Review: Subaru XV (2018)


Solid and well built interior. Very capable in poor conditions. Handling and ride much improved over predecessor. Five star Euro NCAP rating.

No manual gearbox or diesel option. Below par fuel economy. Expensive list prices alongside the competition.

Subaru XV (2018): At A Glance

Make no mistake, the new Subaru XV is a very capable car, but that’s going to be its biggest weakness – it’s totally overqualified. While the interior, ride and handling have improved, it’s not pretty (or cheap) enough to threaten rivals such as the Nissan Juke.

Its full-time four-wheel drive system means that, while you’ve always got plenty of grip, fuel economy and emissions are below par. Worse, buyers have zero choice – if you want an XV, it’ll be a petrol and it’ll be an automatic.

While most tests normally launch into how the car rides and handles at this point, we reckon there’s something more important to cover first - what it‘s actually like to live with a Subaru.

If you live in a remote part of the world where it’s hilly, muddy, and prone to difficult driving conditions, then the new Subaru XV with its full-time four-wheel drive and clever X-mode system should be on your shortlist – assuming you’ve got a dealer nearby (or you don't already own one).

Because if there’s one thing that’s going to hinder sales of the new model, it’s coverage. While the four Subaru dealers north of the border do very well indeed, sales slow up as you head south to a slightly more temperate climate.

As could the running costs. With no diesel available, or manual transmission on offer, drivers get to pick from the 2.0-litre petrol that’s going to be the big seller, or a 1.6-litre petrol. The former does around 40mpg according to the official combined figures.

It’s an expensive car, too – list prices start at £25k. For that, you could get top of the range versions of the Mazda CX-3 or Honda HR-V. You could say that the XV faces something of an uphill struggle.

Subaru XV 2018 Road Test

What does a Subaru XV (2018) cost?

List Price from £27,995
Buy new from £26,210
Contract hire from £416.64 per month

Subaru XV (2018): What's It Like Inside?

Length 4465 mm
Width 1800 mm
Height 1615 mm
Wheelbase 2665 mm

Full specifications

Fifteen years ago, Subaru interiors were a thing to marvel at – plastics were light grey and not particularly hard-wearing, materials felt cheap, there was very little sound-deadening giving the cars a thrashy quality. But at least the air-con was ice cold.

Today, it’s a very different story. The 1980s graphic equalizer face-off stereo has been replaced with a touchscreen and most of the instruments in the XV get a chrome finish. The plastics are a higher quality and harder wearing. And the seats are improved, offering better support.

But the real story here is about safety. During crash tests, Euro Ncap awarded the XV five stars – which makes it the safest car in its class. It seems the engineers weren’t just focussing on driving dynamics when they were improving the car’s rigidity – they were also improving impact energy absorption.

Apart from the seven airbags, the XV also comes with the EyeSight driver assistance package. This includes autonomous emergency braking, pre-collision braking (which reduces throttle if a potential accident is identified) and a lane departure warning. Its high-tech cameras can also pick up pedestrians or cars from several meters away, which is handy if you’re reversing out of a space of with reduced visibility.

And while the entry-level SE price may be high, it does come with plenty of kit. Standard equipment includes automatic and steering responsive LED headlights, auto wipers, folding door mirrors, leather steering wheel, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, electric windows, keyless entry and push-button start.

There’s also dual-zone air con, heated door mirrors, DAB radio plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In fact, SE Premium only really adds Sat Nav into the mix.

Bad points? Well, the touchscreen is slightly offset towards the passenger (a hangover from left-hand drive cars), the centre console armrest doesn’t extend out far enough to be an armrest, and the letterbox-shaped slot in front of it is too small to take an standard iPhone 8 or anything phablet sized.

Boot space is improved though – up from 300 to 385 litres and an impressive 1287 litres with the 60/40 split seats down. There’s also plenty of head and legroom in the back for taller passengers.

Child seats that fit a Subaru XV (2018)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the Subaru XV (2018) like to drive?

While the XV might not look different on the outside, underneath it’s a whole new animal. It’s based on Subaru’s new global platform – a platform that reportedly cost one billion dollars to develop and was designed to improve driving dynamics and safety performance.

The platform has already given us the new Impreza so now it’s the XV’s turn for a do over. The result is impressive – driving the old and new models back to back, it’s immediately clear that the new car is stiffer, firmer and more responsive. It’s also stable in a straight line – one of the big advantages of the low-slung horizontally boxer engine over the more common inline design.

Around corners, the car is neutral and progressive. Testing it on track showed that the four-wheel drive system is more than capable of coping with a variety of corners, with the traction control only getting involved if you ask for full power with too much lock on.

The revised electric steering is heavier, but better weighted and strikes a good balance of not requiring too much input in the centre position, while responding well to adjustments made as you turn the wheel further. This means that on a motorway, it requires minimal input when caught in a crosswind – but offers a rewarding experience when pressing on.

Perhaps the biggest difference, though, is how the car’s handling at the rear has improved. Subaru has managed to increase rear stiffness by 100% - and the difference is immediately noticeable on a slalom test.

Under braking, the XV is composed and an emergency stop at 40mph to navigate around an obstacle induces much less body roll than before. Improved rigidity also means that there is less noise and vibration.

Power delivery from the 2.0-litre isn’t the greatest, and is made to feel even more slugging thanks to the large amount of travel on the accelerator. With 156PS available at 3600rpm and 196Nm of torque at 4000rpm, keeping the engine in its sweet spot takes some doing with a CVT 'box.

If driving dynamics was such an important part of the platform, it would’ve made sense to include a ‘sport’ button that increases throttle responsiveness and encourages the auto box to hold on to 'gears' a bit longer. But then driving dynamics might not be top of the list for potential XV buyers, which begs the question if one size really does fit all.

But there's no doubt that with full-time four-wheel drive and decent ground clearance, this is a car for people who need to make progress across difficult terrain. Here, X-drive can be engaged – this operates a hill decent control, which allows the car to maintain a constant speed down a steep muddy hill (where nailing the brakes would cause a skid).

X-Drive will also take the XV out of its slightly front-wheel drive biased setting to make sure each wheel has grip.

For example, if three wheels are spinning it will send the majority of power to one wheel but apply braking before traction is lost. It’s perhaps not the most competent off-roader compared to say a Land Cruiser Amazon, but it’ll easily get you across a muddy farm track or up a snowy hill and beats anything in its class for tackling the muddy stuff.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
1.6 Lineartronic 44 mpg 13.9 s 145 g/km
2.0 Lineartronic 41 mpg 10.4 s 155 g/km

Real MPG average for a Subaru XV (2018)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance


Real MPG

31–40 mpg

MPGs submitted


Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the Subaru XV (2018)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

What should I replace my Land Rover Freelander 2 with?

I currently have a 9-year-old Freelander 2 which limits the downhill speed in bad winter weather to about 3 mph down a narrow private country hill road where I live. I am considering replacing the Freelander but I don't really want to spend £35,000 on its current replacement. Can you suggest any cars that have a downhill limiter suitable for a 6'1" driver? I'd prefer new or nearly new I would keep the vehicle for quite a while.
Take a look at the Subaru XV. It starts at around £25k and all models come with hill descent control as part of its X-Mode four-wheel-drive system. It's excellent in the snow and tough conditions, and will be a very reliable car that should last for a long time.
Answered by Andrew Brady
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