Most of the small SUVs put themselves out there as front-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive for many being a variation of the norm. But Subaru has been all-wheel drive or nothing for a long time, a modus operandi that continues with its all-new Global Platform which represents the core design principles for all next-generation models.
The XV is the second Subaru to adopt the platform, which includes its unique Boxer engine, Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive and EyeSight driver assist.
It’s EyeSight, now in its third generation, that represents the most significant advance in a small SUV such as XV. It allows the car to read stereo colour images, with improved object recognition to assist autonomous emergency braking capability, which now works at up to 50km/h.
Eyes on the road
EyeSight also enables lane-keep assist and improved adaptive cruise control functionality. The enhanced camera lets EyeSight see more of the road, but a few times this had us slowing down when a vehicle drifted to the edge of an adjacent lane. And although a bit abrupt at times, the lane-keep assist worked well.
The interior styling of the XV is smart, with textured dashboard trim, coloured stitching and small carbon fibre-style panels on the doors. Front seats are comfortable, and the driver can adjust the steering for both tilt and reach, although it took a few attempts to get everything feeling right.
Comfort levels in the back row are also pleasing, with leg room surprisingly good given XV’s size; two adults could comfortably fit but three would be a squeeze. Child seats are simple to set up with ISOFIX anchorage points and easily accessible top tethers. The cargo area isn’t huge, partly due to the presence of a full-size (although still temporary-use) spare wheel, plus you lose a bit of space if you roll out the cargo blind.
The infotainment system works through an eight-inch touch-screen display with a user interface that looks like apps on a smartphone. Included is FM/AM radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, and a TomTom sat-nav system that remembers your home and work addresses, giving you an ETA without needing to enter an address. Below the main display are two USB and one AUX connection, and one 12-volt power source. Two USB and a 12-volt power source are also in the centre console.
Surprisingly capable off-roader
X-Mode is Subaru’s off-road driving set-up which enables XV to go further than most in its class. At under 40km/h the driver can engage X-Mode to alter throttle response and centralise control of systems such as brakes and all-wheel-drive torque vectoring. Below 20km/h, hill-descent control will maintain the XV at a constant speed without the driver needing to touch the brake or accelerator. Combining X-Mode, hill-descent control and a generous ride height made the XV a surprisingly capable off-roader for its size.
Subaru’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine develops 115kW and 196Nm, putting it in the ballpark of its competitors. Straight-line ability is not an issue around town, although as one of the heavier small SUVs it’s a little slow on the pick-up for passing manoeuvres and it needs to put in a bit of effort on steeper hills.
Typical of Subaru and the Boxer engine, the XV uses a little more fuel than its competitors. The CVT transmission was for the most part smooth and responsive, which helps with fuel economy, but we did notice an audible transmission whine when under load.