2020 Subaru XV e-Boxer review

Subaru XV Front. Credit: Subaru

The 2020 Subaru XV e-Boxer slots into a range full of cars packed with high-tech safety features, sensible styling, off-road capability and sporting reputations for bullet-proof reliability.

With looks so bland they are almost distinctive (considering the rest of the segment are a bunch of try-hards), a five-star Euro NCAP rating, a boxer-mounted engine and symmetrical all-wheel drive, the XV fits right in with the wider line-up.

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There are a number of cosmetic upgrades distinguishing the e-boxer from the standard model, including a new front grille design, low-profile roof rails, new fog lamp bezels, LED fog lights and a gloss black rear spoiler.

Driving the Subaru XV e-Boxer

The 2020 XV adds the new e-Boxer hybrid powertrain, a 2.0-litre mild hybrid engine that can also be found in the new Forester SUV, which shares the Subaru Global Platform underpinnings with the XV. It’s a big improvement on the 1.6-litre petrol in many ways and a better pairing with the Lineartronic CVT gearbox than the smaller unit.

The hybrid set-up means there’s a battery pack underneath the boot, where the spare wheel used to be, which reduces luggage capacity by 45 litres to 340 litres in total.

Subaru XV rear view. Credit: Subaru

For that trade-off you get improved fuel consumption, lower emissions and the ability to drive at up to 25mph on battery only.

I picked up our freshly-disinfected demonstrator from a colleague just before the UK went into lockdown and, consequently, my planned one-week test became somewhat open-ended, Subaru’s logistics team unable to collect the car without breaching lockdown rules.

I’ve had ample opportunity then, to test the EV-only feature during my once-weekly supermarket run through the suburbs. The transition between the two drive modes is fully automatic and pretty smooth in terms of feedback through the controls, the sound of the petrol engine engaging the only sign anything has changed.

Performance at low-speed is smooth and refined overall. At higher speeds though, the old problem with CVT gearboxes rears its head and the noise from the engine caused by any sudden increase in revs when you hit the accelerator is disproportionate to any actual forward momentum. The volume itself isn’t actually an issue, but the out-of-kilter sound takes a bit of getting used to when you are more familiar with conventional transmissions.

The extra power from the two-litre engine does go some way to improving this compared with the older 1.6-litre, however.

Range in EV mode is pretty limited and, even if you keep below the 25-miles-per-hour trigger point for the petrol engine you’ll only get a minute or so of pure-EV driving before you exhaust the battery and it needs to recharge. The chief benefit from the lithium-ion battery then, will be in lowering c02 emissions (180g/km) and fuel consumption. The combined fuel consumption figure is 35.7mpg. Pre-lockdown, I was managing between 32 and 36mpg. Post-lockdown, however, I have been diligently following the five-mile rule and have rarely strayed above 40mph. During this period my average fuel consumption has been fairly consistent at around 38mpg.

Another advantage of the battery is the ability of the X-mode system to channel extra power through the engine and boost low-down grunt to handle difficult conditions and increase off-road capability.

Technology, interior and equipment

It’s an oft-repeated cliche that Japanese manufacturers aren’t renowned for their interiors, but the chunky, solid-feeling interior of the XV is a real highlight for me. It’s not the pinnacle of elegant luxury, but it’s clear and uncluttered, the seats are comfortable with a high range of adjustment and visibility from the driver’s seat is excellent.

Subaru XV interior. Credit: Subaru

Information is displayed via either the eight-inch touch-screen infotainment console or the smaller split information screen above it. Having two screens allows you to have your navigation or audio choice on display and still keep track of your battery activity and other essential information at the same time.

Dual-zone air-conditioning, reversing camera and heated seats come as standard on SE models and SE Premium cars add leather seats with contrast stitching, 8-way power-adjustable driver seat, satellite navigation and a sunroof.

Subaru has gathered a lot of praise in recent years for advanced safety technology. In April 2020, Subaru was voted Best Manufacturer for Safety Features in the 2020 Driver Power survey, for the second year running, and they won a technology award at the 2020 What Car? Awards, with judges calling the Subaru Forester’s driver monitoring system ‘the most advanced of its kind’.

Like other models in the Subaru range, the 2020 XV is packed full of safety tech, from EyeSight driver assist (which uses two stereo cameras mounted either side of the rear-view mirror to monitor the road in front of you), to adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, pre-collision throttle management, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist and lead vehicle start alert (which alerts you when stationary traffic in front of you starts to move).

There is also a rear vehicle detection system that identifies vehicles approaching from the rear and runs the blind-spot monitoring, lane change assist and rear cross-traffic alert functions.

Subaru XV's X-mode channels extra power from the lithium-ion battery to provide extra torque in tricky conditions,  credit: Subaru

Verdict

Looks-wise the XV is fairly nondescript and, despite the high-tech hybrid system, the car’s economy figures are unremarkable too. It is well built and very well equipped, both in terms of comfort and safety and it’s that advanced safety tech that Subaru wants potential buyers to pay attention to.

Priced from £31,665 for the SE trim, the XV e-boxer is a steep option in a competitive class. The equipment list alone - long as it is - won’t win out in a value for money competition when you can buy a similarly specified Nissan for four grand less. Furthermore, the benefits of that expensive, high-tech engine aren’t the kind likely to give you a payback in the long run with lower fuel bills - as you might with, say, a plug-in hybrid.

What you can’t put a price on though, is the safety of your passengers and it’s that, not fuel economy or racy looks, that Subaru has prioritised with the XV.

Facts and figures

Model: Subaru XV e-Boxer | SE Premium, Price: £33,665 (OTR) | Engine: Horizontally-opposed, 4-cylinder, 4-stroke, petrol engine with lithium-ion battery | Power: 148bhp | Torque: 143 lb/ft | Top Speed: 120mph | Emissions: 180g/km c02 | Fuel consumption: 35.7mpg (combined)