The Subaru XV is, like just about every other compact crossover out there nowadays, an urban all-rounder designed for young (and young-at-heart) people with an active lifestyle. But is there anything that sets the XV apart from the competition?
Why would one buy a Subaru over any other crossover available on the market? Well, as a brand, Subaru has an iconoclastic streak. There is something inherently “cool” about a Subaru.
It is not a mainstream choice. Driving a Subaru is like being part of a club. Other people might not “get it”, but that doesn’t matter. For Subaru drivers, popular consensus isn’t necessary, or even welcomed.
Of course, the cachet that driving a Subaru carries isn’t the only reason for owning one. Subarus are respected for a reason: they are great to drive, and this is the ultimate reason for buying one.
There is an honesty and down-to-earth quality about a Subaru that makes it fun and refreshing to spend time with. It isn’t bare-bones or uncomfortable by any means, but it is unpretentious. A Subaru SUV is a solid, driver-friendly vehicle wrapped in unassuming packaging.
Take the Forester as an example. Most crossovers tend to look high-riding and off-road capable yet are unable to deal with even modest 4×4 obstacles. Ground clearance usually isn’t substantial enough, and while all wheel drive (AWD) units are available from the majority of manufacturers, most buyers tend to opt for cheaper two wheel drive models.
The Forester is different. At first glance, it doesn’t look as if it would perform well off the beaten path. It looks more like a station wagon than a competent crossover. But looks can be deceiving. Not only does the Forester boast an impressive 220mm of ground clearance and permanent AWD, it even has a 4×4 mode called “X-Mode”, which optimises the symmetrical AWD system for easier driving over wet terrain and to safely navigate bad roads, slippery surfaces and steep hills.
X-Mode centralises control of the engine to make use of the centre differential, rear differential, brakes and traction control in steep, low-grip terrain.
The capability of the Forester is well known, and because of this it has a loyal and passionate following. But what of the newer XV?
There were some grumbles that the XV was underpowered and boring when it first appeared on the scene, and to be sure, with 110 kW of power and 196 Nm of torque, it certainly isn’t the most ferocious Scoobie you can buy, but I think the vehicle has largely been misunderstood.
With its aggressive stance, hatch-like looks, black rims and colourful finish, the XV looks like a properly hot little crossover, but that’s not what it is. Compared to the Forester XT or WRX STI, the XV is rather sedate. But the vehicle should not be criticised for that. It is eager enough when you put your foot down, and doesn’t struggle to overtake. Moreover, for a car with permanent AWD, the XV returns excellent fuel figures, and that’s one of its chief selling points. The XV is a fun and practical crossover that is easy to live with on a daily basis.
Bad points? We’ve been living with the XV for a while now, and it has been a welcome addition to our long-term fleet. If there is a niggle, it would concern the relatively limited packing space. The boot is small – similar to what you’d get in a hatch. For a crossover designed as a lifestyle vehicle, it could do with a bigger luggage area.
From previous comments, you might expect that we would dislike the CVT ’box, but it’s not terrible by any means. Subaru knows how to create a decent CVT gearbox. All of the Subaru vehicles we’ve tested – the Outback, Forester and XV – have had good CVTs. The transmission can whine a bit at times, and it doesn’t respond well when you mash the accelerator pedal into the floor, but it gets the job done. And it keeps fuel consumption down.
Where the XV has impressed us most, though, is off the beaten track. A lot of crossovers in the XV’s segment do not perform well when you venture off the tarmac. But, like the Forester, the XV is a really competent AWD vehicle that can go surprisingly far off road. It has the same 220mm ground clearance as the Forester, and, of course, the Subaru symmetrical AWD system that helps maintain traction in tricky conditions.
It doesn’t have low range, but it is undoubtedly as capable as a vehicle in its class needs to be. And on a dirt road it is a joy to drive. It remains surefooted and comfortable, even on very bad gravel roads.
For those looking for a compact SUV that really can go off the beaten track, yet remains a sensible choice for driving around town, the XV is an excellent choice.