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Subaru XV 2019 review: 2.0i-S

EXPERT RATING
7.5
Subaru landed on a winning format when it turned a Impreza variant into a small SUV, but does this new version continue that hot streak?

Subaru landed on a winning format when it turned an Impreza variant into a small SUV.

A simple and elegant solution to its small-SUV problem, the XV slots so naturally into the Japanese brand’s chunky SUV line-up, you’d be forgiven for thinking it has existed since the ’90s.

Now in its second iteration in Australia, the XV has its own fleshed-out four-variant family. But does it have enough of that unique Subaru charm to set it apart from a crowded field of competitors? I spent a week in the top-spec 2.0i-S to investigate.

Subaru XV 2019: 2.0i-S
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.1L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$35,780

Is there anything interesting about its design?  8/10

The XV is a chunky unit, inside and out. Our car was, of course, in the model’s signature Sunshine Orange shade, which you’ll never lose in a parking lot. The only way to tell the 2.0i-S apart from the rest of the range are the chrome door handles, silver roof rails and the tough-looking 18-inch alloys.

There's not much physically different between the 2.0i-S and the rest of the range from the outside. (image credit: Tom White) There's not much physically different between the 2.0i-S and the rest of the range from the outside. (image credit: Tom White)

The XV rides 50mm higher than its Impreza siblings and scores black plastic inserts on the lower part of its front and rear bumpers, down the sides and over the wheel arches. The most recent updated added a slightly more sculpted look to the front light fittings and grille, too.

It’s undoubtedly a Subaru from any angle, with the XV’s additions adding up to a tough, ready-for-adventure look. It’s not hard to picture it with a snorkel and roo-bar.

It's not hard to imagine the XV barreling down unsealed roads. (image credit: Tom White) It's not hard to imagine the XV barreling down unsealed roads. (image credit: Tom White)

Inside, everything is super chunky and satisfying, from the bumper car-like steering wheel to the solid, leather-trimmed centre console and the big buttons and switches jutting out from the door inserts, stereo and climate-control unit.

Even the leather trim on the seats is well above par for the segment and is equally good for rear passengers. The 2.0i-S scores orange contrast stitching which is a nice touch. I’d go so far as to argue the XV possesses one of the best cabins in the small-SUV segment.

The XV's cabin is always a pleasure to be in, and the 2.0i-S has some lovely plush touches. (image credit: Tom White) The XV's cabin is always a pleasure to be in, and the 2.0i-S has some lovely plush touches. (image credit: Tom White)

On the downside, the XV shares the current Subaru problem of having one too many screens. Three important displays (media screen, information display and multifunction screen) is one too many places to look. 

There are also - to my count - thirteen buttons and two toggles on the steering wheel. Thirteen! Surely there is a better solution to controlling this car’s many functions. This leads to a significant learning curve for figuring out how to use the multifunction display and cruise control.

There are one too many screens and about nine too many buttons on the steering wheel... (image credit: Tom White) There are one too many screens and about nine too many buttons on the steering wheel... (image credit: Tom White)

How practical is the space inside?  7/10

While the XV is meant to be an SUV, its practicality is limited by the fact that it is based on a hatchback. This is not unusual for the segment. In particular, the Mazda CX-3 comes to mind with its limited dimensions and cropped boot space.

Despite the XV’s fairly large footprint, cabin space is limited thanks to high seats and a sunroof that reduces headroom. That having been said, legroom is surprisingly good, and it’s boosted by the fact that there are padded leather panels on the inside of the transmission tunnel for front passengers.

In the rear, the seats are comfortable and offer good legroom, and even the door inserts feature padded leather. There are also decently-sized cupholders in the door and in a drop-down armrest. While there are no extra amenities like air-conditioning vents or extra storage areas, I was impressed with the level of comfort in an area often overlooked in other small SUVs.

Comfort of rear seat occupants hasn't been forgotten in the XV. Still no air-conditioning vents, though. (image credit: Tom White) Comfort of rear seat occupants hasn't been forgotten in the XV. Still no air-conditioning vents, though. (image credit: Tom White)

The XV’s boot comes in at 310 litres. It’s not big. The C-HR is bigger at 377 litres, the Vitara is bigger at 375 litres, but it does beat out the CX-3’s 277 litre capacity.

The boot is small, and the floor is high. (image credit: Tom White) The boot is small, and the floor is high. (image credit: Tom White)

With the seats down, you can expand that out to 1220L. The boot floor is quite high, making access easy, but also making it difficult to lift heavier objects up into it.

The high floor makes lifting objects up into the boot hard, but with the seats down it offers a flat space. (image credit: Tom White) The high floor makes lifting objects up into the boot hard, but with the seats down it offers a flat space. (image credit: Tom White)

Front seats benefit from a decently sized centre-console box, glovebox and four cupholders; two in the doors and two in the centre. There is also a trench in front of the shift-lever that hosts USB and aux ports. It’s a good size, spending most of my drive week housing my wallet and phone.

The media screen is bright and easy to use for the driver, and there are thankfully rotary dials for volume, temperature and fan speed.

Subaru's multimedia offering has come leaps and bounds in the last few years. Voice recognition was a bit sketchy, though. (image credit: Tom White) Subaru's multimedia offering has come leaps and bounds in the last few years. Voice recognition was a bit sketchy, though. (image credit: Tom White)

Subaru’s multimedia software is now impressive, if a tad clumsy, in its layout. I’d recommend sticking to CarPlay or Android Auto for maps or voice inputs, as asking the system to take me to my home address caused it to freeze, disabling the stereo even when I turned the car on and off again.

This was particularly annoying as I had to sit in silence on the freeway for two hours…

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

What does 2.0i-S mean? For some reason, it’s the top-spec model. Even higher than the Premium version. Don’t ask me how that works.

Confusing naming conventions aside, you’re looking at the most expensive XV you can buy. It carries an MSRP of $35,490, which is $3,100 more expensive than the 2.0i Premium that sits below it, and $5,750 more than its Impreza 2.0i-S hatchback equivalent.

That pricing is at the top-end of small SUV town and pits it against similar all-wheel-drive rivals like the $35,290 Toyota C-HR Koba, $32,990 Suzuki Vitara S Turbo, $39,000 Hyundai Kona Highlander or petrol-powered $36,790 Mazda CX-3 Akari.

Full LED lighting with steering-responsive headlights is nice on any small SUV. (image credit: Tom White) Full LED lighting with steering-responsive headlights is nice on any small SUV. (image credit: Tom White)

If you’ve been paying attention, there is also now a remarkably similar hatch-based SUV called the Ssangyong Tivoli XLV, which is priced at $35,490 for the top-spec Ultimate.

It’s a crowded playing field, but the Subaru delivers with some good equipment at this price. Included is front LED lighting (with steering-responsive, dusk-sensing headlights), 18-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, heated and power-folding wing-mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with nav, digital radio and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto support, leather trim on the seats shift-lever and steering wheel, heated front seats, an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat, and exterior chrome accents.

All those bits certainly add up to a plush feel behind the wheel. Missing for a top model is the option of a holographic head-up display (available on the CX-3), or the option of two-tone paints (C-HR, Tivoli XLV).

The 2.0i-S has most of the luxury equipment you can reasonably expect at this price. (image credit: Tom White) The 2.0i-S has most of the luxury equipment you can reasonably expect at this price. (image credit: Tom White)

The Subaru instead gets the decidedly more substantial addition of its signature ‘X-Mode’ off-road system and hill descent control to go with its symmetrical all-wheel-drive system. These give the Subaru a rugged edge for the same money.

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

All XV’s are powered by the same 2.0 litre non-turbo ‘boxer’ engine. It produces 115kW/196Nm, which, on paper, is decent when compared with other small SUVs. In reality, though, it feels quite underpowered.

Subaru's 2.0-litre boxer engine is sufficient for pulling the XV, but could be a real performer with a turbo... (image credit: Tom White) Subaru's 2.0-litre boxer engine is sufficient for pulling the XV, but could be a real performer with a turbo... (image credit: Tom White)

It’s not quite as underdone as the Toyota C-HR’s 85kW 1.2-litre turbo, but it’s also nowhere near as spritely as the Suzuki Vitara S-Turbo’s 103kW 1.4-litre engine.

It’s puzzling, as Subaru could seemingly easily turbocharge this engine to give it the slight boost it needs, or simply fit the very good 2.5-litre unit from the Forester.

All XVs have continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) and are all-wheel drive. The AWD system is marginally superior to many competitor systems as it is always on and theoretically splits power more evenly between the wheels.

How much fuel does it consume?  7/10

The XV has a combined fuel usage figure of 7.0L/100km, and after a week of truly combined driving, including a 450km return trip from Sydney to Tea Gardens on NSW’s Central Coast, I produced a figure of 8.0L/100km.

Only one litre off the official figure is impressive, and 8.0 is about on-par for the segment, despite the Subaru’s larger engine displacement.

All XVs have a 63-litre fuel tank and happily drink 91RON unleaded petrol.

Entry-level 91RON unleaded compatibility is a bonus. (image credit: Tom White) Entry-level 91RON unleaded compatibility is a bonus. (image credit: Tom White)

What's it like to drive?  8/10

The XV feels as solid to drive as it looks. You feel removed from the road thanks to the high-riding suspension, and, just like its bigger brother the Forester, it makes short work of even bad potholes and crummy road surfaces.

It feels a bit heavier than some of the competition in the corners, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as the low centre of gravity gives it a sturdy, confident ride helped by an AWD system that never makes you doubt the amount of available traction.

Despite the car itself feeling a tad weighty, the steering is light and easy while not losing too much feeling. It’s somewhat refreshing to drive a small SUV that doesn’t feel like a large front-drive hatchback. 

The 2.0-litre engine could do with a smidge more power. It occasionally needs a solid prod of the accelerator to get it up to speed, leaving me wonder why a small turbo or, at this price, the very good 2.5-litre from the Forester were out of the question.

The XV is also impressively quiet around town, with very little noise entering the cabin. Oddly, this changed dramatically past 80km/h where a lot of tyre noise starts to intrude and the stereo became less good at drowning out noise.

The 18-inch alloys and slim tyres may be partly to blame for the road noise at freeway speeds. (image credit: Tom White) The 18-inch alloys and slim tyres may be partly to blame for the road noise at freeway speeds. (image credit: Tom White)

I didn’t explore the X-Mode or off-road capabilities of the XV on my test, but it’s impressive it has capabilities at all. Check out our adventure review for more on the XV’s off-road ability

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

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

Subaru prides itself on its ‘EyeSight’ safety suite, and every XV gets it apart from the base-model 2.0i. It includes now-necessary active safety items like auto emergency braking (AEB) with brake-light recognition, lane departure warning (LDW) with lane keep assist (LKAS), adaptive cruise control as well as pre-collision throttle management and brake assist.

Our 2.0i-S is the only XV in the line-up which also gets blind-spot monitoring (BSM), lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert and reverse AEB.

That’s an impressive safety suite with all the active features you could realistically expect. All XVs have the standard array of seven airbags and electronic stability controls, they also all benefit from torque vectoring via the all-wheel-drive system.

The only item I would add to that is a full-size spare, as the XV only has a space-saver. This would further compromise the already-small boot, however.

A space-saver is a let-down for a vehicle that is meant to travel off-road. (image credit: Tom White) A space-saver is a let-down for a vehicle that is meant to travel off-road. (image credit: Tom White)

The XV range received the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating as of May 2017.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?  6/10

Subaru lags behind the standard today, with a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Many major competitors like Mazda, Hyundai and Volkswagen are offering five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranties. Room for improvement here.

Subaru's warranty is behind the times. (image credit: Tom White) Subaru's warranty is behind the times. (image credit: Tom White)

The XV needs to be serviced once every 12 months or at 12,500km intervals. It costs between $350.25 and $588.31. Over the life of the (did we mention short?) warranty it will cost an average of $429.60 a year to maintain.

Pricing Guides

$32,135
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$28,490
Highest Price
$35,780

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
2.0i 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $28,490 2019 Subaru XV 2019 2.0i Pricing and Specs
2.0i PREMIUM 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $32,670 2019 Subaru XV 2019 2.0i PREMIUM Pricing and Specs
2.0i-L 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $30,860 2019 Subaru XV 2019 2.0i-L Pricing and Specs
2.0i-S 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $35,780 2019 Subaru XV 2019 2.0i-S Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.5
Price and features8
Design8
Practicality7
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Driving8
Safety9
Ownership6

“The XV is an interesting alternative in a busy small-SUV market. Our top-spec car has one of the best cabins in the segment, luxurious features, all the safety and multimedia features you could possibly ask for, as well as Subaru’s inherently good AWD system to justify its cost of entry.”

Do you care about all-wheel drive systems when considering a small SUV? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Tom White
Journalist

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