standard equipment
We Don't Like
It’s fair to say that the Subaru XV isn’t going to be winning a beauty pageant any time soon, but its functional looks embody the ethos of this car. Short overhangs boost off-road capabilities, plastic cladding protects the body and its raised ride height isn’t there to signify status on the school run. There’s no bling encrusted grille or fancy light displays, just simplicity.
The previous generation XV was quite a funky-looking thing with Tonka Truck looks, but the new car is considerably more grownup. Clean lines add sophistication, as does a tasteful amount of chrome. You can have larger 18-inch alloy wheels if you want, and even they come with practical, high side walls that’ll help protect from kerbing.
While this honesty in design is refreshing, many buy an SUV for the statement it makes on their driveway. Parked next to a Peugeot 3008, the Subaru looks a bit boring. Even the more subtle Nissan Qashqai has greater kerbside appeal.
Not everyone wants an attention-grabbing family car, but those people are in the minority when it comes to SUVs.
The mature design continues when you enter the cabin with neat contours and chromed accents to things like air vents. Contrasting stitching across the range injects a bit of character, as does the distinctive trip computer crowning the dashboard for all to see.
Generally speaking, material quality is good with most things that fall to hand having a soft textured surface. There’s a really durable feel to the interior that bodes well for longevity. It’s just a shame that bridging some of the pleasant materials are some cheap-looking plastics that let the design down somewhat.
There’s plenty of adjustability in the seat and wheel, and the seats themselves are more sporting than many rivals with plenty of bolstering around you.
There’s plenty of storage in the XV ranging from a good sized glove box (a rarity these day) to a large central cubby under the armrest. A neat shelf ahead of the gear leaver is ideal for a mobile phone as it sits just below a USB socket, something you’ll need to plug into to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Ergonomics are good with large buttons and dials making the switchgear easy to use on the move. Visibility is better than many competitors thanks to a good size rear window and thin A-pillars that offer a clear view out onto junctions.
Rear passengers have some space to stretch out with ample leg-room, but those of the taller variety might find head room wanting. The middle occupant also has to contend with a sizeable transmission hump in the floor. If keeping your passengers comfy is high on your priorities list, the Nissan Qashqai does a far better job. It’s a similar story for boot space with the Subaru providing 380-litres of space vs a Skoda Karoq’s 588 litres of space (not to mention much more versatile sliding and removable rear seats). There is some underfloor storage and rear seats can be folded almost flat to provide enough space for a bike. That said, protruding wheel arches means the shape of the boot isn’t square.
Every Subaru XV comes with a respectable level of tech that includes an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment display. Said display features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth and DAB radio. The screen is responsive and the software easy to navigate, it’s just a shame that you have to go for a top spec car for it to include satellite navigation. Keyless entry, dual zone climate control and a reversing camera won’t cost you a penny.
Stepping up a trim level gets you sat-nav, paddle shifters to shuffle though the CVT gearbox’s false ratios and electrically adjustable seats.
The Subaru XV comes with a choice of two petrol engines, both Subaru’s signature boxer arrangement and each offered with a CVT transmission. Every car gets the brand’s permanent symmetrical all-wheel drive system for added all-terrain security.
The entry 1.6-litre gets 112bhp, but isn’t particularly quick with a 0-62mph time of 13.9 seconds. It’s the most efficient engine of the range though, claiming 44mpg combined - not a million miles off the equivalent petrol Qashqai, which isn’t even offered with all-wheel drive.
The larger 2.0-litre petrol with 154bhp doesn’t feel fast, either, but does have some added grunt for overtaking on the motorway. Its CVT is one of the more refined that we’ve sampled, being smooth and simulating behaviour much more akin to a conventional automatic gearbox. However, hard acceleration reveals the characteristic mooing noise as the revs soar with very little gain in speed. The Boxer engine can sound gruff when governed by the CVT, but top spec cars do get paddle shifters to click through false ratios and reign in the revs. At cruising speed things are much more refined.
Where the Subaru XV really shines is when you swap the beaten track for paths most cars dare not tread. Subaru’s off-road reputation precedes it and the XV is equipped to continue the lineage. Permanent all-wheel drive, hill descent control and surface sensing X-Mode is enough to climb steep gradients and tackle the muddiest of bogs. This car’s predecessor was incredibly impressive off-road and so it comes as no surprise that this latest XV shares that DNA.
Fans of diesel won’t find what they’re looking for in the XV as Subaru isn’t offering an oil burner — surprising as the low-down torque of such an engine is ideal for tackling obstacles off road.
Not everyone buying an all-wheel drive car is looking to go all Bear Grylls, but it’s reassuring to know that if the weather does take a turn for the worst, you’re not going to be stranded. We happened to be testing the XV when a considerable snowstorm hit the UK and while the country ground to a halt, the Subaru didn’t and even helped another car stranded in the snow. Some SUVs are only offered with front wheel-drive, such as the Peugeot 3008, which will be fine for the majority. However, all-wheel drive is very much something you take for granted right up until the moment it gets you out of trouble.
Many SUV owners will want to tow a trailer or caravan, but that’s something of an Achilles heel for the XV. It’s max barked towing capacity is just 1,400kg, some 600kg down on the equivalent Seat Ateca.
Handling and comfort
Considering that the XV is equipped to deal with many of Mother Nature’s obstacles, its suspension serves it well on tarmac too. At low speed a particularly nasty pothole might jiggle occupants, but things become much more cosseting as you get up to the speed limit. Around town it’ll soak up most lumps and bumps without fuss, making for a comfortable ride.
The Subaru XV feels surefooted and stable when the going gets twisty. There’s ample grip and an abundance of traction thanks to all four wheels being powered. This sense of security is also boosted by the XV keeping its lateral motion in check. There’s some roll, but due to the flat nature of its boxer engine, much of the car’s weight is kept low in the chassis. The steering is well weighted at lower speeds but feels a bit nervous at higher speeds, so in this respect cars such as the Nissan Qashqai and Seat Ateca are better all-rounders.
Around town the XV offers good visibility thanks to larger windows and thin pillars. The standard reversing camera also makes parking a doddle.
Engine choice: 1.6-litre i-DTEC
The Subaru XV prides itself on being one of the safest cars in its class. Euro NCAP gave it five stars during crash testing where it scored 94% for adult occupants and 89% for children.
A big reason for its excellent ratings is the vast amount of safety kit that comes as standard, in fact there’s no optional safety equipment. An airbag for just about every part of the body, Active Emergency Braking that also detects pedestrians, Isofix points, adaptive cruse control that’ll keep you a safe distance from the car ahead and lane keep assist comes with every car. It’s an impressive list that many rivals struggle to match.
Many of these systems come courtesy of a set of binocular cameras called EyeSight that sit below the interior mirror. Like your own eyes they can judge depth and track moving objects such as people or animals.
The EyeSight safety system also includes adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist and a warning if the car ahead of you pulls away when you’re not paying attention. The only problem with the camera-based system is that if the camera can’t see, the systems don’t always work. They can be compromised or not work at all at night or in poor weather – much more so than the laser and/or radar equivalents used in many rivals.
The Subaru XV comes in your choice of six colours, mainly made up of shades of grey and blue. If you’re feeling adventurous there’s also an eye catching red. Annoyingly ‘Cool Grey Khaki’ can only be had on Premium models.
If you don’t want to pay for paint you’ll have to stick to Crystal White as everything else is £550.
It’s nice and easy when it comes to XV spec as there are only two trim levels and no confusing options list. All you need to do is pick which suits you best and a colour.
SE might be the entry trim, but that doesn’t mean those who choose it must live in poverty. Every car comes with symmetrical all-wheel drive, CVT automatic transmission, hill descent control, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, adaptive cruise control and all of the EyeSight safety tech. You don’t even have to pay for the 8-inch touchscreen or keyless entry! Standard equipment on the XV is generous indeed.
Opt for a Premium car and you’ll get added trinkets such as a sunroof, leather heated seats and satellite navigation. Is it worth the £2k price jump over the already well endowed SE? We don’t think so.
If you want 18-inch alloy wheels you’ll need to go for a 2.0-litre model.
Size and Dimensions
Max towing weight unbraked
Having permanent all-wheel drive has many benefits when the going gets tough, but it does have a few drawbacks —one of them being fuel economy.
Of the two petrol boxer engines the 1.6-litre is most efficient claiming up to 44mpg combined. The 2.0-litre car is around 41mpg, but in reality it’s closer to 28mpg.
If you want a petrol engine and four-wheel drive then you’re better off looking to the 1.5 TSI Skoda Karoq or 2.0 TSI Seat Ateca, which won’t be as unstoppable off road since they both have on-demand all-wheel drive, but they’ll do a fine job in all but the most severe conditions and they’re usefully faster yet cheaper to run.
Peugeot’s 1.2-litre in the 3008 exceeds the smaller Subaru motor on power, but claims over 55mpg — although you can’t have the Peugeot with all-wheel drive. A diesel all-wheel drive Nissan Qashqai boast 58mpg further highlighting a lack of oil burning options for the Subaru. However you look at it, the Subaru struggles to justify its poor efficiency.
At least insurance costs are on a par with all the relevant rivals.
Reliability and servicing
The good news is that Subaru has a reputation for bulletproof reliability. Over 99% of all Subaru cars built in the last decade are still on the road. It’s well known that these cars can take a beating and so you can buy with confidence in this regard.
Every Subaru gets a five-year 100,000 mile warranty at no cost. That’s pretty impressive as most rivals offer three years of cover at best.
The Subaru XV starts from £25k which is on the pricey side when you look at the entry model of key competitors, however, this SUV comes loaded with kit that would otherwise be optional. A Peugeot 3008 in Allure trim can give it a run for its money in terms of equipment, but a lack of all-wheel drive makes it less capable. An equivalent spec Nissan Qashqai with all-wheel drive works out to be around £2k more costly.
Subaru’s PCP deals aren’t as flexible as some other brands, but they do allow repayments over 49 months, notably longer than Peugeot or Nissan. That means a 1.6-litre XV can come in at around £330 a month with a £2k deposit. That’s pretty pricey when you look at cars like the Seat Ateca which, in FR trim with all-wheel drive and a more powerful petrol engine, comes to £367 over three years. Seat will also let you spread the cost over a longer period — a 42 month contract comes to the same £330 as the Subaru’s four-year plan.
Company car buyers will bemoan the lack of diesel engines for their superior fuel economy over greater distances. The 1.6 clocks BIK of 30% or about £250 a month at 40% tax for 2018/19, or the 2.0-litre comes in at £275, while the Skoda Karoq 1.5 TSI DSG SE L (which is usefully faster than the 2.0-litre but isn’t yet available with four-wheel drive) comes in at £222.
The entry level car comes with all of the tech you could want except for sat-nav.
SE might be the most affordable, but it is very well equipped as standard.
Premium cars add leather heated seats and a few other luxuries, but are they worth the extra £2K? That’ll depend upon how warm you want your bottom to be.
It might only be front-wheel drive, but it comes loaded with kit and offers a good range of efficient engines.
All-wheel drive models can become pricey, but it’s still one of the best in this class.
Class leading seven-year warranty, but its engines aren’t as efficient as some rivals.
The Ateca represents excellent value for money and a is a solid all-rounder. It can even be had with all-wheel drive.
Arguably the best car in its class, the Karoq delivers on refinement, versatility and quality.