Seeing things from a different angle – We review the Subaru XV 2.0D SE

Unusual looks, great handling, torquey engine with good mpg

Lacks any real personality, dull interior design, fairly expensive

Subaru XV 2.0D SE reviewed. A night shot of the XV shows off the 17" rugged alloy wheels. ©CarProductsTested.com2012

Subaru XV?

We’ve been sent the Subaru XV to test and review, but what is it? What’s its angle? There are a heap of manufacturers now doing cross-over type vehicles, and they’re definitely a popular choice. With many, you benefit from slightly higher ground clearance, a 4×4 option for when bad weather arrives, and bags of space inside. However, Subaru have been doing that for years with models like the Forester and Outback, and they certainly know how to make a good AWD system. So, what’s with their XV model?

The official spiel from Subaru is ‘The enticing Subaru XV represents a level of driver satisfaction that is virtually unrivalled. As happy dealing with the urban sprawl as it is tackling the trickiest of green lanes, a Subaru XV provides the highest standards of driver engagement and inherent safety features, regardless of where your motoring muse takes you’. Now that the Forester has considerably grown in size to more of an SUV class, the XV looks to have replaced it for it’s predecessors green lane prowess. So, how’d it do?

Exterior. Beauty or butt ugly?

Subaru XV 2.0D SE tested. Image shows the XV's exterior at night. The XV has a fairly aggressive look to it. ©CarProductsTested.com2012

Subaru’s fleet of cars changed style and shape fairly slowly up until recently, and the XV’s angular look stick out from the rest of the models, and it comes in only 5-door hatchback form. Sharp swage lines abound, bouncing off each other and running through the entire car, feeding a slight aggression to the overall theme. It’s not a handsome car, but it’s also not ugly either. The opinions we got were favourable, and no-one actually disliked the styling. As the XV is a fairly rare car on the roads still, I was getting a lot of people interested in it – the Tangerine Orange colour drawing attention in this dreary weather.

Regarding the colour, our thoughts are that it’s good. Driving around, the roads are a sea of silver, grey and black cars, and the mind tends to mingle them all into one after a while. A tangerine orange Subaru XV will never exactly blend in, so if you don’t like to be seen, go for another colour.

Subaru XV test and review. Image shows the side profile of the XV show its ride-height and high stance. ©CarProductsTested.com2012

Photographs of the XV tend not to do it full justice though – and one of our road testers was taken aback by the difference in seeing it in the flesh. For a start, it’s hard to capture this Subaru’s size; it’s larger and bulkier than it looks in the photo’s for sure. For a comparison though, its exterior dimensions are very similar to the Ford Kuga. At a height of 1.61 metres, it sits around 10 cm higher than the average family estate/wagon. Until you park it in amongst other cars though, the size will still deceive you.

Subaru XV review. Image shows the XV isn't overly large and will still fit into an average garage. ©CarProductsTested.com2012

Lest we forget another point, fit the right set of rims to a car, and it can pull the entire design together. On the XV, Subaru appear to have done the right thing, and again, the 17″ 5-spoke wheels look better in the real world than in photography. The hammerite-type paint finish on the chunky spokes gives a tough look, and contrasts well with the brushed alloy highlights at the outer edge of the rim.

Interior. Neat or nowt special?

 Subaru XV test and review. Image shows the interior view from over front seats. ©CarProductsTested.com2012

In one of my previous jobs fitting car alarms and tinting glass, I’d often remove the interior door cards for fitment. We had many Subaru’s in, and one theme ran throughout the different ages of models; the trim was plasticy, boring to look at, light, fairly thin and clipped onto the metal in a simplistic way, but in typical Japanese well-madeness (new word?) never rattled, or came loose. So, does the theme still run?

Subaru has vastly upped their game with the XV’s interior fit, finish and materials, but as with their older models in the two weeks of driving miles over many rutted, potholed roads, no panels or pieces rattled and all trim stayed solid – as it should.

Subaru XV review. Image shows 4 photo's of Interior controls. They are nicely laid-out and of decent quality. ©CarProductsTested.com2012

There’s no getting away from the fact that Subaru still continue to design interiors that are dull-looking and lack imagination or flare, and the XV is no exception. They are very functional, yes, and there’s no joy beheld in sitting in one. Swathes of black and grey do not help this. With the materials used, Subaru have come on a lot from previous models, and our SE version had soft-touch panels, ‘silent’ buttons that don’t ‘click’ when pressed, leather gearstick and handbrake gaiters, and seats that are fairly comfortable (minus much-needed lumber support though) and sport ‘high/low’ heating settings in the front.

Subaru XV 2.0D SE test and review. The front seats are comfy but could do with lumbar support. Rear leg room is good too. ©CarProductsTested.com2012

On a point of being well-useable, Subaru have chucked in six large cupholders, an armrest with storage space underneath so deep you can lose several satnavs, phones and all their chargers, a large space in front of the gearstick that’ll also hold several cubic metres of more stuff (we jest, but it seems that way), and even the door pockets are deep and decently wide. We liked the amount of space for all the things that seem to gather in your car over the months – can’t complain there!

Subaru XV tested and review. Image shows the XV's console lighting at night. Looks neat. We like it! ©CarProductsTested.com2012

We’ll also give Subaru the thumbs-up for the stereo and speakers in the XV SE. Yes, again, it’s drab to look at, but once more it’s also very utilitarian and does all that you need. There’s the standard CD player, and a bluetooth system means there’s no need to use a connection cable to listen to your playlist. Your phone can be controlled (to a degree) through the BT system too, so I was able to flick backwards and forward through tracks, or simply make a phonecall. When you’ve finished your drive, removing the key from the ignition pauses the song – which is useful.

As well as that, the above-mentioned space under the armrest also houses a 12v socket, a USB post and a Auxiliary plug, so you can use almost any device to play music. Sound from the 6 speakers is decent enough, with bass tones that’ll vibrate your inner-ear nicely, and the system can be adjusted to fetch an acceptably crisp tone.

Subaru XV review. Image shows the central dash display for MPG, AWD status, clocks etc. ©CarProductsTested.com2012

A display with good graphics based in the centre of the dash gives a few different screens – mainly based around fuel economy and mpg reading – but the most interesting is the one showing the XV’s AWD status. Accelerate hard, corner too harshly, or just get onto a slippery surface, and the screen will show to which wheels the power is cut or running to. More helpful is that it shows which way your front wheels are facing. Why, pray tell, is that useful (you scoff)? Ever been driving on ice, snow or slick mud? Occasionally, you’ll find yourself going straight forward without knowing your wheels are turned. Not good when you hit a dry patch and the car suddenly lunges madly in one direction, especially if next door’s prize Spaniel happens to be in your path…

The XV SE also has a hugely useful reversing camera which uses the same display mentioned above. I’m too used to this now, and not having one in my own car means I’ve had to hire a man to sit in my boot and shout how many metres I have until I crash. It’s expensive, and the last one only spoke Serbian. How was I supposed to know Ma! meant Stop!?

Subaru XV 2.0D SE test. Image shows the XV's boot space is ample, although narrow. ©CarProductsTested.com2012

Anything else that stood out to us? The boot opening is narrow and you have to lift stuff high to avoid scraping the bumper paint, but the rear seats fold flat to make 1270 litres of cargo space – a good amount. There’s a hidden space under the boot cover that’ll house your valuables such as cameras, iPad’s, phones, keys etc. The steering wheel tilts and is telescopic (aids nicely in getting a comfortable driving position), and has a load of controls on for the BT system, cruise control and screen controls – I got used to them quickly, and they’re not complex or annoying.

Regarding annoyance, there is something unforgivable about the Subaru; the seatbelt warning noise. If yourself or one of your passengers removes their seatbelt at even low speeds, the most horrendous warning beep sounds, and will not stop until the seatbelt is plugged back in. Okay, maybe a low pulse would be acceptable, but the claxon-like sound the XV emits is so obnoxious and loud that it’s physically stressful and distracting. Think I’m going o.t.t on this? Try it yourself.

Subaru XV review. Interior rear seats on the SE are comfortable and roomy. ©CarProductsTested.com2012

Engine. Gutsy or gutless?

Renowned for their reliable Boxer engine, Subaru continue to use the flat 4-pot – now in diesel form. The horizontally-opposed pistons sit deeper down in the engine bay, for better balance, and, as Subaru rightly point out, the Boxer design also leads to a smoother engine with less vibration than a normal diesel. Okay, so it still make the same noise as a tractor, but at least at tickover it’s more relaxing than is usual with an oil burner.

Our test XV SE had the 2.0 litre turbo diesel engine. It’s lively, torquey and will outpace the other petrol models by a fair long way. For instance, the 2.0 petrol version with manual ‘box’s 0 -60 comes up in 10.5 seconds and tops out at 116 mph. The two litre diesel? To sixty you’re looking at 9.3 seconds and it’s also four miles-per-hour faster at the top too! Up to now the diesel is winning over petrol for us.

Subaru XV test and review. Image shows the 2.0D Boxer engine, which gives off good, smooth torque. Being a Subaru, it'll probably be extremely reliable too. ©CarProductsTested.com2012

The VGT (Variable Geometry Turbo) on the diesel engine gives great low-down torque in spade-fulls, and the power also keeps feeding in nicely throughout most of the rev range. We’ll come to that later though…

On the road, fuel economy is unexpectedly frugal. Stats are (mpg) 41.5 urban, 50.4 combined and 56 on a motorway run. On mostly round-town driving in heavy traffic, we managed 42 – 44 mpg, getting up to fifty miles-per-gallon on a motorway run at 70 mph. Doing 60 mph, the figures were creeping up even further. Over a full 60 litre tank of fuel on mixed roads, we managed 44 mpg which was fairly good considering the lead boot used on the accelerator for the most part.

Gearbox. Sweet or sour?

The diesel XV’s gearbox comes only in 6-speed manual, and it’s just ‘okay’. There’s a fairly long pull (or push) between gears, it’s a wee bit vague, and our test vehicle’s seemed to be slack even in gear – a bit like stirring a spoon in a pot. That could be because the car’s had a hard 12,000 miles of  journo’s testing it, but it could also be like that as standard. Go try one from a dealership if you’re not sure.

As I’ll talk about further in the article, the gear ratio is nicely worked-out, with 3rd and 4th a joy to use with, giving long, powerful strides forward and pulling you out of any ‘blocked in’ trouble on motorway slip roads.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive this thing!

Subaru XV 2.0D SE test and review Image shows the XV on a country road. The Subaru's excellent handling means it's properly happy on winding, bumpy roads. ©CarProductsTested.com2012

Right, enough of the specs, let’s fire this thing up and see how it is! Turn the key a couple of notches, wait for the glow plug light to extinguish turn it once more and the diesel lump awakens to tractorish-like life. This is not having a dig at Subaru, as almost all diesels sound the same when cold. A symbol in blue shows the engine is cold, and it’ll stay on until the engine has fully warmed up after a few minutes of driving – after it goes out, you’ll have more smoothness and responsiveness.

For a diesel, the engine revs surprisingly quickly and freely. Power provided by the VGT is on tap at the metaphorical crack of dawn, as the needle only needs to touch 1,600 rpm before a hefty 258 lb/ft (250 Nm) dollop of torque is delivered. That’ll only last for a thousand rpm, but the maximum 145 hp comes in at 3,600 rpm anyway, and carries on pushing the Subaru faster, and at a damned quick rate of knots.

As you’ll have already read, zero to sixty in 9.3 seconds isn’t exactly quick. Howeverthat time isn’t important – buy a WRX STi if you want fast acceleration. No, like most powerful diesels, the fun begins once you’re moving. At speeds above 40 mph, and in the right gear, you will wipe the grin from Billy boy-racer’s face. Who cares about traffic-light acceleration when you’re rolling at motorway speeds – the XV diesel will turn a petrolhead into a dieselhead at a drop of third gear and a foot to the floor.

Subaru XV 2.0D review. XV's angular rear looks good. Reminds us of a Transformers head... ©CarProductsTested.com2012

The 2.0 VGT diesel Boxer engine pulls like a locomotive. The aforementioned third gear is long, and from 40 – 75mph it’s relentless and impressive in its surge ahead. This acceleration though, is not fierce, but more a kind of gathering of speed, or an accumulation. It builds, it musters, and pushes forward – almost willing you toward the horizon.

Changing to 4th will again keep that strong flow of speed going, and it’s only when you hit just over 100 mph that things start to slow. On a few occasions, merging from one busy motorway onto another (full of drivers refusing to let us out), a quickening of pace was needed, and forth gear plus a heavy right foot rewarded us with a fast trip up to speed, carving through the commuters like a large, quick, rectangular orange. (Ed; eh?).

Of course, that AWD system is certainly mightily useful from a wet, slippery T junction too. If you need to jump out between cars on a fast-flowing country road when the rain is more torrential than trickle, the AWD will correct even the heaviest of pushes on the accelerator, keeping the XV on the right path with virtually zero wheel spin – the Subaru Vehicle Dynamics Control System (VDCS) making sure the power goes to the correct wheel at all times. The VDCS can be turned off at the push of a button, and your centre dash display will pop up a quick notice telling you basically ‘it’s now your own fault if you lose control you big numpty’.

Subaru XV 2.0D SE review. Front end gives off a mean look. ©CarProductsTested.com2012

Subaru’s world-famous permanent all-wheel-drive system is in place on the XV 2.0D SE. This system is called the Symmetrical AWD because, well, it is exactly that – the mechanics and physical parts being centrally-balanced for better poise. The AWD system is not just an electronic one, but a ‘proper’ mechanical set-up with centre diff-lock and true limited slip differential. A good thing for the Subaru purists out there. Of course, the system has been updated for latest models, and now includes the safety net of Subaru Vehicle Dynamics Control System (VDCS) – we’ll chat about that later. As the central display inside the XV neatly shows, when you lose traction to one wheel, the others compensate by putting down the power, pulling you out of trouble.

On the matter of control and handling, the XV diesel feels great when it’s pushed hard. For a car weighing nearly 1,415 kg, it is very accomplished in the business of cornering and poise. A few years ago I owned a 1995 Subaru Impreza Turbo 2000 Wagon – this XV handles even better. Fine, so technology has come on far since 1995 but my Impreza also weighed 170 kilos less than the XV. This Subaru has (both front and rear) independent suspension from MacPherson struts, coil springs, gas-filled shocks and anti-roll stabiliser bars.

Subaru XV 2.0D SE review and test. The XV loves farm yards and lots of mud to play in. ©CarProductsTested.com2012

Get onto a country road crammed with heavy braking points, sharp turns and steeply-angled humps, and the Subaru XV will surprise. Pressing the car hard around a corner, the front end pushes out slightly and causes a little understeer, but on coming out of the apex and getting more power on, the rear end will start to squirm and to creep out of line slowly. It’s a nice feeling, the car still feels safe, and the VDCS doesn’t nanny so much your fun stops. Want more merriment though? Just turn off the system. Honestly though, the average buyer will not be a track-day nut intent on throwing the XV into a ditch, and Subaru have made the handling way more than merely satisfactory.

The Yokohama Geolander G95 tyres fitted to ours gripped excellently, and are also good for year-round use. At an average of nearly £170.00 each though, you don’t want to rip through those in a hurry.

Around town, the XV’s suspension feels tight and sporty, but it is definitely not overly harsh or unbearable by any degree. Your granny won’t complain on her trip to Morrisons, so that’s a good sign. The car rides well over speed humps, and flows rather than crashes and bangs. Subaru have done well with the XV’s ride set up and managed a superb medium – it’s so easy for manufacturers to swing towards either Nurburgring hardness or slipper-like softness.

Something I did rather take to was the Brake Assist System. Pull up to a stop on a an uphill slope (even a slight one), engage 1st gear, press the brake pedal and the XV locks the brakes for around 10 seconds, or until you drive off. It’s a lazy way to set off without the faff of using clutch control and the handbrake, and I love it – especially for when a white van pulls up two inches from your XV’s rear on a 30-degree slope.

Subaru XV 2.0D SE test. Image shows the XV cocking a wheel in the air on a grass slope. The XV is a capable beast on green lanes or light off-roading. ©CarProductsTested.com2012

The XV is clearly designed with tackling a bit of light off-roading too. The 220 millimetre ground clearance is a good amount for car, and will ensure that wading through a small water ford, or getting down a rough track is no problem. Subaru state on their website that the XV is ‘happy… tackling the trickiest of green lanes’. Okay the car has decent clearance and a good AWD system, and to be honest if you want to pull off the road onto a sharp grassy slope or slight ditch, the Subaru won’t have a problem getting back out, but don’t deceive yourself into thinking this will do off-road or rough green laning like a full 4×4 – your exhaust and other expensive parts ripped off will let you know that. Still, it’s nice to know you won’t get stuck in a hurry should you need to go (play) in the snow, or visit your mates farm at the end of ‘World’s Worst Driveway’.

A note on the braking. The XV has 294 mm ventilated discs at the front and 274 mm solid discs on the rear. They aren’t overly large, and coming up to motorway exits, junctions etc, the XV sometimes made me work that brake pedal hard to stop in time. I’m not saying they’re overly bad, but they are definitely not pin sharp – more decidedly middling. On the braking system, Subaru have about a zillion safety features including ABS, EBD, BAS, EBS. It all helps in emergency stops or when things get slippery, but we still think the normal braking need improvement.

Verdict & overall score (/10)

Exterior 7.5
Interior  6
Engine  8
Gearbox  6
Drive  8
Overall Score 7.0

 

I like the Subaru XV 2.0D SE. While it will never exactly set my pants on fire in the personality department, it felt dependable, well built, and just there. Ready. It’s one of those cars you could go to every day, no matter the weather or conditions, and know it will start first time, that the drive will be pleasant and if you want a little fun, the power is there to play with. While the interior is a dull place to be, there are plenty of toys an’ tech to keep you happy. The exterior, visually, is cool and it stands out from the crowd.

Overall, if you want a car more distinctive in styling than the rest of the herd (while being just as practical), go places most other cars won’t, and one that’ll respond well to a good thrashing, then the Subaru XV 2.0D SE is going be a decidedly good choice.

Stats

Model  Subaru XV 2.0D SE
Price  £26,295+ options
Engine  1,998cc (2.0L) DOHC, 16v, direct injection, horizontally-opposed four-cylinder (Boxer) with VGT turbo
Power, Torque, CO2  145 hp (147 ps), 258 lb/ft (350 Nm) | CO2: 146 g/km
Drive, Gears  Permanent AWD | 6 speed, manual only
0 – 60, Top Speed, NCAP  9.3 seconds | Max: 120 mph | 5-Star Euro NCAP rating
Fuel economy (mpg)  Urban: 41.5, Extra Urban: 56.5, Combined: 50.4
Weight (curb)  1,415kg
Luggage space  Boot: 380 litres, Rear seats folded: 1,270 litres
Websites  UK: Subaru.co.uk, America: Subaru.com, World: Subaru-Global.com

Words: Chris Davies | Tested by: Chris Davies, Nath Fielder | Photography: Chris Davies, Jason Fanthorpe, Matthew Davies

3 responses to “Seeing things from a different angle – We review the Subaru XV 2.0D SE”

  1. Lane Lamoreaux

    Great review on the car. Love the pictures they really make you feel like your looking at the car through your own eyes. I LOVE THIS SITE!

  2. ian

    very helpful review, about to test drive one, have , tried Q3, Rav4 , Hy’35i and maxda at moment Toyota is winning, but i like your milage figures.

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