Just testing: Subaru XV 1.6i SE Premium Lineartronic

Subaru’s prize-winning junior SUV impresses in all sorts of ways, says our motoring expert

By Tim Gibson

Full disclosure: I used to own a Mk1 Subaru XV and sold it after a year because I just couldn’t get on with it. The finish was plasticky, the ride quality poor and a series of irritating niggles like the heated seats timing out and the fiddly Bluetooth connection undermined its rugged go-anywhere appeal.

    Within minutes of climbing into the cabin I was assured that it’s a quantum leap forward from the car it replaces.  

But that was the old vehicle, and everything I’d read about the new model suggested it was an altogether more appealing proposition.

For example, trusted specialist SUV magazine 4x4 named the XV its “Crossover Estate of the Year” earlier in 2019, praising its safety, refinement and value for money. Editor Alan Kidd described the car as a “very, very fine vehicle with a price tag that makes it the best 4x4 estate you can buy.”

That’s as good an endorsement as any, so I was eager to get my hands on the new vehicle and find out about its qualities for myself.

I wasn’t disappointed. Within minutes of climbing into the cabin I was assured that it’s a quantum leap forward from the car it replaces. The trim is well made, logically laid out and a pleasure to use. The switchgear feels as if it will last a lifetime, and even though it may not have the premium feel of a Skoda, say, or a VW, there’s an underlying sense of quality and longevity.

It’s a similar story with the seats. Although they look as if they could be hard and unwelcoming thanks to sports bolsters and bright-orange stitching, they’re surprisingly supple. The sort of seat you snuggle into rather than rest upon, soft leather gently cosseting your body as you settle in for the ride.

The trouble with some seats like this is that the comfort diminishes as your journey progresses. Within an hour you realise there’s little support, making the seat akin to the battered armchair at your Nan’s that feels amazing while quietly ruining your posture.

But the XV’s seats are different. They manage to be both instantly comfortable and fantastically supportive for the long haul. Up there with the splendid seats in the Volvo XC40 and Vauxhall Mokka X, which is praise indeed.

Here’s another area of vast improvement on the new XV: ride quality. Whereas the old model was twitchy and unsettled even on fairly flat roads, and exhausting on the motorway, this new version is amazingly poised. I say “amazingly” because you have to remember the elevated ride height and all-round four-wheel drive that are key features of the XV offer. This car has comparable ground clearance to a Land Rover Freelander, and a wading depth that exceeds the unstoppable Defender. It’s a bona fide SUV, dressed up in hatchback clothing.

For me, that’s a massive appeal. While I enjoy the hulking mass of a proper 4x4 and relish the chance of driving a pick-up like the Isuzu D-Max, I remain a boy racer at heart. Stick me in a souped-up hatch and I’m happier than a politician in a House of Commons subsidised bar.

    It’s a bona fide SUV, dressed up in hatchback clothing.  

That said, I also enjoy driving down dirt tracks and exploring the countryside, which is what makes the XV so desirable. It can do that just as well as cutting in a racing line on a quiet road or cruising along the M1 at 70mph (where the adaptive cruise control makes a huge contribution to driver convenience). It really does offer the best of both worlds.

The 1.6-litre petrol engine on my test car is a little on the wheezy side for a vehicle of this size. I’d love to get my hands on the 2.0-litre variant, or the all-new XV e-Boxer hybrid with its promise of instant torque and enhanced fuel economy. In these two guises, I fancy the XV may be one of the best all-round vehicles money can buy.

Which reminds me of another thing I appreciate about the new XV: its price. You can have a brand-new one on your drive with a five-year 100,000-mile warranty for around £25,000. Ex-demos and quality used examples are already changing hands for a lot less. That’s a huge amount of bang for your buck. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say it’s one of the best value quality cars available in the UK right now.

Don’t assume from this that the XV feels cheap. It doesn’t, and it isn’t. If you want low-cost SUV motoring, go for the afore-mentioned Mokka X or a Ssangyong Korando. But if you want a car that tells the world you have taste, no small amount of class and a genuine appreciation of build quality and reliability, the Subaru XV is the place to look.

But of course I would say that, given that I’ve owned one. And in the spirit of full disclosure: on the strength of this vehicle, I’d absolutely do so again. I’d expect to keep the new one for a lot longer than a year, too.

On test

  • Subaru XV 1.6i SE Premium Lineartronic
  • 114PS
  • 35.3mpg combined (official figures)
  • 0-62mph in 13.9 seconds
  • 157g/km CO2 emissions
  • Price: £27,325

Tim Gibson has written about cars for 25 years. His work regularly appears in The Daily Telegraph and other national media.

Published: 27 September 2019

© 2019 Just Recruitment Group Ltd

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