You might not think it to look at it, but this is actually an all-new car.

The Subaru XV is the second outing for the company’s new snappily-titled Subaru Global Platform, set to form the basis of all new future models. For the engineers among you, Subaru claims the new platform is stronger, safer, with more dynamic driving manners and increased stability, particularly at speed.

That all sounds great, of course, and although it looks like Subaru went to all that effort and then plonked the same car on top of it all, there are actually quite a few changes.

For a start, it’s a touch longer and wider than before. Body creases are sharper and surfaces more refined, while the new headlights and tail-lights lend the shape a more modern profile. It’s still recognisably an XV, just more… chiselled.

It’s much the same story for the interior, too – everything’s roughly where it was before, but with a few enhancements. The trip computer perched atop the dashboard features a larger screen and clearer graphics, the infotainment system uses an 8-inch touch-screen (up an inch), while both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are now standard (handy on base models that lack satnav).

We’re suckers for a bit of contrasting stitching, and in the XV it adds a welcome splash of colour, although the sheer number of finishes on display (gloss black, faux carbon fibre, silver-painted plastic) feels like someone couldn’t quite decide between them.

Still, the XV retains its light and airy feel, there’s plenty of space on offer and good adjustment for those in the front.  Headroom in the back is perhaps a little less generous, though.

Boot space is slightly larger than before (up by five litres), and while it retains the previous car’s rather curious ramp in the floor with the seats folded, it’s still a typically practical load area with tie-downs and underfloor storage.

Power comes from a choice of two four-cylinder petrol ‘Boxer’ engines. The 114ps 1.6 is probably best overlooked in favour of the 154ps 2.0-litre unit.

Gone, unfortunately, is the likeable diesel engine, and there’s no manual gearbox offered, either. Instead, the XV drives all four wheels through Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT auto.

This is about as good as CVTs get, and while it’s commendably smooth and easy to use for everyday pootling about town, it still struggles to pick up speed on dual carriageways. Climbing a gradient can feel like hard and noisy work, with the XV pegging its power-plant at the upper reaches of the rev counter while the transmission casually ekes out whatever it can.

Where the XV scores highly, though, is in the search for traction. Subaru’s Symmetrical All Wheel Drive system offers permanent drive to all four wheels with a default 60:40 front to rear split that alters as conditions dictate.

The XV also offers an X-Mode button – nothing to do with Marvel comics, instead it provides additional assistance at low speeds in slippery conditions, such as regulating the vehicle’s speed during steep descents, for instance.

This, plus the impressive 220mm ground clearance, makes the XV all but unstoppable, and if you’re looking for a way to stay mobile through the increasingly treacherous British winter, a Subaru on winter tyres is likely to prove unbeatable.

Unlike a full-blown 4×4, this level of all-weather dependability doesn’t require much of a sacrifice in warmer seasons. Sure, it’s no sports car, particularly as the engine feels like it delivers its performance from the other end of a long piece of elastic. But it’ll still hustle through a series of bends with surprising confidence, and with long-travel suspension that soaks up the worst of our many pot-holes, the Subaru starts to make a lot of sense.

Part of the reason behind the standard-fit Lineartronic is Subaru’s roll-out of their EyeSight system across the range. A pair of cameras mounted by the rear-view mirror capture a stereoscopic image of objects in front of the car, with Subaru claiming the system can now differentiate between cars, pedestrians and cyclists as well as stationary obstacles. The system can then either beep incessantly at the driver or apply the brakes automatically if necessary to avoid an accident, but it also forms the basis of the company’s lane keep assist, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control functions.

Japan’s Institute for Traffic Accident Research and Data Analysis recently concluded that EyeSight-equipped vehicles were involved in 61% fewer accidents.

Added to which, there’s Subaru’s version of rear cross traffic alert to reduce the likelihood of you reversing embarrassingly into someone in a car park, plus blind spot monitoring to stop you side-swiping a car on the motorway.

Commendable as all of this is, it does come at a price: a fiver under twenty five grand for the entry-level 1.6-litre model, while a 2.0-litre Premium with its satnav, leather and sunroof requires £29,045 if you want anything other than white.

But if you have a compelling reason for needing the automotive capability of a mountain goat, the Subaru XV has you covered.

Tester’s Notes

  • EyeSight system performed flawlessly
  • USB under armrest doesn’t support CarPlay, USB that does is hard to reach
  • Speedo dial a little hard to read, thankfully a digital alternative is provided
  • Airy cabin, good range of seat adjustment, headroom a little tight in the back
  • We like a bit of contrast stitching, shame about the multitude of other finishes
  • Unusual locations for some switchgear, i.e. LDW defeat by rear-view mirror
  • Lineartronic is about as good as CVT gets; still feels like a gearbox made from elastic, some surging in the drivetrain even on constant throttle
  • Engine quiet in normal driving, coarse when pushed
  • Still can’t easily pick up speed on dual carriageways/motorways, climbing gradients is hard, noisy work
  • 39.8 mpg on test
Entry-level Price £24,995 Price as tested £29,045
Engine 1995cc 4-cyl Boxer Transmission CVT
Power 156ps @ 6,000rpm Torque 196Nm @ 4,000rpm
0-60 10.4 secs Top speed 120 mph
Economy 40.9 mpg CO2 155 g/km
Dimensions 4465 x 1800 x 1615 (LxWxH) Kerb Weight 1439 kg

Alex Kefford

Editor

Freelance journalist, ex-offroad driving instructor and long distance road-tripper. If you have any questions about this piece, feel free to hit me up on Twitter.