UK Drive: The XV e-Boxer shows Subaru’s push for electrification
What is it?
To be seen avoiding electrification is to be seen to be avoiding change in the motoring industry. It’s why big companies are weighing in millions of pounds on electric vehicle development, and it’s why Subaru has released this – the XV e-Boxer. Essentially a hybridised version of its curious XV crossover, it’s an indication of the firm’s awareness that electrified powertrains are needed for a company to move forward.
But is it actually a viable product, or just a way for Subaru to prove to consumers that it is, in a small way at least, making electrified cars? We’ve been out behind the wheel of the XV e-Boxer to find out.
By far the largest change here is the hybrid powertrain lurking under the XV’s chunky exterior, but we’ll get to that later. Elsewhere, things are largely the same as they are in the standard XV. First introduced back in 2017, it’s certainly a left-field option in the crossover segment, but thanks to plenty of standard equipment as well as surprisingly good capability off-road, it’s a no less credible option.
In addition, and thanks to Subaru’s Eyesight technology, the XV is jam-packed with safety assistance technology, making this one extremely safe compact car.
What’s under the bonnet?
The XV’s powertrain is a clever amalgamation of both traditional Subaru engine design and new-school hybrid systems. As such, the offering is centred around the firm’s tried-and-tested 2.0-litre horizontally opposed ‘Boxer’ petrol engine which produces 148bhp. This is then linked to a 17bhp electric motor and combined with a lithium-ion battery located in the boot floor. Subaru claims that the setup means you’ll be able to drive on pure-electric power at speeds of up to 25mph.
The combo makes for a 0-60mph time of 10.5 seconds and a top speed of 120mph. Subaru also claims that the XV e-Boxer will return up to 35.8mpg while emitting 149g/km CO2. Oh, and this is no plug-in hybrid either – the XV e-Boxer uses the engine to replenish the energy in the batteries, which means they can’t be topped up by a connection to the mains.
What’s it like to drive?
The groundwork had already been done with the Subaru XV. The steering, for instance, is great on the standard car and it’s the same story here, while the outright body control is well managed in both the combustion-engined XV and the hybrid version.
It’s just a bit of a shame that the hybrid powertrain feels like a bit of a letdown. Though Subaru has tried to engineer ‘steps’ into the CVT gearbox in order to mimic a traditional gearbox, a heavy boot of the throttle still returns a noticeable drone from the engine. Under hard acceleration it’s quite unpleasant and isn’t justified by an overtly quickened pace, either.
At lower speeds, the hybrid setup feels more appropriate. The electric motor sorts out forward propulsion when travelling at under 25mph, and this makes around-town and traffic jam driving a good deal more relaxing than when in a traditionally powered car. The change from electric to petrol power isn’t seamless – there can be a noticeable ‘thunk’ when switching – but it’s not too troublesome.
How does it look?
The XV is, in our eyes, one of the more interesting-looking crossovers on the market today. It’s got 220mm of ground clearance – a generally useful amount – which bumps up the car’s look and gives a more rugged, go-anywhere appearance. There are a few unique touches to this hybrid version too; up front there’s a new grille design with an active shutter – which can open or close the front grille to improve efficiency – as well as a redesigned lamp bezel for the fog lamps and a gloss black rear spoiler.
It’s a successful design, in our eyes at least, and it’s one which helps the XV to stand out from the crowd.
What’s it like inside?
Again, in a similar vein to much of the rest of the XV, things on the hybrid are just as good as in the standard car. It’s not the same level of fit-and-finish that you’ll find in other more premium offerings, but that’s not to say it’s bad. Everything feels well screwed together, while soft-touch materials have been used on key touch points such as the dashboard to help elevate that feeling of quality. The seats up front have plenty of support and there’s a decent amount of space in the back, too.
Thankfully, despite the positioning of the batteries in the boot, luggage space remains unaffected. As such, there’s 345 litres of space which can be extended by folding the rear seats down. It’s a very useable area which, despite being smaller in capacity than rivals, is ideal for larger items thanks to its square size. The boot lip is quite high, mind, which means that getting heavier items into the boot could be tricky.
What’s the spec like?
Subaru has brimmed the XV e-Boxer, which starts at £30,995, with standard equipment. First and foremost is the eight-inch colour touchscreen system located in the centre of the dash, which houses DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity. The software it runs isn’t the quickest nor the easiest to use, but thankfully the inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto means that there is the option to use your phone’s operating system instead.
The big feature here is the aforementioned Eyesight assistance package. Using two stereo cameras mounted either side of the rear-view mirror, it incorporates adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane sway and departure warning and a very clever rear vehicle detection system. When reversing out of a space with limited sideways vision, this last feature is particularly helpful.
You can see why Subaru has introduced the XV e-Boxer. Companies need to show that they’re aware of the push towards electrification, and a hybrid XV is a way of acknowledging this. It certainly opens up the car to more buyers, but the higher list price in return for worse emissions and economy figures may be a tough pill for many to swallow.
Given that traditionally powered versions of the XV are cleaner, more economical and cheaper, it might be said that these variants will make more sense to the average buyer than this hybrid.
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