Subaru aims high on just four wheels
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 coupe replacement for the latter's Celica.
But while the coupe 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.
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 have 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 model. 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're posh. It's not a good arrangement for economy, so it was no surprise the diesel XV only managed 42.7mpg. 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 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 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.
Subaru XV SE
Does it fit your ego...
...and your wallet...