THE XV is Subaru’s first proper foray into the modern crossover market. The Outback and Forester are a little too far one way or another, while the XV hits the genre right on the nose.
It’s designed to be a practical, easy-going and stylish option to turn heads away from more obvious – or at least more heavily marketed – choices. Any XV will certainly tick the practicality box with a useful boot, spacious cabin and good levels of equipment, but this specific model is in some ways the best of the bunch.
The two available petrol engines can be specified with an automatic ‘Lineartronic’ continually variable transmission (CVT), and that’s what graces the back end of the 2.0-litre Boxer petrol engine in this car.
It brings key advantages over a manual, in that the gear ratio is able to constantly vary so that the revs don’t have to. With a manual gearbox the ratios are fixed, which means the rev counter needle needs to do a merry dance up and down the dial when accelerating through the gears.
The Lineartronic arrangement allows the revs to stay constant while under gentle power, increasing the car’s speed but keeping fuel consumption lower. As a result this auto strikes a better note on the efficiency scale than the manual.
It takes some getting used to if you’re not familiar with using CVTs, because the reaction of the engine doesn’t necessarily correlate with what your right foot does, or at least not in the way that you expect. Nor does the system produce much engine braking, again unlike a manual but easy to get used to.
Speaking of the engine, this is the more powerful of the two petrol options and it feels it once you push the accelerator hard and force the system to use all the revs on offer. In fairness though, with gentle use around town the slightly more economical 1.6-litre option would feel very much the same.
Despite the relatively hefty £1,500 premium placed on the Lineartronic transmission it makes sense behind the wheel. Low-speed driving is a dream, with the revs hovering below 1,750rpm and the engine staying quiet and smooth in both sound and feel.
There’s a noticeable lack of vibration from the horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine, which is mounted low down in the chassis for a better centre of gravity. It gives the XV a more relaxing quality than some of its rivals for pottering around suburbs.
It gets rowdy when revved hard and if spirited driving is on the agenda the manual gearbox offers more involvement, but for typical urban and suburban crossover usage the automatic XV makes a convincing case – especially considering there’s no automatic diesel option.
It’s even good to drive, with a pleasantly direct feel at the steering and keen turn-in at the front wheels. It feels slightly longer than its 4.45 metres through corners but it drives very well for the class. It’s helped by its relatively low centre of gravity and modest kerb weight of 1385kg, which is 30kg heavier than the manual version but still respectable.
However, for caravan or heavy trailer owners the automatic XV is limited when towing, rated at a 1,200kg maximum compared to the manual’s 1,600kg ceiling.
This model is also the SE Lux Premium trim line; the Big Kahuna in the range with leather upholstery, sat-nav, Bluetooth, an eight-way electrically-adjustable driver’s seat, keyless entry and a ‘start’ button, a power sunroof and xenon headlights. It’s a plush environment for occupants in any seat, and it feels nicely screwed together too.
For a car with such chunky tyres the ride isn’t quite as cushioned as it could be, with road vibrations and impacts creeping up through the chassis as the speed rises. It’s partly due to poor road surfaces and things do improve on smooth, new tarmac.
The boot is more useful than its 380-litre size would suggest. The floor is raised to account for the four-wheel-drive system, but it’s at a nice height to allow you to get objects in and out easily and the load area is large enough to offer good luggage storage potential.
The door pockets and general interior storage could be improved, but there are USB and auxiliary input ports in the central storage bin for music players. Rear legroom is ample and the rear environment is reasonably spacious and airy for the class, although the sloping roof line and narrow rear window do cut the available light down a little.
All in all the XV is the kind of car you could enjoy owning for years to come. It’s not without small flaws but it has big helpings of style and substance along with the charm of being just a little unusual in a really very good way. It’s not the cheapest crossover you can find but it’s well worth a look. After all, you get what you pay for.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Subaru XV 2.0i SE Lux Premium Lineartronic, £29,595 on the road.Engine: 2.0-litre horizontally-opposed four-cylinder petrol engine producing 148bhp and 145lb.ft.Transmission: Continually variable transmission driving all four wheels.Performance: Top speed 116mph, 0-62mph in 10.7 seconds.Fuel economy: 42.8mpg.CO2 rating: 153g/km.