Anyone seen Subaru’s mojo? Subaru XV first drive, CAR magazine May 2016

Published: 09 May 2016

► We drive the updated Subaru XV
► Dull revisions fail to improve it
► Crashy suspension, noisy engine 

It’s been four years since the Subaru XV was launched and, if you can recall having seen more than four since, I’d be surprised. The rugged SUV has proven as memorable as a starring role filled by Jai Courtney.

The similarly complete charisma vacuum that is the XV, then, is in desperate need of a shot of adrenalin to remain in vague contention. Which, alas, is exactly what it isn’t getting.

So, no big styling changes or more power?

Nope, there’s no blue-and-gold blazing, no WRC-alike burble. Revisions to this year’s edition of unsurprisingly dull Subaru include a new 7in screen, fractionally more efficient engines and mild cosmetic tweaks. Outside of the more modern, perfectly serviceable media system, the updates are relatively moot and unlikely to entice.

Is it any better to drive?

Alas, no; on the road it’s similarly much unchanged. The still-svelte kerbweight and slick, accurate steering mean the Subaru’s poise is more akin to its WRX relatives than you might expect, but the powertrain is inferior – the whining transmission, gruff diesel and long-throw gearshift lend it a distinct air of the late ’90s.

The XV merrily continues its sub-par performance elsewhere; it’s noisy on the motorway, frequently unsettled and the suspension crashy over rough terrain – to the point where the ruckus from the underside leaves you wondering if Subaru’s fitted F1-style wheel straps for safety purposes. 

What about inside? 

It’s not the most practical choice, offering room more akin to a conventional hatch. That said, buyers interested more in the cost of ownership, rather than the pleasure of it, will appreciate its five-year, 100,000-mile warranty. Our example also returned a sensible 39mpg. 


Ultimately, the revamped XV remains comprehensively outgunned by far more talented and easily justified options. Just like Jai Courtney.

The specs: Subaru XV 2.0D SE Premium manual

Price £26,995
Engine 1998cc 16v 4cyl boxer turbodiesel, 145bhp @ 3600rpm, 258lb ft @ 1600-2400rpm 
Transmission 6-speed manual, all-wheel drive 
Performance 9.3sec 0-62mph, 123mph, 52.3mpg, 141g/km CO2 
Weight 1420kg/steel 
On Sale Now 
Rating: ★★

Verdict: Tolerable, but among superior, more affordable rivals

Read more from the May 2016 issue of CAR magazine

By Lewis Kingston

Formerly of this parish. Inveterate car buyer and seller; currently owner of a '68 Charger project car