Subaru XV has winning ways
SUBARU is a company with ambitions. You can tell that by the project in which it has collaborated with Toyota to create a much-needed coupé replacement for the latter's Celica.
But while the coupé won all the attention, Subaru expanded its range with the XV, a crossover intended to beat the mud out of the rivals from Nissan, Ford, Skoda, and possibly Land Rover.
When you consider that at the lower end the XV competes with the Skoda Octavia Scout and, at the top end, you could be luxuriating in a Range Rover Evoque for less cash, albeit with only front-wheel drive as opposed to the Subaru's 4x4, then the Subaru has to deliver on other fronts. This it clearly does, as 4x4 Magazine has just named it "SUV of the Year" showing that when serious ability is required the car can meet your demands.
One of the winning factors is that, like Skoda, Subaru is a brand with devotees who would consider nothing else. So if the Legacy and Forester estates are too big then the XV could have its appeal.
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We've been running round in two XVs. The first was the 2.0D SE, a diesel, while the other was the 2.0i Lineartronic, a petrol model with a continuously variable ratio transmission.
They were contrasting beasts. Many people would see the diesel's promise of better fuel consumption but the engine adds £2,000, an entry ticket that's hardly worth it in view of the higher cost of fuel and the fact it only did 8mpg more than the petrol car.
In fact, with a manual gearbox on the petrol car it may be possible to get even better fuel figures, which then makes the diesel even worse value.
Where the diesel wins is in towing capacity – it will pull 1.6 tonnes rather than the 1.2 tonnes managed by the petrol XV. That's the difference between holidaying in a caravan or a trailer tent. And, of course, with its permanent four-wheel drive there can hardly be a better compact caravan tug than the XV when the conditions get tough. Given our new climate regime, that could be quite often.
What sets Subaru cars apart from most others is the boxer layout of the engine – the cylinders lie on their sides opposite each other with the crankshaft through the middle.
It may sound idiosyncratic but when people query it you can always explain it's the same as the original VW Beetle if they wear sandals or a Porsche 911 if they've posh.
It's not a good arrangement for economy, so it was no surprise the diesel XV only managed 42mpg. On the other hand, to be perverse, the petrol car averaged almost 35mpg, far and away better than most petrol Subarus.
What did appeal about the diesel was the better throttle control. It was easy to come on and off the power without being jerky – the petrol car was far more sensitive and that's a real drawback when driving off-road.
The advantage of the CVT (or any full auto) transmission with 4x4 is that you don't lose traction in sticky conditions during ratio changes as you do when the clutch is dipped for a manual gearbox.
The XV is also roomier than it looks, with a far better appearance than it has in any picture. But as there's no spare wheel it's not its 4x4 is for difficult on-road driving. It's not an off-roader – full stop. As you will find when you get a puncture in the middle of a field.