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Review: Subaru's new XV model 'not a facelift but a complete overhaul'

This is the new XV, Subaru's all-wheel drive crossover aimed at the average family and young, active buyers who may feel the need to traverse steep hills and boggy countryside on occasion.

The XV badge has been around since 2012, and this is the first time the brand has reworked it. Subaru says the new model is aimed at younger drivers who enjoy an outdoor lifestyle and that the new model is "not a facelift" but a complete overhaul.

What's new?

The new XV is built on Subaru's new global platform, which the Japanese car maker says improves safety as well as performance, offering "superior driving capabilities". The XV is the second car this new platform has been fitted to, and Subaru says all future models will use it. A host of safety tech is packed into the crossover, including the driver assistance system, EyeSight.

Also equipped on the Outback, this set-up uses two cameras that capture 3D images to map out the road ahead. This allows the car, depending on its speed, to avoid or reduce the severity of accidents. Subaru says the system acts as a "second pair of eyes for the driver". The XV also boasts an upgraded interior and reworked exterior, to give a sportier, more aggressive look.

What's under the bonnet?

To go with the sportier appearance, Subaru is offering two Boxer petrol engines: a 1.6-litre and a 2.0-litre. Both are paired to the brand's Lineartronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) automatic gearbox - built specifically for the Boxer engines, which Subaru says improves fuel economy via a stepless gear ratio and optimal power band. However, on the 2.0-litre model we tested, which has a great kick to it, that automatic transmission holds on to gears far too long. It's a shame, because ignore the gearbox for a moment, and the highlight of the Boxer is that it's quick to respond to throttle inputs and offers decent acceleration. After averaging 24mpg - and driving in a fairly normal fashion - this is something I'm sure families and commuters won't be happy about, especially as Subaru claims 40.9mpg combined. Maybe a diesel version is needed.

What's it like to drive?

The XV is a lovely machine to drive - especially if you're not the one paying for fuel! Careering around winding country lanes gave a great chance to test the handling, which impressed us. The all-wheel-drive system meant we took every corner without hassle, and allowed us to shoot out the other side without losing much traction. Compared with its previous model, the XV is far sharper and more refined.

Thinking it rude not to test out the car's off-road-friendly X-Mode and Hill Descent Control features, we ventured off the beaten track. With heavy rain battering the countryside over the past few days, the terrain was extremely boggy. Now standard in the XV, the features make tackling these tricky conditions as easy as driving on tarmac: X-Mode takes control of engine, transmission, AWD, brakes and other components, letting the driver focus on not sliding into a tree, stone wall or some furry creature. And the Hill Descent Control maintained a constant speed when travelling down inclines. These extra features not only improve safety, but make the XV feel more like a serious 4x4.

How does it look?

Having looked at new and old models side-by-side, the 2018 car is a lot more striking. The car maker says it is looking to target a younger demographic. The new front end has sharper edges, a lower nose and sleek headlights, and the rear has had similar treatment. Gone are the boring 'polygon' lights, replaced by a rectangular shape. Subaru has also squared up the body. But, even with all these style changes, it still looks like a school-run family car.

What's it like inside?

The interior continues the family appeal, with loads of cubby holes for vast storage space, more than ample legroom in the back for even the tallest passengers, and an easy to use infotainment system. On the dash, an additional screen displays satellite navigation directions if the main eight-inch touchscreen is being used for another of its many functions - including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and DAB radio. But this 4.3-inch dashboard display gets even more use when you venture off-road. Apart from giving you fuel economy, temperature and driving conditions it also shows wheel alignment, so you never lose track of where the wheels are pointing when the going gets particularly tough.

What's the spec like?

The base 1.6-litre model comes in at £24,995. This has all Subaru's latest safety features, including EyeSight, rear vehicle detection, X-Mode, Hill Descent Control, keyless entry, 17-inch alloy wheels, and the eight-inch infotainment system. The 2.0-litre costs £26,495 with a similar spec. There is also a choice to improve the quality of the interior, with leather seats, a sunroof, satellite navigation, and eight-point power-adjusted driver's seat.

These are priced at an additional £2,000 for both engine types. We drove the high-spec SE Premium trim and the leather seats were a great addition. The satnav is a decent system, so an extra £2,000 for that and the other kit seems worth it, although that prices the 2.0-litre model up to £28,495 - quite a bit of cash.

Verdict

Subaru has definitely improved the XV, and very much for the better. Having driven a previous generation model on the same day, the difference with the new car is night and day. Compared with its predecessor, the new car feels much more premium.

Factfile

Model as tested: 2.0i SE Premium Lineartronic

Price: £28,495

Engine: 2.0-litre Boxer petrol

Power: 152 bhp

Torque (Nm): 196 Nm

Max speed (mph): 120 mph

0-60mph: 10.2 seconds

MPG: 40.9 combined MPG

Emissions (g/km): 155 g/km

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