The Subaru XV e-Boxer will provide improved fuel economy thanks to its hybrid system when it goes on sale later this year. Accompanied by a suite of driver assistance systems, the Subaru XV has a reasonably spacious interior and a robust all-wheel-drive transmission.
In the metal
As a crossover, the Subaru XV hits all the right marks straight away. Its rugged looks include raised ground clearance, along with hard-wearing plastic around the base of the bumpers, side sills and wheel arches. These design elements on this pre-production prototype do differ slightly to the regular XV by featuring aluminium-look detailing to bolster the off-road image. But from the outside, aside from the discreet e-Boxer badging, there is nothing else to tell you that this is a hybrid model.
It's mostly unchanged on the inside, too, aside from some additional information screens in the 4.3-inch colour display that sits atop the centre of the dashboard. Here the driver can see what the current status of the hybrid system is, and how much charge is in the battery. As we were driving a pre-production prototype, the eight-inch colour touchscreen that displays Subaru's Starlink infotainment system wasn't active. Aside from the usual features, this unit also offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring.
The cabin is quite user-friendly, and the controls and buttons have a solid feel to them. Functions for frequently used items such as temperature settings and the electric windows fall within easy reach. Rear passenger space is good, though the middle seat isn't very comfortable for anything other than a short journey. You sit more on, rather than in, the centre perch and the transmission tunnel from the all-wheel-drive system restricts foot space. The eagle-eyed reader will spot a new ventilation cover on the left side of the rear passenger compartment. This additional vent allows air to circulate around the lithium-ion battery to maintain its temperature.
Backing up its tough looks, the Subaru XV e-Boxer retains its all-wheel-drive transmission and features the latest version of the company's Lineartronic CVT automatic. Subaru uses the same hybrid system in the XV as features in the new Forester e-Boxer, consisting of a small lithium-ion battery that lies under the boot floor, just behind the rear seats. That battery then powers a small electric motor that sits inside the gearbox.
The electric motor is there to assist the engine, and Subaru's computer software determines when to use which. At slower speeds, the electric motor will activate more frequently once there is enough charge in the battery. It isn't possible to select an EV mode individually, but when left to work, Subaru claims that the hybrid system can reduce fuel consumption by more than ten per cent.
In comparison to other hybrids on the market, such as the Toyota C-HR, the Subaru system isn't very refined as it switches between the two propulsion methods. It's not that it's terrible; you're just more aware of the switchover. In certain scenarios, during motorway driving, for example, the petrol engine will divert some of its power to replenish the battery's charge. Not everyone is a fan of CVTs, but aside from when under hard acceleration, the driving experience is generally fine with engine speeds kept relatively low.
Powertrain aside, the XV handles well and puts the car's low centre of gravity to good use. There is a small amount of body lean during faster cornering though you generally get a good sense of a stiff chassis contributing to the car's positive handling. It doesn't encourage sporty driving, even with the 'SI Drive' feature active. That tweaks the throttle response to exploit the engine's mid-range power as well as getting more torque assistance from the electric motor.
What you get for your money
There is no official pricing yet for the Subaru XV e-Boxer hybrid, but we don't expect that it will carry a significant price premium for the addition of its battery and electric motor. Pricing for the standard XV begins at €33,995, which initially makes it look more expensive than many other crossovers. But all Subaru XVs come equipped with all-wheel drive, and while most similarly sized crossovers do also offer the same, it is generally only available on range-topping variants that cost more. It's also worth mentioning that the Subaru XV scored very highly in the EuroNCAP safety tests, earning the best in class honour as the safest small family car of the year when it was rated in 2017.
In adding hybrid tech to its repertoire, the Subaru XV loses none of its appeal or ability. If you're looking for a robust crossover that will tackle the occasional off-road adventure, opting for the hybrid will make more sense in the long-term.