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Subaru XV 2018 review: 2.0i-S

The first-generation XV was wildly successful for Subaru. And the cheaper price, better equipment and new high-tech platform of this second-gen car should hurt its popularity exactly not at all.

More than two decades ago, back when Subaru was still bathing in the glory of its World Rally Championship successes, the Japanese brand decided to take a risk on releasing a jacked-up Impreza hatchback, adding a boxy wagon body but keeping the rugged all-wheel-drive bits underneath.

They called it the Forester, and it was a runaway success for Subaru. But it has grown over the years, too, leaving a gap in the lineup where the original Forester once stood. Enter, then, the XV, which again looks like a jacked-up Impreza, only this time without the extra length. 

The XV is now well into its second generation, and it has shown no signs of letting up in the sales race. So we spent a week in the top-spec S model to see what all this fuss is about.

Subaru XV 2018: 2.0i-S
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$28,750

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

The S is at the top of a three-tier range, coming in at $35,240. That figure is $300 lower than the old car (the entry-level 2.0i is a whopping $1250 cheaper than the car it replaces), and the new S has way more stuff. And gosh darn it, it's a much better car. And cheaper to own, too, according to Subaru.

18-inch alloys and active LED headlights are standard on the 2.0i-S. 18-inch alloys and active LED headlights are standard on the 2.0i-S.

For roughly the same price as a top-spec CX-3, you get 18-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, active LED headlights, auto wipers, a huge safety pack including 'EyeSight' and 'Vision Assist', reversing camera, 8.0-inch touchscreen with sat nav and (fanfare, please) Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

You also get active cruise, roof rails, an electric driver's seat, heated mirrors, leather trim, a sunroof and a space-saver spare.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   6/10

Here's the trickiest part of the review - the XV isn't especially attractive. While that's a purely subjective point of view (fellow Carsguide scribe Andrew Chesterton disagrees, for example), but I maintain there aren't too many people who will choose the car on looks alone (which is, of course, laudable).

Proportionally, the XV looks like it rides to high. Proportionally, the XV looks like it rides to high.

Proportionally, the XV looks like it rides too high and appears to have a long front overhang, magnified by its abbreviated behind. Like a lot of Japanese cars, it's like the design team didn't know when to stop gluing bits of black plastic to the body.

The wheelarches are also cartoonishly big (to suggest lots of wheel travel and therefore off-road ability), and so the 18-inch alloys look completely lost. And the chrome door handles really don't work on the S, either.

Subaru's colour palette is perhaps a nod to its middle-aged boxer aesthetic (see what I did there?) -but the chalky pastels and that vivid orange work with the, erm, sometimes challenging looks.

The S gets an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The S gets an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Inside is a bit calmer. In the S you get a bigger 8.0-inch screen in the centre console, with a 4.6-inch second screen above, which is like a trip computer on steroids. Most of the materials are good, but the seat designs - with panels of light-coloured leather and orange stitching  - weren't especially pleasant, nor is the huge collection of buttons on the steering wheel.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

The XV might be considered a compact SUV, but it has a foot in several camps which can be confusing.

One decidedly compact part of the car is the boot space - at 310 litres with the seats up and 765 litres with the 60/40 seats down, this isn't a car for load-lugging. It's just a few litres up on the tiny CX-3 boot. Also not great is the loading height; the lip is quite high but the floor is flat, so that's something.

310 litres is decidedly compact for an SUV. 310 litres is decidedly compact for an SUV.

The small boot does translate to a reasonably generous rear seat, though. Legroom is reasonable, as is headroom, so adults can travel in the back of an XV - as long as you limit the nubmer to two and they can live without air vents in the back.

Space is generous for rear passengers, however. Space is generous for rear passengers, however.

Front and rear passengers each score a pair of cupholders for a total of four, that number matched by the number of bottle holders in the doors.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

Subaru's 2.0-litre boxer four makes yet another appearance under the XV's bonnet and is common to all spec levels. With 115kW and 192Nm, it's not going to excite the senses. Being a Subaru, all four wheels receive drive through the CVT automatic, a choice that continues to baffle me.

The 2.0-litre boxer is the same on all XVs. It produces 115kW/192Nm. The 2.0-litre boxer is the same on all XVs. It produces 115kW/192Nm.

Performance is leisurely, with 0-100km/h coming up in 10.4 seconds for the 1484kg XV S.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

The Subaru's windscreen sticker says the combined fuel cycle figure is 7L/100km. In a week of mostly suburban driving, we scored 8.4L/100km, which underlines the relaxed attitude of the XV.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

The XV is now based on the fifth-generation Impreza platform. That car is so much better than the car that went before, and so it is with the XV. The old car, released in 2012 was built on a pension-ready platform that age had most certainly wearied. Didn't seem to matter, though, buyers went mad for it.

This new car takes all the good of the new platform while slipping on a pair of all-weather stilettos, with 220mm of ground clearance. Cornering is obviously compromised, with pronounced-but-controlled body roll. The extra height doesn't do the ride any harm, though.

The driving position is good, with just enough height to make the car feel like an SUV. The steering is fairly slow, but that means when you engage 'X-Mode' on the slippery stuff you won't be unsettling the car.

Despite a pretty weedy 115kW/192Nm, once you're up and moving, the CVT does its best to shift the car and its passengers. I quickly gave up having what I consider fun in the XV and instead played to its strengths.

It totters around perfectly happily as long as you don't ask too much of it, and if you really need to wake things up, you can use the steering wheel-mounted paddles. For most buyers, the performance will be adequate and the useful off-road ability afforded by X-Mode doesn't need power galore.

As with the Impreza, it's a far more pleasant car than before - much quieter, rides better and big bumps don't elicit the harmless but slightly alarming metallic clang of the Impreza when it hits the bump stops. We discovered this on an unlit alleyway containing a surprise speed bump.

I'm on the record complaining about EyeSight in the Forester, but here in the XV (as expected) it's a much calmer, more believable system.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   9/10

Here's where the XV really takes the fight to the CX-3. Fitted with Subaru's EyeSight camera system and Vision Assist, the XV is loaded up with safety gear.

Along with standard all-wheel drive for slippery or wet surfaces you get seven airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, brake assist, high and low-speed AEB, reverse AEB, reversing camera, active cruise, reverse cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and active lane-keep assist.

The XV scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating in May 2017.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

Subaru offers a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty on the XV. With the second-generation car, servicing intervals have moved from six months/10,000 to twelve months/12,500km. The company reckons that cuts ownership costs by 40 per cent, but even if it was half that, it's a win.

Subaru’s three-year/37,500km servicing plan caps costs at $348.30 for the first and third visits, with a jump to $601 for the second visit. That doesn't stack up super-well against most of its competition, but at least you know what you're in for - $1298 over three years.


City or country, the XV is a capable, off-the-beaten-track compact SUV-that-isn't. Subaru might start fashions but it doesn't stick with them, attractive concept cars aside. The XV isn't pretty like the CX-3 or super practical like the HR-V, but does things they can't - get muddy, bash around a paddock or mild off-road track and come out the other side.

It's clear why the XV's rapidly expanding fan-base likes it - as an all-rounder, it's basically unbeatable as long as you can live with the looks.

How does the new XV fare in your to-buy list? Is Peter wrong about the looks? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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Range and Specs

2.0i 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $24,998 – 27,990 2018 SUBARU XV 2018 2.0i Pricing and Specs
2.0i PREMIUM 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $31,200 – 33,990 2018 SUBARU XV 2018 2.0i PREMIUM Pricing and Specs
2.0i-L 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $25,990 – 34,990 2018 SUBARU XV 2018 2.0i-L Pricing and Specs
2.0i-S 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $28,750 – 37,990 2018 SUBARU XV 2018 2.0i-S Pricing and Specs
Price and features7
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption8
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist