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Subaru XV 2.0i L CVT review

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    The tangerine orange is bright and garish, like most Lamborghinis, but that’s where the similarities end.

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André Edmunds road tests and reviews the Subaru XV 2.0i L CVT, with specs, fuel economy and verdict.

The Subaru XV has created quite a stir in the market since being introduced, it’s aggressively striking -- but is the beauty only skin deep? Some would argue this is an ugly car, but during our test drive more people expressed a love for the design and colour than loathed it – although apparently there is no middle ground. 

The tangerine orange is bright and garish, like most Lamborghinis, but that’s where the similarities end. It’s a hatchback on steroids, almost like a mini X6, but more bulldog WRX and a little less BMW.


The interior is dark and functional. Being the L model, it has the black cloth interior with no heated seats, but it does have the full multi-function display unit and a comprehensive easy to use in-dash satellite and audio system, while the dual zone air-conditioning works very well. 

Boot space is a challenge if you have young kids and a pram/stroller of any “normal” size - definitely try before you buy.  Having said that, the boot height is perfect for loading, compared with most SUVs which require an extra lift and push to get the pram in.  If you are planning on taking the mountain bikes touring, best get a tow bar or roof rack. There is plenty of headroom in the rear for kids but I would be a little concerned for anyone taller than 6’ in the front seats – with a 5’ 9” frame, my head was almost touching the roof.


Thankfully, none of the safety features were tested first hand, but just in case, it comes fully equipped with airbags in every conceivable corner and gets the full 5-star ANCAP crash rating. The rear reverse camera is clear, useful and unobtrusive.

The Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) system works beautifully. Our driveway is awfully steep and twisty, challenging and overwhelming the finest of 4WDs, yet even with two opposing wheels in clear air, the XV simply selected the right mode and floated up the drive - impressive. The ABS proved to be a bit overzealous, kicking in when gently braking from tarmac to gravel and juddering the brakes unnecessarily.


For the eco-friendly, the XV certainly packs plenty of features.  The multi-function LCD unit displays every conceivable measure; economy, VDC status, trip measurement, temperature, clock and many others.  The XV excels with fuel economy, I struggled to exceed 10 L/100km even with excessive spirited driving and frequent manual override. 

The in-dash satellite navigation and audio system is wonderfully effective and high quality, providing a welcome relief and audio shield from the hideous engine and transmission noise. The only really annoying feature of this car is the engine Automatic Stop Start.  Every time you stop at a red light -which is every second block in Sydney- the engine shuts down.

The real issue is when it starts up again, the whole car shakes for a split second and that irritating noise returns. Without doubt, I would permanently disable this feature.  


I had a little trepidation about the 110kW engine output. The XV drove easily through city traffic, the automatic CVT transmission being smooth and slick between shifts -- almost unnoticeable. But as soon as it was on open road, that all changed. The CVT gearbox disappointed, struggling to cope with fluid driving conditions with open roads and tight bends proving too challenging, regularly switching gears at inappropriate moments and taking too long to respond. The moment -- and with it the corner -- had gone.

After many days trying several different driving modes and styles, I settled on the best way to get the most out of the CVT.  Leave it in “Drive” mode and simply use the flappy paddle to “downshift” a couple of times before the bend, the CVT switches to manual mode (for five seconds) and provides engine braking, then accelerate as normal out of the bend, after which CVT switches back to drive mode. Works perfectly!

The chassis is impressively capable for a crossover firmly planted to the road, even when I turned off the Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) system and deliberately unsettled it on wet, twisty and bumpy country lanes. The tyres are a low enough profile to provide excellent grip as well as comfort and low noise.

But something was missing – the wail of a tuned engine!  At best the XV sounded like a muted diesel with extra transmission whines. It’s moments like these you remember how important the soundtrack is as background music to a car’s dynamics.


The XV invoked mixed emotions. Every time I looked at it, I wanted to go for a drive, yet, every time I drove it, I wanted to park it up and gaze at it. The CVT is targeting the eco-friendly who still want strong looks, practicality and a comfortable drive.  To be fair, not everyone is looking for a “driver’s” car, and being mid-sized it’s the ideal vehicle for those that don’t want to stretch into SUV territory. But, it does lack a little heart and soul.  And did I mention that engine and transmission noise?

Priced from $38,479 it still represents amazing value, filling the gap perfectly between hatchback and SUV. Personally, I would stretch to the S model with full leather interior and manual gearbox – mainly because I’m a fan both of heated seats and passionate driving. Subaru, please launch an affordable WRX STi variant, they will sell like hot cakes!


See other reviews of this car


Subaru XV 2.0i-L

Price: from $34,490
Body: 5-door, 5-seater sub-compact SUV
Engine: 2.0-litre, 110kW/196Nm
Transmission: CVT
Drive: All-wheel-drive system.
Safety: DataDot security system, Immobiliser security system , Vehicle pre-wired for alarm system installation, SRS 3 airbags-dual front, dual front side & curtain.
Economy: 7.0 litres/100km
Warranty: 3 year/unlimited km warranty

Hyundai ix35 - compare this car 
Price: from $37,990
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder; 135kW/392Nm
Transmission: six-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Thirst: 7.5L/100km



Kia Sportage SLi - compare this car
from $35,720
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder; 135kW/392Nm
Transmission: six-speed automatic
Thirst: 7.5L/100km



Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport - compare this car
Price: from $33,540
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder; 114kW/200Nm
Transmission: six-speed automatic
Thirst: 6.4L/100Km



Mitsubishi ASX Aspire - compare this car
Price: from $36,990
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder; 110kW/197Nm
Transmission: six-speed constantly variable transmission
Thirst: 8.1L/100Km





Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 9 comments

  • Come on cars Guide why is Wombat’s last remark still included after 10 months. Let’s keep the comments to the cars or at least the quality of the review not the sexual preferences of the reviewer. I couldn’t care less if he’s batting for the other side or shagging Wombat’s missus.———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————- Nor could we, but the comments stay as sent unless they are obscene, libellous or illegal. - Ed

    Tru Blu of NSW Posted on 18 October 2013 6:26pm
  • I took one for a test drive today, I was underwhelmed. It felt under powered, it handled nicely around corners being 4wd but just left me feeling a little down. I was hoping I had found my new car….but alas I will keep looking.

    Rick Smith of Brisbane Posted on 18 September 2013 6:05pm
  • Subaru XV-Factory fitted SAT NAV- SUNA not working(Australia)

    DEEN Posted on 24 February 2013 2:42am
  • Hi people. This is my first comment on this forum. We own a Liberty and an XV, both with CVT. I must say, sorry Andre you must be inexperienced in vehicle testing. Your opinion sounds like, you are paid by an other company to tarnish a high quality vehicle. Our Subarus perform perfectly in any situation. The CVT performs much better under heavy driving conditions than the old auto trans. There is no more noise out of this car than any other, when you start pushing it hard. For those, who cannot drive, makes no difference, what kind of four wheeled box they sit in. The all wheel drive traction is irreplaceable in bad weather or on rough,unpredictable roads. So, next time try to look at the overall ability of a vehicle and not what you cannot do. OttoAU,
    you do not need a car, you can walk to the nearest gay club in two minutes.

    Wombat Posted on 23 January 2013 11:44pm
  • The live traffic updates on the Sat Nav do not work on the XV. A problem that Subaru Australia recognises but wont fix.

    VX Owner Posted on 29 August 2012 11:46pm
  • Otto you have no idea what you are talking about, have owned 5 liberties (current GT premium) and I will happily pay the difference for AWD if it “helps” you once a year to avoid a situation or indeed feel more secure then it’s paid its dues. We’ve had crap weather here in Melb this week and AWD has made the driving more predictable and safer through more traction more of the time - read that as no VDC or ABS required through normal driving.
    Overpriced compared to what?
    How about resale time when residuals typically are better than the industry average?
    Short service intervals compared to what?
    Mazda do 10K (have 6MPS too) and Sub 12.5K so unless total cost over 100,000 is higher then does it really matter?
    No factory support, have you ever owned a Sub? dealer support is exceptional.
    Get your facts straight and stop trolling

    I want AWD of Melbourne Posted on 22 June 2012 12:05pm
  • Does the reviewer even know what CVT is?

    hellboy of Australia Posted on 21 June 2012 5:46pm
  • You lifted 2 wheels going up your driveway?? Where do you live up the top of Uluru or something?


    He lives in Terrey Hills on a farm

    windows Posted on 23 May 2012 9:45am
  • Drop the useless AWD, then can take out $4k, and then they can do some volume.
    Overpriced, ugly as sin [a normal Stipdru sin] , overpriced and short services intervals, no factory support, imported by ind. party.
    So call it a FAIL
    Nice colour though [except when you need to resell it]

    OttoAU of Sydney Posted on 23 May 2012 8:47am
Read all 9 comments

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