This is the new XV, Subaru’s all-wheel-drive crossover, aimed at the average family - and young, active buyers - who may feel the need to traverse steep hills and boggy countryside on occasion. The XV badge has only been around since 2012, and this is the first time the brand has reworked it since its initial launch. Subaru says this new model is aimed at younger drivers who enjoy an active, outdoor lifestyle. However, the carmaker makes a point that it is “not a facelift”, but a complete overhaul of the previous XV.

The new XV is built on Subaru’s new global platform, which the Japanese carmaker says improves safety as well as performance, offering “superior driving capabilities”. The XV is the second car this new platform has been fitted to, and Subaru says all future models will use it. A host of safety tech is packed into the crossover, including the driver assistance system, EyeSight. Also equipped on the Outback, this set-up uses two cameras that capture 3D images to map out the road ahead. This allows the car, depending on its speed, to avoid or reduce the severity of accidents. Subaru says the system acts as a “second pair of eyes for the driver”. The XV also boasts an upgraded interior and reworked exterior, to give it a sportier and more aggressive look.


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To go with the sportier appearance, Subaru is offering two Boxer petrol engines: a 1.6-litre and a 2.0-litre. Both are paired to the brand’s Lineartronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) automatic gearbox — this has been built specifically for use with the Boxer engines, which Subaru says improves fuel economy via a stepless gear ratio and optimal power band. However, on the 2.0-litre model we tested, which has a great kick to it, the car is let down by that automatic transmission, which holds on to gears far too long. It’s a shame, because ignore the gearbox for a moment, and the highlight of the Boxer engine is that it’s quick to respond to throttle inputs and offers decent acceleration.

The XV is still a lovely machine to drive. Careering around winding Cotswold country lanes gave us a great chance to test the XV’s handling, which impressed us. The all-wheel-drive system meant we took every corner without hassle, and allowed us to shoot out the other side without losing much traction. Compared with its previous model, the XV is far sharper and more refined.


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Thinking it would be rude not to test out the car’s off-road-friendly X-Mode and Hill Descent Control features, we ventured off the beaten track. With heavy rain battering the countryside over the past few days, the terrain was extremely boggy. Now standard in the XV, the features make tackling these tricky conditions as easy as driving on tarmac: X-Mode takes control of the engine, transmission, AWD, brakes and other components, allowing the driver to focus on not sliding into a tree, stone wall or some furry creature. And the Hill Descent Control maintained a constant speed when travelling down inclines. These extra features not only improve safety, but make the XV feel more like a serious 4x4.

Subaru has really transformed the image of the XV. Having looked at both new and old models side-by-side, the 2018 car really is a lot more striking. The carmaker says it is looking to target a younger demographic, and you can see it has tried to do this with its styling. The new front end has been refined with sharper edges, a lower nose and sleek headlights, and the rear has had similar treatment. Gone are the boring ‘polygon’ lights, replaced by a new rectangular shape. Subaru has also squared up the body, moving away from the previous model’s more rounded look. But, even with all these style changes, it still looks like a school-run family car.


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The inside of the XV continues the car’s family appeal, with loads of cubby holes for a vast amount of storage space, more than ample legroom in the back for even the tallest of passengers, and an easy to use infotainment system.

The base 1.6-litre model itself is equipped with all Subaru’s latest safety features, including EyeSight, rear vehicle detection, X-Mode, Hill Descent Control, keyless entry, 17-inch alloy wheels, and the eight-inch infotainment system. We drove the high-spec SE Premium trim and the leather seats were a great addition.


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Subaru has definitely improved the XV, and very much for the better. Having driven a previous generation model on the same day, the difference with the new car is night and day. Compared with its predecessor, the new car feels much more premium. The drive was smooth on road and rugged off, although the CVT gearbox is a disappointment, particularly since it’s mated to impressive engines. But, that aside, the XV has the capabilities to tackle pretty much anything that can be thrown at it, but it doesn’t shout about it. It doesn’t really need to. That’s its best feature.


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