The Subaru with a split personality

Riley Riley

What is it?

The XV is essentially a pumped up, high-riding version of the Impreza hatch, cleverly disguised to look like an SUV.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, provided you’re not expecting anything special from the brightly coloured, plastic-clad “offroader”.

In effect the XV has taken up where the original Forester left off, before it grew in size and price to match its competitors.

In fact, many people mistake it for a Forester.

Standing 9cm taller than the donor hatch, the extra height makes it easier to get in and out of and this is appealing to older buyers.

Don’t laugh, as you get older such things become important.


What’s it cost?

XV starts from $27,990 plus on-roads.

In contrast, the larger more established Forester kicks off from $30,240.

Our top of the range XV 2.0i-S test vehicle is priced from $35,240, plus on roads.

It rides on 18-inch wheels and comes with part leather trim, dual zone climate air, auto lights and wipers, automatic high beam, LED headlights that turn with the wheel, heated front seats and a power adjust driver’s seat.

A big glossy 8.0-inch touchscreen takes pride of place in the dash, with TomTom navigation – but despite the generous screen the graphics don’t offer much detail.

Subaru has always had a focus on making their cars safe and the XV is no exception.

It features auto emergency braking, as well as auto rear braking, plus Lane Keep Assist, Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

To go with the off-road looks, at speeds of less than 40km/h, the X-Mode switch locks drive equally between the front and rear wheels and modulates the delivery of torque, to make it easier for drivers to tackle bad roads and slippery surfaces.


What’s it go like?

Well, it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

Initially, around town, the car impressed.

It was smooth, quiet and responsive, with excellent all round vision, and felt like a major improvement over the previously driven Impreza.

On the open highway the XV cruises easily, with engine revs dropping to a low 1500 revs at 100km/h where it is able to deliver excellent fuel consumption.

But then, as we headed over the Mountains with three people and their overnight bags aboard, the shine started to come off as the powertrain came under pressure.

Power is provided by a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four cylinder engine that produces 115kW of power at 6000 revs and 196Nm of torque at 4000 revs, coupled with a CVT-style automatic.

We’re big fans of Subaru’s CVT, especially the one in the iconic Rex, but for some reason the experience doesn’t translate to this model.

CVTs, or continuously variable transmissions, are designed to optimise the balance between power and economy, which is achieved by varying the drive ratio, removing the need for traditional set gears.

The feel from the driver’s seat can be a weird zoominess that many people mistake for a lack of power.

Which brings us to the part where the road ahead began to rise, the going became tougher and the CVT began to assert itself – and not in a good way.

The car became slow to respond to the throttle and seemed reluctant to settle, with the engine revs rising dramatically then falling just as rapidly.

Not good.

Switching to manual mode and using the paddles to change gear helped, so too surprisingly did engaging cruise control – but it was annoying to say the least.

In manual mode the transmission offers seven fixed gears or “steps” as they are known.

Around this time our rear seat passenger started to complain that it was stuffy in the back, probably because there are no rear air outlets.

Turning down the temperature and cranking it up to full blast helped, but those in the front soon started to freeze.

Can’t argue with the fuel consumption though.

Rated at 7.0L/100km, we were getting 7.4 after 500km.


What we like?

  • Distinctive styling
  • Well equipped
  • Cabin has quality feel
  • Easy to get in and out of
  • Smooth and quiet
  • Doesn’t use much fuel


What we don’t?

  • The CVT
  • Needs more oomph (maybe it would help)
  • Boot too small
  • Not enough map detail from the nav
  • 3-year warranty way too short


The bottom line?

The XV has a split personality. Around town with just the driver aboard it’s impressive. Add a couple of passengers, their luggage and point it at a hill and it’s a completely different story. Chances are however that most motoring scribes will only experience the car on their Pat Malone – so they won’t get to see the other XV.


Subaru XV, priced from $27,990
  • Looks - 7.5/10
  • Performance - 6.5/10
  • Safety - 8.5/10
  • Thirst - 7.5/10
  • Practicality - 7.5/10
  • Comfort - 7.5/10
  • Tech - 8.0/10
  • Value - 8.0/10

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