Subaru XV hybrid review

Hybrid Subaru XV e-Boxer improves SUV's fuel economy and off-road performance, but rivals offer more for less

£28,130 - £30,130
Hybrid

Pros

  • Decent on-road performance
  • Good off-road capability
  • No loss of boot space

Cons

  • Rivals more economical
  • No significant electric range
  • Underwhelming acceleration

The Subaru XV has been on sale since 2017, with the SUV focusing on safety and off-road ability. Two years on, the Japanese brand is sticking to that approach, but has introduced a hybrid model to accompany the standard, petrol-only car.

This new Subaru XV e-Boxer uses the same 2.0-litre petrol engine found in the top-spec versions of its sibling, but combines it with a small electric motor and battery to improve fuel economy and boost performance on rough surfaces.

The system allows the XV e-Boxer to run for around a mile under electric power alone at speeds of up to 25mph, with the engine used to charge the battery when travelling above that threshold – in similar fashion to a Toyota Prius. A regenerative braking system also helps put energy back into the battery when slowing down: this means there’s little ‘bite’ to the brake pedal, but it still feels natural and linear to use.

All this results in claimed fuel economy of 35.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 149g/km, although neither of these figures are that impressive given that the Kia Niro, Toyota C-HR and Hyundai Kona Hybrid are all cheaper, cleaner and manage well in excess of 50mpg.

But while fuel efficiency is nothing to write home about, low-speed performance is splendid: crawling through town is a doddle using the electric motor, and it’s easy to keep the engine idle with gentle use of the accelerator pedal.

Subaru has also improved the throttle response – a common complaint when the XV first launched – by adjusting the torque. The hybrid e-Boxer’s peak figure of 194Nm is slightly lower than that of the pure-petrol variant, but more of it is available at low speeds, making it feel nippier on urban roads.

It’s only when you ask for heavy acceleration that the e-Boxer begins to struggle: 0-62mph takes an underwhelming 10.7 seconds, and the sudden burst of revs feels ineffective because of the lack of forward progress. This is common in hybrid cars equipped with a CVT transmission: there are no gears, but ‘steps’ are engineered in to make it feel like there are different ratios.

Still, the hybrid powertrain works wonders for the XV’s off-road credentials: when selected, ‘X-Mode’ delivers even more low-down torque, giving more grunt on harsher surfaces.

Meanwhile, the all-wheel-drive system can move power between the wheels to ensure steep hills can be tackled with the minimum of fuss, whether you’re going up or down. The XV e-Boxer felt very stable on our varied test route, which included a lean test that saw the crossover brush its maximum tipping angle of 30 degrees.

On normal roads, the XV e-Boxer handles well, especially given its size and a setup geared for off-roading. Lean in corners is nicely controlled despite the hefty 220mm of ground clearance, and the steering feels well weighted and precise. The ride is surprisingly composed, too, soaking up heavy bumps on both tarmac and gravel.

It’s a shame, then, that the e-Boxer isn’t hugely practical. Subaru has managed to preserve the standard car’s 345 litres of boot space by placing the battery under the floor where the spare wheel used to be: while this will be fine for most families, rival SUVs offer more carrying capacity. 

Inside, the interior materials and finish look as durable as ever, designed to withstand the kind of lifestyle suggested by the car’s off-road persona. A copper-coloured trim sets the e-Boxer apart from other versions of the SV.

Standard kit is good on both SE and SE Premium trims: all versions of the XV e-Boxer get a dual infotainment system with eight and 4.3-inch screens, with the larger unit offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity.

Also standard is Subaru’s EyeSight driver assistance and safety technology package, which uses three cameras to operate adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance and automatic emergency braking systems. On our test, the latter proved clever enough to distinguish between solid objects and the kind of obstacles that are common on off-road terrain, which will reassure potential buyers.

The SE Premium trim adds a sat nav, leather upholstery, a sunroof and a power-adjustable driver’s seat: finding a good driving position is easy thanks to the range of available positions, while visibility is superb.

That said, there’s no getting away from the fact that most UK buyers in the market for a hybrid SUV will be better off looking elsewhere. But for anyone needing genuine performance on unpaved surfaces, the XV e-Boxer is well worth a look.