Subaru XV

FIRST DRIVE Subaru aims to make new small SUV more of a main­stream con­tender

Auto Express - - Contents - Sam Nay­lor Sam_­nay­lor@den­nis.co.uk @Sam­nay­lor_ae

Can all-new model shake up the 4x4 class?

SUBARU isn’t plan­ning to launch its new XV small SUV un­til early next year in Bri­tain, but al­ready we’ve been be­hind the wheel of a pre-pro­duc­tion model.

The pre­vi­ous XV was rugged and good to drive, but couldn’t com­pete on price or re­fine­ment with its main ri­vals. The new gen­er­a­tion aims to change that.

The car’s styling gets an up­date, with a new grille and lights, plus some plas­tic cladding around the whee­larches and tough-look­ing al­loy wheels.

Subaru has also up­graded the in­te­rior, although not to the same ex­tent. It’s been re­designed to be a bit sim­pler and more up­mar­ket, with a few more soft-touch ma­te­ri­als and shiny plas­tics. But you could hardly call it a com­plete rev­o­lu­tion.

The twin-screen set-up is still there, and the di­als and steer­ing wheel are very sim­i­lar to be­fore as well. It’s not nearly as mod­ern as the ex­te­rior, and feels cheap com­pared with most of the car’s ri­vals.

At least the new eight-inch in­fo­tain­ment screen is more re­spon­sive than be­fore. It will get An­droid Auto and Ap­ple Carplay, and is likely to be stan­dard in the UK as well. How­ever, it’s still a long way be­hind the slick sys­tem of­fered in the Skoda Ko­diaq and those of other Euro­pean ri­vals.

The seats are big­ger, more com­fort­able and more sup­port­ive, which is use­ful both on the road and off it. To that end, there’s also a new X-mode but­ton on the cen­tre con­sole that sets the car up for low-grip sur­faces and turns on hill-de­scent con­trol.

We tried the car on a dusty off-road track, where its abil­ity to climb loose gravel on a sharp in­cline im­pressed us.

Subaru is rightly proud of its per­ma­nent four-wheel-drive sys­tem, and the XV is prob­a­bly among the best off-road­ers in its class. How­ever, most buy­ers of cars such as this choose front-wheel drive, and only ever use their cars on the road.

The new XV is likely to be a lit­tle more ex­pen­sive than its ri­vals as a re­sult. Subaru UK has yet to de­cide on pric­ing, but we’re told it will be rel­a­tively close to what the cur­rent car costs.

We didn’t get the chance to try our pre-pro­duc­tion test car on the road, and in­stead were lim­ited to a su­per-smooth test track in Aus­tria. The pre­vi­ous model had a fairly hard ride in the UK, but the new gen­er­a­tion is bet­ter to drive; there’s less body roll in cor­ners and the steer­ing is a bit sharper. Torque vec­tor­ing means it can brake the in­side wheels on a cor­ner, tight­en­ing your line. It makes the XV feel more ag­ile, and while it’s not as fun as a Mazda CX-5 it’s still pretty en­gag­ing.

The nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 2.0-litre boxer petrol en­gine is smooth, although you won’t no­tice the ex­tra 5bhp be­cause max­i­mum torque is un­changed (at 196Nm). How­ever, those used to the tur­bocharged en­gines in the cur­rent crop of crossovers will no­tice the short­age of low-end torque.

The Lin­eartronic CVT gear­box is one of the best of its type, and ac­tu­ally feels slightly

“The XV is one of the best off-road­ers in its class. How­ever, most buy­ers only ever drive on road”

more nat­u­ral in this new model than it did in the pre­vi­ous car. How­ever, it still sends the revs soar­ing if you put your foot down be­cause it’s the only way to make swift progress. That means the pow­er­train is still noisy, and it all feels a bit old-fash­ioned.

It’s likely to be rea­son­ably ef­fi­cient in nor­mal driv­ing, but buy­ers who want their car to of­fer max­i­mum fuel econ­omy will need to look else­where, be­cause there won’t be a diesel XV – the en­gine range will com­prise 1.6 and 2.0-litre petrols only.

It’s spa­cious in­side, and although the boot is on the small side, there’s loads of legroom and head­room in the back, even for adults. Subaru’s hi-tech Eye­sight cam­eras are stan­dard, and th­ese al­low a num­ber of safety fea­tures that the brand says are more ac­cu­rate than those on radar-based sys­tems on ri­val cars.

There’s no way for us to con­firm that claim, but the car does have pre-col­li­sion brak­ing, ac­tive cruise con­trol, lane-keep as­sist, cross-traf­fic brak­ing, high-beam as­sist and blindspot mon­i­tor­ing. Euro NCAP will test the car soon, but for now we know that Ja­pan’s ver­sion of the crash-test lab gave the XV its high­est score ever.

One big draw­back to XV own­er­ship is that there is no diesel op­tion of­fered

OFF-ROAD If you need your small SUV to tackle chal­leng­ing con­di­tions the XV is one of the best op­tions

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