ROAD TEST: New Subaru XV

Subaru's compact AWD crossover – the good-looking XV, with its outstanding grip, ride height, interior space, high spec and economy figures – has had a makeover for 2015. 
And our style queen Creative Director (surely an XV target audience; yummy mummy), Bonnie Royle is on test with it... driving the XV on an east to west coast; Norfolk countryside to Liverpool city centre 600+ road trip, through the Lincolnshire Wolds. 
Here's what she had to say...

The last time I drove the out-going XV on a road trip to the Lakes I liked it – great handling, funky styling, spacious, engaging and a bit different.
That was pre-child.
Now I'm a mum, my car needs have changed a little, but I still want a car that looks good, is spacious, fast, easy to park and has good visibility and a good ride... and the XV certainly has all that, in abundance.
Fresh faced for 2015, the Gen II XV now offers a mild style upgrade outside that works. 
It's also got a very jushi refreshed interior, with a new factory-fit touchscreen Infotainment – which is as Shaun Keaveny of BBC Radio 6Music said to us on Twitter : "oo that looks all futuristic!"
On top of that, Road Editor Phil tells me it's got a revised suspension set-up, which Subaru says will make the most of that infamous "subaglue" symmetrical all-wheel drive, with "an even smoother, more supple ride." And I'm all for that! 
But, with cheaper crossovers cars like Nissan's Qashqai, or more stylish and luxurious ones like Land Rover's Evoque about and so few Subaru dealerships across the UK, is the XV even worth a look?
And will the improvements to the quirky Subaru be enough to make a mark in the packed marketplace?
Or indeed will they be enough to make anyone shell out £21,995 to £26.995 for one?
Not cheap... so it's got to be good, right?
Especially our test model, which was the range-topping petrol engined XV 2.0i CVT SE Premium, coming with the Lineartronic automatic gearbox (and subsequent electronic Active Torque Splitting transmission) priced at £26,495. The diesel is £500 more at £26,995, and comes with a with manual gearbox and conventional centre diff and viscous limited slip differential... arguably the better spec for the cash? I'd say so... 

That's a lot of questions! So I'll start to try and answer some of them...
Yes... the XV is worth a look. In fact, it's the sort of car you look back at.
It's handsome and rugged, rather like that lovely New Zealand No.10 that's on TV a lot right now, Dan Carter. Mmmm.
Now, where was I... oh, yes, Subaru XV...
Will anyone shell out the cash for one? I should hope so... if only to be different.
On my road trip to Liverpool and back I didn't see one other XV, new shape or old, and that's a good thing in our book. Why follow the flock? Dare to be different.
And then there's the Subaru secret weapon – its grip, whatever the weather.
Torrential rain accompanied me on this road trip, and the XV stuck to the road like a limpet to a shoreside rock. That inspires a lot of confidence on the water-filled open roads, with the constant stop-start motorway emergency braking scenarios most of us face daily.
There's a reason to buy the XV on its own...
In the heat of the city, the excellent visibility and high ride height made for really easy parking too. And who doesn't like that?
The reversing camera is also so good that at one point I had to reverse out onto a main road with zero visibility (thanks to a load of dreadful road signs/roadworks) and the camera could see around the lot, giving me a clear view of the road which neither myself or passenger couldn't see: Impressive.
And my God is there a lot of room in this car!
It was so versatile and spacious in fact, we easily fitted in two ladies worth of luggage, an overweight dog in its carrier, a ton of boxes, two huge artwork canvasses, coats and wellies galore and it still had a ton of room to spare. Fabulous.
On the downsides, the auto gearbox feels like a go-kart pulling off – nothing, nothing, nothing... blast-off, with the slightest pedal action.
And, whilst the seats looked luxurious and comfy, they lacked lumbar support – leaving me with a bad back after the long trek.
More disappointing and annoying was the sat nav/Infotainment – which again looked the business, but failed to delivery. Why?
1. You can't see the information you want on distance to destination, time of arrival etc. as its tucked so far to the right, it's hidden behind your hands and the steering wheel – meaning you have to peer around to look at it, not just glance. Meanwhile the left hand side is just the map zoom in & out buttons, which most folk never use, as it auto zooms at junctions. This is a case of bad design ruining what should be a good system that certainly looks good, is a vast improvement on the outgoing version, is bang on trend with what folk want and has all the functions you could ever need. Pity the lack of attention to detail let it down.
2. The Sat Nav really does looks great and seems to work well enough, but I couldn't work out for the life of me how to turn the voice fully off. Just down. I hated that! And it calls junctions and turns at the 11th (and a half actually!) hour, making for some hairy turns. Good job the XV handles so well, or we'd have crashed off the road trying to follow the nav!
3. The volume button requires about 100 revolutions before you get any increase or decrease in sound. Why?
4. When you are using your iPod/USB/Micro HD or the excellent DAB radio – which never lost reception once, even up on Saddleworth Moor and in the wilds of the Wolds – you can't see the sat nav. It's either, or which is just plain silly, and most annoying.
Overall, I really, really want to like the XV... if only because if it was cheaper/better/faster or more desirable, then the roads wouldn't be clogged with other compact crossovers: And variety is, as they say, the spice of life.
And it really does look great – from all angles, inside and out. Especially those wheels: What a great design.
Plus, it's a practical car, with tons of space. And it drives really well – with outrageously good handling, rock solid brakes, grip galore, a decent ride and a good drivers' POV. It's an enjoyable car to be in – if a tad uncomfortable on a long run, which is not what you want when you've paid over 20 grand for a car, right?
I love the pace, power, practicality, comfort, luxuriousness and old school auto box in the Supercharged Range Rover I own, and there's no way I would trade the Rangey in for an XV... not in a million years. Sorry Subaru! Maybe Gen III will get the XV right... as it's very, very nearly a brilliant car. Just not yet.


  1. Not sure which I like better, the sporty exterior or the roomy interior. When we took ours out on the highway the very first time, I remember thinking this must be what it feels like to fly an airplane. All the controls within fingers reach and it glides down the road without feeling a single bump in the roads as we drove.

    Diana Hayes @ Baldwin Subaru


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