Review: Subaru takes a new direction with latest XV model
Subaru has made a determined play into the crowded small SUV market with the all-new XV.
This is the first re-design since launch of the original Subaru XV back in 2012. But it's more than just a revamp, the latest XV is an all-new version.
And it shows. Much thought and innovation has gone into the XV, and it sends a clear signal about the future direction that many of Subaru's future models will go.
This is a premium product, particularly when experienced in 2.0i SE Premium Lineartronic guise, which is the model I test-drove courtesy of the folks at Eastwood Motors in Lisburn.
It's a thoroughly modern car, well thought-out, roomy, loaded with tech and safety kit, and with a quality cabin.
It's clear from its range that Subaru will never forget its niche customers, like the go-faster brigade who fell in love with the Impreza, or the country dwellers who wanted a robust and dependable tower.
But what the XV and other recent developments underline is that Subaru is extending its reach beyond niche audiences and into the mainstream, towards families and those with an active outdoors lifestyle. Much thought has been given to passenger safety.
With products like the XV, I've no doubt this will be successful.
What does it look like?
The stance is wide and low; not muscular but purposeful. Black cladding adds a sporty feel without over-blinging the car or making it too rugged.
There are clean lines, extended wheel arches, a little bit of edge; but also a family-friendly feel.
There is a unified feel from the design as it flows from the grille through to the rear, with the side profile enhanced with a character line running from front wheel arch to rear shoulder.
Under the bonnet
To go with the sportier appearance, Subaru is offering two petrol engines: a 1.6-litre and a 2.0-litre. In company tradition these are in Boxer or flat style (it's to do with the layout of the cylinders).
Subaru says 80% of the parts on the 2.0-litre Direct Injection engine have been revamped compared to previous naturally aspirated engines.
The improved Lineartronic is lighter and more frugal, deploying a full auto-step shift control, and a 7-speed mode function.
What's it like to drive?
My 2.0-litre model drove smoothly and responsively, accelerated appropriately and contained little of the external noise that sometimes accompanies 4x4s.
The suspension is how I like it: firm, but not hard. In corners it's responsive and not prone to leaning or understeer.
Concentrate hard and you'll notice the system feeding power to each wheel when required (I must have been one of the few adults actually wanting the snow last week, so I could test its ability properly using features like X-Mode and Hill Descent Control).
How safe is it?
Subaru is boasting that the XV has won a clutch of safety awards, and is one of the safest cars in the market.
It achieved the best scores in the Euro NCAP Small Family Car class for three of the four assessment areas (Adult Occupant, Child Occupant, Pedestrian Protection) and an outstanding performance of the Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) and Lane Support Systems in the Safety Assist area.
There are seven airbags, including a driver's knee airbag, and since it's built on Subaru's new global platform, the XV takes advantage of a whole host of the company's latest safety innovations.
Top of these is the driver assistance system, EyeSight, also seen on the Subaru Outback.
This uses two cameras to capture 3D images of the road ahead, which, combined with a range of sensors, allows the car at certain speeds, to automatically apply the brakes in the event of an accident.
There are a host of other features, including Rear Vehicle Detection, the best blind spot warning assist I've seen in any car, and an effective yet unobtrusive Lane Departure Warning which did not make me want to de-activate the way many others have.
What's the cabin like?
Classy, it has to be said; a real sign of both Subaru's current ability and future intentions. My model had sumptuous stitched leather on the seats and dash. The likes of Audi should be looking to their laurels.
The use of soft-touch plastics and better quality material everywhere has raised the game against the old XV.
The cabin is also spacious, with good rear legroom, a decent sized boot, fold-flat rear seats, and a preponderance of cubby holes for parents and kids to store their kit.
The dashboard is modern and cockpit-like, with a sophisticated eight-inch touchscreen which yields many functions including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and DAB radio.
There's also a 4.3-inch dashboard display above and back from the touchscreen that delivers a wealth of driver information including stuff that's important off-road like wheel alignment and where the all-wheel power is being directed.
Trim and prices
Trim levels match the 1.6 and 2.0 engines, as you'd expect, with Lineartronic and Premium Lineartronic.
Which means the line-up is: entry-level 1.6i SE Lineartronic (£24,995 on the road), 1.6i SE Premium Lineartronic (£26,995), 2.0i SE Lineartronic (£26,495) and the range-topping 2.0i SE Premium Lineartronic (£28,495).
The cars come very well equipped, with even the entry level model including EyeSight, 17-inch alloys, rear vehicle detection, hill descent, X-mode, keyless entry system and that eight-inch infotainment system.
Subaru is moving in an exciting new direction, which will see it produce more quality, capable cars like the XV, which is very much an improvement over the outgoing model.
They will surely bring niche customers along with them on this journey with special models, but I would expect an increasing suite of mainstream cars that will challenge the might of the mainstream quality German manufacturers like VW and Audi.
The XV is a very confident play in a crowded market; and it's an accomplished vehicle at its price point.
The Subaru XV is available from Eastwood Motors, 197 Moira Road, Lisburn (www.eastwoodmotors.com) and from all other Subaru dealers.