When Subaru first entered the UK market in the 1970s, it quickly gained a small, but dedicated following from those who live and work beyond our towns and cites.
The reason for this was simple. Subaru were pioneers in producing saloons, estate cars and pick-ups that offered four-wheel-drive traction as standard. Just the thing if your daily routine included the occasional foray into a slippery grass field to deliver hay to the ponies, or to check on the sheep.
Subaru’s next niche was in motorsports. The marque became famous with the Impreza and its success on the World Rally Championship with drivers like Colin MacRae and Richard Burns.
This four-wheel-drive heritage spiced up with the sporting image makes the Sports Utility Vehicle market is an obvious one to attack.
With the SUV market still buoyant, the Subaru XV is aimed at building on the niche success of the Outback Sport. The aim must be to consolidate Subaru’s stronger position in the domestic market in Japan and in the USA and to try to build its presence in the UK and Europe.
The XV was first introduced in 2012, but has been updated for 2018. The interior has been tweaked to achieve a more upmarket aura, with contrast stitching on the upholstery and a bit of carbon-fibre-lookalike trim. Attention has also been focussed on improving the ride quality.
While it won’t have people walking into lampposts as they stare at the svelte lines of the XV, it is an attractive enough design that looks both modern and purposeful. It sits rather higher than a conventional saloon, which makes for a more commanding view of the road and also eases entry and exit getting for those who are getting longer in the tooth.
But this is no ‘cosmetic’ crossover, designed to look like it yomps over field and dale, but is really just an inflated family hatchback. The Subaru XV comes with the company’s well known ‘Symetrical All Wheel Drive’, which delivers 60% of its torque to the front wheels and 40% to the rear, by default.
The Subaru XV is also practical for those who need to transport four, or five, people and their luggage. It feels quite spacious. The boot is also sizeable with very usable space
If Subaru’s rallying past makes you expect sporting performance, you may be disappointed with the XV. It takes a quite deliberate shove on the accelerator to get the XV to pick up speed and as the 10.4-second 0-62mph time suggests, this is not a car that is going to have you pressed back into the upholstery under power.
The test car was equipped with Subaru’s ‘Lineartronic’ variable ratio automatic gearbox which added to the rather relaxed style of the SV.
The ride and handling impressed. The steering feels nicely weighted and the ride insulates passengers from the irregularities in our deteriorating tarmac. But, the Subaru balances ride and handling well. There’s an underlying taughtness that makes for a confident driving quality.
As such, it proved a reasonably good choice for a couple of long drives on dual carriageways and rural by-ways. If only it was a bit more lively in the performance department.
On those drives, with some short sections of city driving, I averaged 36 mpg according to the trip computer. Impressively, that’s not too far from the combined fuel economy figure of 40.9 mpg.
Where some cars come in fairly basic trim and have you ticking an expensive list of options, even the base models of the Subaru SV are well equipped. An eight-inch touchscreen, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, LED headlights, hill descent control and Subaru’s EyeSight safety package are standard for all. To that the SE adds sat-nav, leather upholstery, sunroof and power seats.
I started this review talking about Subaru’s market strengths which grew from meeting the needs of rural dwellers who needed a practical car that would keep them going when others would be slithering to an ignominious halt.
These are the people for whom this latest XV will prove a compelling purchase. For others it remains to be seen whether the appeal of the Subaru XV will be strong enough to have them turning their back on bigger selling SUVs and crossovers. Subaru XV 2.0i SE Lineartronic Auto
Carbon dioxide emissions: 155 g/km
Combined fuel economy 40.9 mpg
Top speed: 120 mph
0-62: 10.4 secs
Power 156 bhp
Engine size 1995cc petrol
Boot capacity 385/1290 litres (back seats up/folded)