Mention the name Subaru to any rally diehard and the first image which will instantly pop into their head is Colin McRae’s metallic blue, world championship-winning Impreza 555. Fast forward though to today, and the Japanese company’s latest creation is the new XV crossover.
Some people might suggest Subaru created the crossover, and this latest model continues the traditional image of such modes of transport: its styling is chunky and unashamedly rugged.
It’s a tall, utilitarian piece of kit too, riding on high suspension and fitted with full-time four-wheel-drive. It’s got an unusually generous 220mm ground clearance: 5mm more than the Forester.
The XV is a modified version of the new-generation Impreza hatchback. The base of the A-pillars have been moved forwards by 200mm, and the result is increased room for the front passengers. The other by-product is a longer wheelbase.
There’s a comprehensive choice of powerplants, and all three are flat-four boxer engines. There’s a 113bhp 1.6-litre and 145bhp 2.0-litre petrol, plus a 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel. A six-speed manual box is standard and a CVT optional on the petrol engines.
We’ve gone for the diesel, and it’s a very clever piece of kit. It’s very refined and, thankfully, is free from any raucous low-rev diesel clatter.
It’s also got a surprising turn of pace. Ok, it’s never going to outperform a rally-ready Impreza, but when set alongside its main rivals — the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Honda CR-V — it’s pretty quick.
The XV is also fun to drive. Turn-in is sharp, and very undiesel-like, and thanks to its suspension set-up, it’s relatively free from roll when pushed eagerly through a corner.
So, what are we talking about in terms of figures? Well Subaru lists the XV’s combined fuel figure as 50.4mpg; it’ll cover the 0-62mph ‘sprint’ in 9.3secs, and will accelerate on to a maximum of 120mph.
If we’re being pernickety, there’s a bit of excessive wind and tyre noise, but not enough to make ownership of the XV a problem.
In fact, while rivals such as BMW and Audi strive for sales due to their cars’ polished brand image, the Subaru just gets stuck in. It’s definitely a far more serious tool than its competitors, thanks to its undisguised ruggedness and offroad ability.
The permanent four-wheel-drive, allied to its huge ground clearance, certainly make the XV a car for all conditions. Ok, I accept it doesn’t have electronic wizardry like hill descent control and a low range transmission, but the Subaru will still surprise you with just what it can achieve offroad. It’s a no-nonsense achiever.
Inside the cabin, there’s a workmanlike feel to the fixtures and fittings. That’s no bad thing. More importantly is that everything works as it should, and the driving position and passenger space is good.
And it’s well-specced. The entry-level S includes air-con, front, side, curtain and knee bags, ABS, traction and the highly effective vehicle dynamic control system which brakes individual wheels quickly to stabilise the car when it is on the point of losing control.
Step up to the SE, and HID headlamps and washers, dual zone climate control, colour dash display and rear-view camera, six-speaker stereo, Bluetooth and USB connections also come as standard kit.
If you must have leather, and fancy toys such as keyless entry and start, power driver’s seat and a Pioneer sat-nav, you’ll need to step up to the SE Lux Premium.
Tested in 2.0D SE spec here, the Subaru XV will set you back £26,295. That’s not at all bad, specially considering the the Pound/Yen exchange rate has virtually halved over the last couple of years.
Cleverly, Subaru has also added what it calls ETC to the XV. ETC? That’s “EveryThing Covered”.
For the first three years of ownership, the XV gets free dent, scratch and alloy wheel repairs, an annual wheel alignment check (important on a 4×4), a monthly clean and annual valet, winter tyre storage, accident management with the first £300 insurance excess covered, lost car and house keys replaced in 24 hours, the first MOT and £300 in costs free and collection and delivery for the servicing.
That’s a neat little bundle. In fact Subaru claims ETC has a value of over £7000. That in itself might go some way to bridging the perceived value gap with the Germans.
I suspect though that most XV Scots owners will buy the XV simply because of its ability to cope with all weathers and all terrains. And it’s those straightforward abilities which should, in the longterm, move the Subaru ahead of its more illustrious German rivals.