► Chunky XV's hybrid option
► 'e-Boxer' powertrain tested
► Yours from £30,995
Subaru, like every other brand at the moment, is slowly electrifying its model range. Its chunky XV crossover, then, now has a fresh variant under the brand’s ‘e-Boxer’ tagline.
The XV, as a reminder, is Subaru’s blocky and rugged rival to the Qashqai class – that mid-size crossover SUV that’s taken the world by storm. The XV is designed to be on the more capable, actually-a-proper-SUV kind of rival here.
Tell me about this e-Boxer arrangement
Well, to start with, the XV e-Boxer uses a 148bhp 2.0-litre, naturally aspirated four-cylinder boxer engine mated to a 13.5kWh battery and a 12.3kW e-motor for a total system output of 164bhp and 192lb ft. Power is sent to all four wheels via Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT, which simulates ‘gears’ by steps in the ‘box’s power delivery. So far, so simple.
Now, as you can see, this isn’t a mild hybrid e-boost system but nor is the XV e-Boxer a plug-in hybrid. Instead, it acts more like a normal Toyota Prius; the battery gives the engine a helping hand when required and allows for engine-off, zero-emission driving up to 25mph.
So, how does this fare in the real world?
It’s a mixed bag. On the plus side, nipping around town is quiet and the powertrain swaps between e-power and combustion power smoothly. While the battery isn’t enormous, the XV really does have the ability to run on EV power in traffic, so long as you flex nothing more than your big toe on the throttle.
But it’s still not exactly fast on paper, not that this really matters in your average family crossover, even if there’s a genuinely noticeable whump of torque at lower revs. The engine feels strained if you launch it down a motorway sliproad and allow the CVT to engage max revs but the noise to progress ratio isn’t balanced in the right way. Switching to ‘manual’ mode and using the paddles is kind of pointless here.
When you’re not driving like a pillock and use the hybrid system properly, you don’t exactly reap a massive fuel economy benefit either. Claimed WLTP figures stand at a not-particularly-special anyway (circa 36mpg) and, during our test, our numbers were hovering around the 32mpg mark. Neither number is stellar for a hybrid; most diesel or petrol PHEVs could easily better that in normal driving.
What about handling?
The XV is definitely designed to be a comfy and smooth on the road. Soundproofing could be better – road noise borders on intrusive – but the suspension is soft, allowing the XV to absorb most bumps effectively. The steering is a little soggy, as if there’s an inches worth of cotton wool wrapped around your inputs, but there’s a pleasing weight to it.
On-road grip is tremendous, too. During our test, we’ve tried to outsmart the all-wheel drive system with some of our corner approach speeds but the only flicker of protest you experience is a bit of tyre squeal – no understeer. Again – no one will drive an XV like they stole it, but we thought we’d let you know anyway.
What else is different?
Not a whole lot, really. As already mentioned, the XV is designed to be a chunky, rugged and genuinely-usable-off-road SUV in a class of pretenders – that has some benefits and drawbacks.
It’s very no-nonsense and has some real off-roading street cred; there’s an X-Mode switch for remapping the all-wheel drive system and using the e-motor to better modulate traction on what was already a commendable mud plugger.
Inside, it’s definitely on the more luxurious side of Subaru interiors – particularly if you go for the SE Premium trim. There’s orangey, carbon-effect detailing on the doors and orange stitching on the dashboard, three screens (one infotainment, one upper info screen and one between the instruments) chunky dials and hard-wearing plastics. The seats are spongey – ours were trimmed in a black and orange two-tone upholstery – and the seating position is adjustable and not too high. It uses the same infotainment system as the Levorg estate, which is simple enough to use and clear to read but not exactly bursting with clever touches.
Rear space for adults is just enough if you’re sat behind a six-footer, while the boot volume is rated at a pretty paltry 340 litres – a VW T-Cross, a car in a smaller SUV class than the XV, manages 355 with the seats up. Towing capacity drops a touch, too: the e-Boxer is capable of up to 1270kg-worth of braked trailer, down from 1400kg for a regular one.
Subaru XV e-Boxer: verdict
Like most Subarus, the XV e-Boxer is a charming and capable SUV. The powertrain itself doesn’t do the XV many favours. While smooth, fuel economy is oddly not a strong point of this particular hybrid, and it doesn’t offer much in the way of driving excitement. There are also more practical SUVs out there in terms of interior space, even if the XV plays an off-road trump card to claw back some points.
You know what it’s about from the off – it’s more about utility and peace of mind rather than performance or blow-your-mind technology. It’s comfortable, quiet (mostly) and, in the grand scheme of hybrid SUVs, not bad value.
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