It may not look all that different, but the 2018 Subaru XV tested here is entirely new. In addition to an improved cabin design, the compact crossover gains a variety of safety and driver assistance systems.
In the Metal:
The exterior look of the new Subaru XV is very much an evolution of the previous generation. Positive feedback from existing owners led the design team to make only subtle revisions even though it is, in fact, an all-new car. It is built on the new Subaru Global Platform (SGP), which is also used to underpin the new Impreza hatchback.
The XV retains the same useful 220mm of ground clearance, but overall height raises a fraction to 1,635mm, and the wheelbase grows by 30mm to add a little more room inside for passengers. The interior benefits from a more modern and stylish design, although compared to rivals like the Toyota C-HR the cabin is distinctly conservative. Flashes of shiny carbon fibre-look trim around the door handles are an unnecessary garnish, but the metallic inserts across the dashboard and orange cross-stitching do make a more favourable impression.
A new eight-inch colour touchscreen offers high resolution and is quick to react to inputs. As is now the norm, it is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Above this, and placed closer to the windscreen, is a smaller 4.3-inch display that contains a various information screens from both the on-board computer and the EyeSight driver assistance system. An increase of just five litres to the boot space is helped by a redesign of the aperture making it wider and easier to load. The total boot space with the rear seats down is measured at 835 litres, so it's not as large inside as some of the biggest-selling crossovers.
Subaru will offer the XV in Ireland with a choice of 1.6- and 2.0-litre petrol engines, both featuring the 'Lineartronic' continuously variable transmission (CVT), which sends power to all wheels, usually in a 60:40 front-rear split. The larger 2.0-litre engine driven here produces 156hp with 196Nm of torque and feels well-suited to the car. As CVTs go, Subaru's is one of the better ones out there, and delivers the best performance when the engine isn't pushed very hard.
Unfortunately, with what is relatively low power outputs for a 2.0-litre engine, you often need to press harder on the throttle. This is especially true when joining fast-flowing motorways, for example. Its modest torque output means that overtakes also require a little more planning, even though the transmission does enable you to 'downshift' through its simulated gears. Still, the boxer engine remains smooth and overall engine noise isn't that bad once you don't ask too much of it.
When it comes to more challenging driving conditions, Subaru's considerable all-wheel-drive expertise shines through. The symmetrical all-wheel drive, combined with the car's good ground clearance, sees it progress along deeply rutted tracks with ease and barely the hint of its undercarriage touching the ground. The XV also features Subaru's X-Mode and Hill Descent Control, which is one of the more intuitive and user-friendly systems to use. In the event of heading down a steep bank, once activated, you first control the pace with the brake pedal and then you can lift your foot off as the car will keep it at that speed. We experienced very muddy conditions as well as snow and ice on the roads during our drives and the car rarely struggled to find grip (admittedly, winter tyres were fitted). Even with some more enthusiastic driving...
Back on the tarmac, the XV is composed in the bends, helped by the low centre of gravity from the boxer engine. Chassis stiffness also sees a substantial increase in the new platform, all of which results in a crossover that doesn't lean too much in the corners. The steering feels nicely weighted if a little lacking in feedback.
What you get for your Money:
The Subaru XV comes in two specifications in Ireland, SE and SE Premium, with pricing starting at €33,495 for the 1.6-litre petrol version. All models come equipped with the eight-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple Car Play, along with the EyeSight driver assistance system. Other standard items include a reversing camera, keyless entry with engine start and X-Mode with Hill Descent Control.
A €3,000 price walk moves you up to the SE Premium model, which adds a full leather interior, sunroof, satellite navigation and electrically adjustable driver's seat. Given that you get all of the safety and infotainment systems in the SE version, the move up to SE Premium doesn't look necessary. The larger 2.0-litre engine starts at €35,495, with the same €3,000 price jump to the higher specification grade.
The new Subaru XV may not have the same kerbside style or enviable brand image as some others, but it certainly feels robust and capable when the going gets a bit tougher. It's also worth remembering that Subaru enjoys a rock solid reliability record. If you're a prospective crossover buyer that may go off-road every now and then, then the new XV is certainly worth a second look.