50 shades of orange

Road test: Subaru XV 2.0 SE diesel

When thinking of Subarus, I’m torn between the extreme Imprezas and the sensible 4×4 estates such as the Forester and Legacy. The new XV bridges that gap, remaining small enough to retain some agility yet providing the frequently desired elevated ride height for occasional country work. On paper, the XV seems to tick every box, so the question is: is it a jack-of-all-trades? Let’s take a look.

A couple of long motorway runs showed the XV to be a good mile-eater. The tall sixth gear allows 70 mph at a mere 2,000 rpm. Subaru’s diesel boxer engine (i.e. a flat four) is unique and it works well. It does sound gruff, even when warm, but it delivers a whopping 350 Nm of torque and suits the car well. Despite a half-full load, wasting little time on the motorway and enjoying the performance on the A-roads in our home counties, this 4×4 averaged low to mid 40s to the gallon which is perfectly respectable.

Famous Subaru sure-footedness

Storms and flash floods allowed the XV to show its excellent road manners and 4×4 pedigree. Extremely deep puddles didn’t phase it and the wet, muddy fields at a couple of National Trust properties didn’t tax it in the least. On the open, wet roads, the famous Subaru sure-footedness is very evident.

Inside, the cabin is reasonably well insulated from the engine, except with foot on floor at about 1,700 rpm when it’s a bit clattery. Trim is on the utilitarian side and the plastics are slightly low-rent. The seating is a touch soft but comfortable, however the net-like upholstery readily attracts dirt and retains it in the tiny pockets in the fabric. The single design aspect which surprised me was the XV’s small boot. There is a little additional under-floor compartment but otherwise it could best be described as modest. My only other niggle is with the granularity of both the cruise control and radio volume: both require many flicks of their respective switches to effect any notable change.

It’s not the cheapest in its segment but this mid-spec SE comes with a rear camera, USB and phone connectivity, folding mirrors, heated seats, brake assist, cruise and climate control, all making life easy.

Externally, the XV is slightly ruggedised and the black plastic arch covers and skirts are in keeping with the chunky profile. Of course the elephant in the room here is the bright orange paint on this press car. Observers were polar in their views but it certainly attracted attention; there was never any danger of losing it in a car park.

For me, the overriding virtue of the XV is its all-round capability. Slightly raised height provides good forward visibility while the full-time all-wheel-drive means the handling isn’t compromised. The diesel is the quickest engine in the XV range and its competent performance and slightly off-beat-sound make it one of the car’s strongest virtues. Add to this the good occupant space and ease of operation and hopefully Subaru will extend its appeal beyond just die-hard Subaru fans.

Subaru XV 2.0 SE diesel, £26,295

Power: 147 PS (3,600 rpm), torque: 350Nm (1,600 – 2,400 rpm), emissions: 146 g/km CO2 (band F), 0-60 mph: 9.3 secs.

Motor Writer rating: ●●●●○

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