Sunday, 29 December 2013

REVIEW - Subaru XV SE

One of the most recent additions to the Subaru model line up is the XV. Launched in 2012, it aims to add Subaru's tried and tested 4WD system to the crossover market, which continues to provide popular family cars for consumers. But this is a market new to Subaru, so would the XV be able to stack up to rivals? And my test model featured a boxer diesel engine; which is new to me. So how would this work in the real world? Read on to find out.

Looks - 8/10

It is vital that a crossover isn't just a big boring car. And I had a good look round the XV when it arrived. On the outside, I think it's a remarkable success. It managed to be bold and rugged looking, whilst still employing curves and sweeping lines. And just take a look at those wheels. I'd hate to kerb them, but what a fantastic design they are. In particular they look good against some of the striking colours available; there's a bright orange available, which a quick Google search will reveal. And they looked good on my pearl white test car. The privacy glass adds a touch of class, and the rear end is definitely chunky. What I like best about the XV is that it looks equally at home in the urban jungle and rural back-o'-beyond.

Sadly this doesn't continue when you open the doors and climb inside the XV. The only way I can describe the interior of the XV is uninspiring and bland. With the bold exterior I would definitely have hoped for more. There's no shape to the seats, and the pattern is very nondescript. In the back there is just dark greys and blacks, which give a rather gloomy feel when added to the privacy glass. The dashboard has some silver trim, but not enough, and the plastics just look a bit cheap. The dials are nice, as is the steering wheel, but there is room for improvement to compete with more established rivals.

Handling/Performance - 8/10

The engine in my XV test car was the 2.0-litre boxer diesel engine, which I had not experienced before. The flat-four is brilliant as a petrol engine, but not as good as a diesel. It just lacks a sense of refinement. It's a smooth engine, but never really sounds it. Then again, the petrol has a notorious sound and that too never sounds smooth. The figures aren't too bad, with 147PS and 350Nm making for a 0-62mph time of 9.3 seconds and a top speed of 120mph. Power delivery is as you would expect, with the short power band characteristic of a diesel engine. Then there's the gearbox, which is notchy and felt like it had come off a tractor. That being said this is all forgotten once you start cruising on the motorway, when the XV becomes relaxing and a dream to drive.

The handling more than makes up for other shortcomings. This is as sure-footed as you would expect with Subaru's history of 4WD, and this makes sense in a crossover. The whole concept is a family car that is more than just an everyday hatchback, and the way the XV can handle itself when the going gets tough plays to this concept remarkably well. Take the ground clearance, which means you won't get stuck on a pine cone. In fact, I would bet the XV would be rather good in some seriously tricky conditions, so much so I bet it would beat a fair few of its rivals, which suddenly makes it seem a sensible choice. The ride is comfortable, and cornering ability is good. There is a bit of body roll- mostly because of the ride height- but this is not enough to worry you. In fact, it's probably because the XV is taking corners twice as fast as anything else.

Economy - 8/10

Thankfully, the economy of the boxer diesel is better than the petrol versions. From the diesel XV you can expect 50.4mpg on a combined cycle, and CO2 is emitted at a rate of 146g/km, which puts the car in VED band F. Road tax is £140, and the same in the first year. By today's standards the road tax could be lower, but then again 50mpg is reasonable and I wouldn't let the annual cost of tax put you off. You have to appreciate that with permanent 4WD the XV may not be able to compete with 2WD rivals, but then you'll know whether this is worth it or not.

Practicality - 10/10

with any crossover, practicality is key. And the XV is extremely practical. As mentioned earlier, the XV can handle the tough stuff with ease, so from the school run to a forest run, you'll be fine. Inside the XV is rather spacious, and rear passengers get plenty of legroom too. The boot has a flat load floor and again is a generous size. To live with for a week I found the XV enjoyable. The SE trim has cruise control, bluetooth, auto wipers and a decent stereo. That's enough technology to make the XV a good long-distance cruiser, and saves on potentially expensive options. The ride height means visibility is good, and parking is no problem at all.

Fun - 8/10

The exterior styling of the XV is fantastic, and sitting in a car park you'd pick it straight away. However, the interior somewhat let it down; there isn't enough going on like there is on the outside. Some different coloured plastics would sort this easily. That being said, the 4WD system is brilliant, and finding the limit of its grip was a challenge I enjoyed. And for the record, you'll struggle to find the limit, because it really is that good. I imagine a trip down a gravel track or across a field in the XV would put a very large and cheesy-looking grin on your face. And at the end of the day that's what a crossover should be able to do (although I'd take a bet several rivals would certainly not be up to it). Perhaps I should give it a go; does anybody have a field I can borrow? Or perhaps a rally stage?

Concluding Remarks 

So to sum up the Subaru XV then. It has the rugged look on the outside and the running gear to back it up. Whilst the boxer diesel is not the most refined, it does a job and has plenty of torque to help that 4WD system cope with anything thrown at it. And the price of the XV in this spec is £23,995. That doesn't seem too bad considering how capable it is, and this is the top-spec too. But what really makes this car a success is that it is a proper crossover. Instead of being a large hatchback which looks like it means business, the XV is a small 4x4 that actually means business. The XV then; perfect for anybody looking for a crossover with capability.

Total Score - 42/50

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