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Subaru XV 2.0i-L 2017 review

EXPERT RATING
7.8
The Subaru XV is more closely related to the Impreza than it is to the Forester. The second gen car doesn't stray far from the template, but it's what's underneath that makes all the difference.

Subaru's reputation for hardy, practical and unconventional cars was built on the back of devices like the Brumby ute and the Adventure Wagon from the 1980s, and continued through to others like the Impreza hatch and Forester.

In fact, the XV on test here is more closely related to that Impreza hatch of the late 1990s than it is to the larger, boxier Forester

In 2001, Subaru's marketing bods decided to tart up the Impreza hatch with plastic overfenders and a dual-range gearbox (for manual-equipped cars) and call it the Impreza RV. In doing so, it set the precedent for a small, funky, high-riding hatch as a staple in the company's range.

Launched in 2012, the XV was initially a slow burner for the brand… until the small SUV market exploded around it. The second generation car doesn't stray far from the template, but it's what's underneath that makes all the difference.

Subaru XV 2017: 2.0i-L
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.3L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$22,981

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

CarsGuide got the hint a few months before launch that the new XV wouldn't be transformed in terms of design, and our sources weren’t kidding. From side on, the first- and second-gen cars are virtually indistinguishable.

Thankfully, the XV was already an interesting little jigger, so the minor exterior makeover – comprising the headlights and grille, tail-lights, rear valance, and… erm… that’s it – serves to tidy up and modernise its already distinctive profile. 

  • Visual updates for the XV include new headlights. (image credit: Tim Robson) Visual updates for the XV include new headlights. (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • There's also a new grille. (image credit: Tim Robson) There's also a new grille. (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • A topping the exterior update is new taillights. (image credit: Tim Robson) A topping the exterior update is new taillights. (image credit: Tim Robson)

Bold overfenders extend around the front and rear ends, with the lower front valance blending in well with the plastic-clad mudguards and side sills.

The prominent roof rails, 50mm of increased ride height over the donor Impreza platform, and the more bulbous bars also give the XV a more macho personality.

At 1800mm wide, it's only 20mm wider than the old one, while all other dimensions are similar.

If you liked the old one, you'll like the look of the new one. If you didn't like the old one… 

The interior is a different story, as it takes the massive makeover from the new Impreza and renders it as a fresh, airy and practical take on a small SUV's passenger space.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

The XV benefits from being on the same platform as the latest Impreza, scoring more cabin space, and an updated interior over its predecessor. 

There’s 26mm more legroom in the rear, and a 100mm wider cargo area (also 40 litres bigger at 350 litres) than the previous car. There’s an extra 30mm of internal width, too, which is key in a category where interior size is at a premium.

  • The cargo area is now 100mm wider and also 40 litres bigger than the previous car. (image credit: Tim Robson) The cargo area is now 100mm wider and also 40 litres bigger than the previous car. (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • We managed to stuff two full-size dual-suspension mountain bikes in the rear, along with toolboxes, spares and kit, with room to spare.(image credit: Tim Robson) We managed to stuff two full-size dual-suspension mountain bikes in the rear, along with toolboxes, spares and kit, with room to spare.(image credit: Tim Robson)

The XV joins competitors like the Toyota C-HR in injecting a breath of fresh air into the small SUV space, with sculpted soft-touch plastics, clever info screens and funky cloth seats.

The central digital screen between the main instruments is a terrific addition, and offers not just a digital speedo but an indication of the current speed limit next to it. It’s a genuine 'why didn't someone think of this earlier?' idea.

The multimedia screen is crystal clear, with large easy-to-read and activate icons. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto both feature – though the Android stuff is inexplicably nowhere near as good as Apple’s – while a small screen above the main one appears to only offer redundant info about the EyeSight functionality (that's largely replicated on the dash screen).

The multimedia screen is crystal clear, with large easy-to-read and activate icons. (image credit: Tim Robson) The multimedia screen is crystal clear, with large easy-to-read and activate icons. (image credit: Tim Robson)

There are four USB ports as well as two 12-volt sockets, so there's charging power for everyone.

One of the standout elements, though, is the XV's interior space, particularly behind the wheel. A long-reach steering wheel, lots of width, and sufficient headroom, make for a comfortable drive.

Rear legroom and shoulder width is good for adults and great for smaller humans, while headroom is generous as well. Rear seaters also get air vents but no charging points.

  • The XV's interior space is a standout quality, particularly behind the wheel. (image credit: Tim Robson) The XV's interior space is a standout quality, particularly behind the wheel. (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • Rear legroom and shoulder width is good for adults and great for smaller humans. (Image credit: Tim Robson) Rear legroom and shoulder width is good for adults and great for smaller humans. (Image credit: Tim Robson)

There's a pair of cupholders up front – we're not super keen on the flimsy divider – as well as a pair in the rear central armrest. Three top tether, and two ISOFIX child restraint mounts are also present and correct.

And if you’re looking to lug a bunch of kit around, but still need something smaller in size, the XV’s cargo area is one for the ages. With the simple 60/40 split seats laid flat, we managed to stuff two full-size dual-suspension mountain bikes in the rear, along with toolboxes, spares and kit, with room to spare.

The seat fabric seems tough enough to withstand knocks, but the pale coloured roof lining is unlikely to stay pristine for long, if you’re regularly shoving gear in and out.

Adding roof racks to the XV will be easy, though, thanks to the incorporated roof rails.

On the downside, despite plenty of room under the boot floor, the XV only comes with a space saver spare.

And another surprising omission is a rear fog light – Subaru built its reputation on clever, practical features like these, and it's a shame to see them disappear.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

The $30,340 RRP XV 2.0i-L is the second car in the line-up, and comes standard with a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder naturally aspirated engine, all-wheel drive (AWD), a CVT auto, 17-inch alloys, foglights with LED DRLs, reversing camera, electric park brake, smart key with push-button start and an 8.0-inch multimedia screen that offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality.

It gets rain-sensing wipers but misses out on auto headlights, although the lights do turn off when the car is shut down.

Subaru’s comprehensive third-generation 'EyeSight' camera-based driver aid system, dual-zone climate control and upgraded cloth interior trim mark the biggest additions from the $27,990 base model 2.0i.

With the addition of the EyeSight system – which includes AEB, lane departure alert and assistance, pre-collision throttle management, and adaptive cruise control – the 2.0i-L makes a strong case over the mechanically similar base model car which offers exactly none of these vital safety additions.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

The XV is powered by the same 115kW/196Nm naturally aspirated 2.0-litre four-cylinder boxer engine from the Impreza that has been reworked from the oil pan up, realising an amazing 12kg weight saving in the process. 

It only gains 5kW over the old car, but it's not about the grunt; lighter weight and reduced friction means the engine consumes less fuel, and spins up faster.

The XV is powered by a 115kW/196Nm naturally aspirated 2.0-litre four-cylinder boxer engine. (image credit: Tim Robson) The XV is powered by a 115kW/196Nm naturally aspirated 2.0-litre four-cylinder boxer engine. (image credit: Tim Robson)

The Euro 6-compliant engine does miss out, however, on Subaru’s 'Intelligent Drive' throttle mapping system, to sharpen throttle response. The all-wheel-drive XV is only offered with an artificially stepped CVT auto – following in the Impreza's wheel tracks by banishing the manual gearbox to history.

While the uptake of automatics means manuals are on the endangered list, again it's a marker in the sand for Subaru, whose clientele in days past were more than happy with self-shifters.

In terms of transmission specs, the XV adopts the same electronic-based 'X-Mode' off-road terrain management system as the Forester, which gives the XV a modicum of off road ability.

It essentially adds a 50/50 torque split between the front and rear axles and low-range gearing, as well as a hill descent mode that works in both forward and reverse.

Don't mistake the XV for a Simpson Desert-conquering dirt masher, but you'll be able to get to that remote surfing or camping spot if it's at the end of a rough and rutted fire road - and it'll go a lot further than competitors like the Mazda CX-3 and Mitsubishi ASX.

If you want to tow a small camper, the XV can cope with up to 1400kg of braked trailer.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

With 330km under the wheels during our test, the XV returned a dash-indicated figure of 9.2 litres per 100km, against claimed combined (urban, extra-urban) fuel economy figure of 8.0L/100km.

With a fuel tank capacity of 63 litres, the 1462kg XV can travel a theoretical 780km on a single tank. It'll accept 91RON without fuss, as well.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

My early drives of the new XV always came back to a single point – the naturally aspirated engine just doesn't do enough for the car. With its stiffer, lighter platform, the XV feels underdone with the minimal torque on offer from the 2.0-litre engine.

After a week aboard the XV on home soil, my view has softened. The XV can be tardy away from a stop, but once up to speed in level urban terrain, the lack of mid-range torque becomes less of an issue, and it's easy to keep up with the flow of traffic with minimal throttle work.

The softer suspension tune afforded by the stiffer chassis, too, is a boon on broken road surfaces, while the longer-legged travel of the XV also plays a part in cushioning its occupants.

The lack of punch, however, can still be felt when climbing long inclines, or when the already heavy XV is loaded up with people and stuff. 

The CVT signals the engine to rev harder to produce power… which makes an unholy racket. Not becoming of the rest of the car.

Generally speaking, the XV is refined, quiet and safe, and it's pleasant to drive – but it could be degrees better with the addition of a small turbocharger.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

Your XV will come with a top five-star ANCAP rating, thanks in part to seven airbags, tyre pressure monitors, a stronger body structure and its AWD system. 

Throw in AEB, lane departure alert and assistance, pre-collision throttle management and adaptive cruise control, and the 2.0i-L presents well on the safety front.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

Subaru offers a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty on the XV and roadside assistance for the first three years.

Fixed-price servicing is also offered for the first three years or 37,500km. It costs $348.50 for the first and third services, and $601.59 for the second, which totals nearly $1300 over three years.

It's not the cheapest service deal on the market, especially considering the relative simplicity of a non-turbocharged engine and CVT combination.

Service intervals have increased from six to 12 months or 12,500km (whichever comes first), but don't neglect them! 'Flat' fours like the Subaru need regular oil changes to prevent sludge building up on the bottom of the cylinder bores.

A longer warranty is becoming the norm in a competitive industry, and Subaru regularly offers a bonus two-year warranty on top of the standard package.

Verdict

The XV is based on the Impreza, but the tail may well wag the dog before too long, with sales targets for the SUV homing in on that of the sedan/hatch.

Even though it's classified as small, the XV takes some of the advantages of a medium SUV - in particular, cargo space - and distills them down into an affordable, durable and funky package that will appeal to people across the board.

It's not perfect; the power delivery may not suit people in hilly regions, and servicing isn't cheap, either. But strong resale potential and great driving dynamics are definitely on the XV's side.

Is off-road ability important in a small SUV, and does the Subaru XV fit the bill? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$28,985
Based on 85 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$22,981
Highest Price
$35,999

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
2.0i 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $23,990 – 26,990 2017 SUBARU XV 2017 2.0i Pricing and Specs
2.0i PREMIUM 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $25,990 – 28,990 2017 SUBARU XV 2017 2.0i PREMIUM Pricing and Specs
2.0i SPECIAL ED (PURE RED) 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $21,120 – 26,730 2017 SUBARU XV 2017 2.0i SPECIAL ED (PURE RED) Pricing and Specs
2.0i-L 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $22,981 – 29,888 2017 SUBARU XV 2017 2.0i-L Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.8
Design7
Practicality8
Price and features8
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption8
Driving7
Safety8
Ownership8
Tim Robson
Contributing Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$22,981

Lowest price, based on 9 car listings in the last 6 months

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