Subaru and off-road versions of wagons (and, more recently, hatches) have gone together like peas and corn since the Leone 4×4 wagon of the 1970s and 1980s, with increased ride height, dual-range 4WD and even height adjustment. The baton was passed in the 1990s to the Liberty-based Outback wagon, still to this day the best-selling wagon-based crossover. This same philosophy was tried on the smaller Impreza hatch, as the RV, which spun off into a model in its own right; the XV (or Crosstrek in the USA).
The all-new XV uses the same Subaru Global Architecture (SGA) as the all-new Impreza. Thus it benefits from a major uptick in rigidity, safety features, interior design and quality, as well as efficiency.
Interior comfort and storage
At 4465mm long, 1800mm wide and 1615mm tall, you could not be accused of calling the XV tight in terms of cargo space. The boot area of 310 litres can be expanded to 765L when the rear seats are folded. While not the most spacious in the class, due to its hatchback-based design, it will be ample for most buyers in this class.
The rest of the cabin is typical Subaru, in a good way. It’s very high in quality with excellent fit and finish, but the design opens up decent seating space in the front and rear. With thin pillars and a low centre console, the feeling of space is also very evident.
Infotainment and ergonomics
The most prominent feature of the new XV would have to be the 8.0-inch touch-screen, with a high-definition colour display. It uses Subaru’s StarLink system, incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and navigation, with pinch to zoom settings depending on model.
Audio quality is very good but the satellite navigation system gets a bit confused in tunnels. The graphics of the touch-screen, with subtle layers for volume control, feel and look very modern and sharp. Material quality has definitely improved over the previous gen. Even the power window switch block and surfaces you don’t touch have a genuinely premium feel to them.
The cookie cutter wheels and taut proportions of the last model are intact and you get the impression Subaru might be past its ugly design phase that seemingly began with the previous 2007 ‘style by committee’ Impreza and previous Liberty which seemed desperate to appease US customers. The overall look is more modern and confident than before, but definitely evolutionary compared with the older model. Everything inside is functional and upmarket feeling, with the large vertical vents very effective at blowing air.
Engine and performance
Perhaps the Achilles’ heel of this whole package, the XV can only be had with a 2.0-litre 115kW four-cylinder, developing a rather feeble 196Nm at 4000rpm. It is more than adequate for getting around town, but is a bit hesitant off the line and doesn’t exactly move along quickly when you floor it.
A 0-100km/h time of 11.75 seconds is nothing to crow about frankly. Maybe a WRX version should be considered? A 1.6-litre turbocharged engine of 125kW and 250Nm just debuted in the Levorg wagon, so this could potentially find its way into the XV at some point.
The only gearbox on offer in Australia (five-speed manual is available overseas) is the Lineartronic CVT automatic. While pretty good as far as continuously variable transmissions go, a conventional automatic might have been able to put more of the engine’s meagre power to the road.
Handling and steering
This is where the new chassis pays off. A very direct and communicative steering system complements a rigid chassis and highly evolved iteration of Subaru’s symmetrical AWD system to give very high levels of grip in all conditions and a very entertaining drive. The feel and handling of this car is top notch, with the extra ground clearance of the XV not blunting the more sophisticated suspension geometry of Subaru’s latest chassis.
Ride and NVH
Another gold star here. Subaru has clearly endeavoured to create a premium car ambience in all measures, with the extra ride height of the XV lending it a bit more compliance than the Impreza upon which it is based.
Fuel economy and running costs
A flat 7L/100km is promised from the base XV and real world results of 8.2L/100km are not too bad considering the relative torpor of the engine. Servicing is at 12,500km intervals or every 12 months, with the $918.86 estimate over a three year period over $300 better than its predecessor.
The XV has a five-star ANCAP rating and the availability of EyeSight technology including autonomous emergency braking and pedestrian detection. Lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control are available on higher variants of the XV. All-wheel drive is standard across the range, adding on-road security in all weather conditions. The AWD also gives it a slight edge over some competitors which are two-wheel drive only.
Value for money
The entry price of $27,990 (before on-roads) is pretty impressive for a crossover, even if it is based on a hatch. It is all the more so when you consider the XV is based on an all-new chassis, comes with all-wheel drive as standard, and uses a top notch interior.
If you want something halfway between a conventional car and a tallboy SUV, then there really is no alternative to the Subaru XV. Just as well the new XV has advanced safety technology, is a wonderful drive and is well put together and cheap to maintain/run. We just wish it had a bit more herbs but that isn’t going to bother everyone.