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Subaru XV e-Boxer

It might not be frilly and fanciful, but that's not what the Subaru XV e-Boxer is about. Instead, it's an honest, well-thought through piece of off-road-ready goodness.

A little while back I took the latest Impreza for a whirl, and almost fell in love. So maybe Subaru will get lucky second time around...

The XV e-Boxer is up against strong competition in its class, and has remained on the fringes in terms of sales. It might not be the most visually appealing of crossovers, but it does have several strengths thanks to some clever improvements.

In previous years, the 1.6-litre engine paired to a CVT gearbox and Subaru's all-wheel drive system meant that the model wasn't particularly fuel efficient. But this new model is the first hybrid XV. With the addition of the 16bhp electric motor and an upgraded 2.0-litre engine, the e-Boxer variant will achieve an average 37.5mpg (according to Subaru) during city and motorway driving. Over the course of the week of my test, I clocked an average of 34mpg, but I wasn't playing the 'let's-see-how-eco-I-can-be' game. I'll have to eat salad all week to make up for it.

All-electric mode can only be used for speeds up to 25mph, which was useful when driving through the centre of London. Most of the time, though, the petrol engine is in action. Perhaps this first hybrid XV is evidence of Subaru dipping its toe in the electrification pool, and maybe the next generation will come with a bigger battery to allow for more electric-only capability.

The Symmetrical AWD system has been tried and tested, and allows the car to be just as confident on muddy dirt tracks as it is on well-kept roads. While the ride is smooth, the CVT gearbox does cause a bit of a ruckus. Subaru has championed these for quite some time, so you'd think the CVT would be perfection by now.

However, stepping on the accelerator at low speeds will still make the car squeal as it searches for a gear. Maybe it's deliberate in order to add more driving excitement? Who knows... But other than these occasional shrieks, the shifting is pretty spot on and an open road can be fairly enjoyable.

Functionality is at the heart of all Subaru models, and the XV e-Boxer is no different. There are newly-designed low-profile roof rails, allowing you to pop the kayak up top when heading to the coast for the weekend, and the boot is almost as large as a small house. The LED headlights have high beam assist, which, in my opinion, should now be a legal requirement for all new models (I'm sick of being blinded by incompetent drivers on the other side of the road). And keyless entry is a godsend if you've got a dog in one arm and bags in another.

The interior is finished to a standard that puts previous Subaru's to shame. There's a lovely shape to the tiered dash, with a particularly distinctive lip on the passenger side that sweeps down from the A-pillar to the climate control settings. Most of the materials look like they would survive having my black americano spilt all over them, and nothing feels cheap and nasty. There's even some pattern chrome sections to the dash and the doors that throw in a bit of colour and pizzaz. Yes, we are still talking about a Subaru.

And it would be wrong to review a Subaru without noting the stack of safety equipment. As expected, the XV e-Boxer has the EyeSight driver assist suite using two stereo cameras that are mounted either side of the rear-view mirror. These scan 110 metres ahead for hazards. Adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, pre-collision throttle management, lane sway and departure warning, lane keep assist and lead vehicle start alert are all available. Phew.

The Verdict

Okay, so it's not going to wow the pants off of anyone. But the XV e-Boxer is well-engineered and drives as good as any in the crossover segment. It also offers plenty more than its competitors in terms of safety and functionality. Maybe Subaru needs to do something bonkers if it is to get more customers on board, like provide everyone with a surprise puppy when they purchase the car. I think I should work in a marketing department.

Spec: Subaru XV 20.i SE Premium e-Boxer Lineartronic

Price as tested: £33,655.00

Chutzpah rating: 3.5/5