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Subaru XV 2020 review: Hybrid

The Lagoon Blue colour is a no-cost option and only available on the XV Hybrid.
EXPERT RATING
7.3
The Subaru XV Hybrid might not be quite what you're expecting - best to read this first, then.

The idea of a hybrid version of Subaru’s small XV SUV seems to make complete sense – this is a car that probably spends most of its time in traffic but is owned by people who might like to head down a dirt track occasionally. And if it can somehow manage to give off a green glow as well,  that could only be a bonus.

But can it actually do all those things? That's the question I’m here to answer, with a bit of real-world testing.

The answer is not a simple yes or no, I'm afraid, because the experience was mostly positive, yet in some ways, I was left wanting more.  Allow me to explain.

Subaru XV 2020: HYBRID
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypeHybrid with Regular Unleaded
Fuel Efficiency6.5L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$35,580

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

The XV Hybrid lists for $35,580, which makes it the second-most expensive XV in the line-up, sitting just under the top-of-range $36,530 2.0i-S. The thing is, the Hybrid doesn’t come with nearly as much equipment as the 2.0i-S, and that’s why it loses value-for-money marks in this review.

Standard features range from the disappointing - like the 6.5-inch touch screen, single-zone climate control and halogen headlights -  to the impressive; adaptive cruise control, rear privacy glass and proximity unlocking. The Hybrid also scores the same advanced safety tech as the 2.0i-S, which I’ll go into more detail about in the Safety section below.

Inside, is a relatively small 6.5-inch touch screen. Inside, is a relatively small 6.5-inch touch screen.

Other standard features include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, shifting paddles, X-Mode drive setting, rear-view camera, six-speaker stereo, digital radio, CD player, premium cloth upholstery, roof rails and rain-sensing wipers.

Only the hybrid comes in the Lagoon Blue colour our car wore, and it’s a no-cost option. Good.

How does the XV Hybrid compare with rivals on price? Well, apart from the Toyota C-HR Koba hybrid, there aren’t any other small hybrid SUV rivals. But ask yourself: why are you buying the XV Hybrid? If it’s for ‘green efficiency’ then you really need to skip to the section on fuel economy, because the amount of fuel you’ll save could shock you, and not in a good way.

If it’s for the all-wheel-drive system then you should know that all XVs have all-wheel drive.

Frankly the biggest rival, apart from the C-HR, comes from within – the XV 2.0i Premium, which is $33,420 and is better equipped and boasts excellent fuel economy. A small SUV comparison wouldn’t be complete without the segment’s benchmark – the Kia Seltos, and its Sport + grade with AWD lists for $35,490.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

That Lagoon Blue paint. As mentioned above it’s only available on the hybrid and in the metal the colour is so stunning and different that right now from my desk I can see people rubber necking at it parked out the front of my house. The hue, combined with the ‘e-boxer’ badges, makes for an intriguing package, which, from where I sit, is generating a stack of interest. That was always Subaru’s intention, I guess.

Other hybrid-only design features include the frosted silver elements around the fog lights, the slim-line roof rails and, of course, those ‘e-boxer’ badges.

Only the XV hybrid comes in the Lagoon Blue colour. Only the XV hybrid comes in the Lagoon Blue colour.

Those are the only styling differences between the Hybrid and the other XV family members.

Not having the chunky roof racks means the overall height is 20mm lower, at 1595mm, but the rest of the dimensions are the same as a regular XV, at 4465mm long and 1800mm wide.  

The XV is a small SUV, but larger than most of its rivals – it’s about 200mm longer than a Honda H-RV, and similar in size to a Kia Seltos or Nissan Qashqai. That said, its cargo capacity isn’t the best – but more on that in the Practicality section below.

The hybrid model gets slim-line roof rails and ‘e-boxer’ badges to help separate it from regular XVs. The hybrid model gets slim-line roof rails and ‘e-boxer’ badges to help separate it from regular XVs.

We’re just talking about appearances here and the XV hybrid is cute and angry looking at the same time, with its Pokémon-like face.

Nothing has changed about the overall exterior styling since this new-gen XV was introduced in 2017. And that goes for the interior, too, which is a highlight of this SUV.

The Hybrid's interior is only letdown by the small display screen and hard plastic on the back of the centre console The Hybrid's interior is only letdown by the small display screen and hard plastic on the back of the centre console

There’s no other small SUV in the price range with a cabin that feels this good – the craftsmanship is superb, the fit and finish is excellent and the materials (even the plastics) feel gorgeous. I never use the word gorgeous, but you won’t find a more comfortable and luxurious cabin this side of a Lexus.

That said, the small display screen lets things down, and so does the featureless hard plastic on the back of the centre console, which stares at the rear passengers.     

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

To sum things up, room for people is good but the cargo capacity is not. That means I can sit behind my driving position, even though I’m 191cm tall, with about 15cm to spare between my knees and the seatback. Headroom  is fine for me, too.

Boot space, however, is 345 litres, which sounds like it could be a lot but when you consider the Honda HR-V has a 437-litre cargo capacity and the Kia Seltos has 433 litres of luggage space, it’s clear the XV’s boot isn’t very big.

  • Boot space is rated at 345 litres in the XV Hybrid. Boot space is rated at 345 litres in the XV Hybrid.
  • Boot space is rated at 345 litres in the XV Hybrid. Boot space is rated at 345 litres in the XV Hybrid.
  • Boot space is rated at 345 litres in the XV Hybrid. Boot space is rated at 345 litres in the XV Hybrid.

Cabin storage isn’t so bad, though, with a big centre console bin, two cup holders up front and two more in the rear fold-down armrest, plus bottle holders in the doors. The hidey hole in front of the shifter is showing its age because my phone was too large to fit into it sideways, but there are other little nooks to store your things in.

Parents should know that the XV Hybrid doesn’t have directional air vents for those in the back seats, but the dark-tinted rear windows were a welcome feature whenever we had our five-year-old back there.

  • Room for people in the XV is good. Room for people in the XV is good.
  • The dark-tinted rear windows are a welcome feature of the XV. The dark-tinted rear windows are a welcome feature of the XV.

The hybrid has three USB ports – two for charging in the centre console bin and one for media under the dashboard. Need a 12V outlet? There are two.

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

The XV Hybrid has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine under the bonnet (making 110kW and 196Nm) and built into the transmission is an electric motor (making 12.3kW and 66Nm). The batteries are under the boot floor and they’re charged through energy captured during braking, which is then turned into electricity.

The 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine produces 110kW/196Nm. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine produces 110kW/196Nm.

The transmission is an automatic called a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). I’m not a fan of CVTs because they tend to take all the oomph out of acceleration, but Subaru’s version is one of the best and the addition of the electric motor gives nice little nudges while driving that the straight-petrol XV doesn’t offer.

How much fuel does it consume?   5/10

Hybrids are all about saving fuel, but the XV Hybrid doesn’t use a lot less petrol than the regular XV, which makes you wonder what the point of it is. According to Subaru the XV Hybrid should use 6.5L/100km after a combination of open and urban roads, while under the same driving conditions the regular petrol version does almost as well at 7L/100km.

My own testing showed higher consumption. After 401.5km of motorways, urban commutes, city traffic, suburban runs, country twisty fun roads and even dirt and gravel tracks, I filled up with 37.51 litres, which comes to 9.3L/100km. The fuel tank in the hybrid is 48 litres and the trip computer told me I had a range of 90km left. The straight petrol XV has a 63-litre tank.

 The batteries are under the boot floor and they’re charged through energy captured during braking. The batteries are under the boot floor and they’re charged through energy captured during braking.

So, even if you use Subaru’s figures you’re saving 500ml per 100km, which comes to about 70c per 100km if 91 RON is about $1.40. Factor in the fact that the XV Hybrid costs $3970 more than the XV 2.0i-L and you’d have to drive more than 550,000km to make that difference in money back. Again, you have to ask, what is the point?

I’ve tested Toyota’s C-HR Hybrid and while it is only two-wheel drive the combined fuel economy is 4.3L/100km.

Subaru’s XV Hybrid needs to be way more fuel efficient for it to be a worthwhile hybrid vehicle.  

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

Perhaps the best reason for buying the hybrid version of the XV is for its advanced safety tech. Only the XV Hybrid and the top-of-the-range 2.0i-S come with blind-spot monitoring, auto high beams, lane-changing assist, rear cross traffic alert and reverse AEB.

That’s in addition to what’s standard on all XVs, such as forward AEB, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assistance, lane-sway alert, lead vehicle start and brake-light recognition.

The XV Hybrid also comes with adaptive cruise control.

The XV Hybrid comes with Subaru's Eyesight system. The XV Hybrid comes with Subaru's Eyesight system.

A note about the reverse AEB – it works, really well and stopped me from backing into a tree while filming the video above.

The Subaru XV was given a five-star ANCAP safety rating when it was tested in 2017.

For child seats, you’ll find three top-tether anchor points and two ISOFX mounts across the rear row.

Despite all this incredible safety equipment you don’t get a spare tyre on the XV Hybrid – not even a space saver, as you do on the other grades. Instead, you get a puncture-repair kit, which consists of a tyre-inflation device and a type of sealant. I’ve had punctures before while driving cars from other brands and the repair kit didn’t fix the leak. For this reason, the XV hybrid is losing marks here – you can’t beat a real spare tyre, especially in Australia where distances are vast, towns are remote, the climate is extreme and a breakdown could be a life and death situation.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

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

The Subaru XV Hybrid is covered by a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, while the battery for the electric motor is covered by an eight-year/160,000km warranty. There’s also a five-year/62,500km capped-price-servicing program. Servicing is recommended at 12 month/12,500km intervals, with the first capped at $350.25, the second at $588.31, the third at $354.83, the fourth at $784.77, and the fifth at $354.86 for a total of $2433.02 over the five years.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

I said in the video above that I think the XV is one of the best-handling small SUVs for the money and it’s true, even on twisty country roads the vehicle feels planted, with great body control. That’s thanks to well-sorted suspension and the boxer engine design, which lowers the centre of mass, making the car less ‘wobbly’ and more secure in the corners.

If it was just about driving, the XV Hybrid would be my pick out of the entire model range. That’s because I find the  basics petrol version has lacklustre acceleration. The hybrid gets little shoves from the electric motor, making it better for moving quickly in traffic. Yep, while the electric motor is tiny and only supplies a small output, when it combines forces with the petrol the difference is noticeable compared to the petrol XV.

Like the petrol, the hybrid uses a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). The transmissions are the cause of the indequate acceleration I mentioned, but they seem to be perfectly suited to electric motors.

The XV’s all-wheel drive is designed for on-road duties but occasional dirt and gravel tracks are fine. The XV’s all-wheel drive is designed for on-road duties but occasional dirt and gravel tracks are fine.

The entire XV line-up is all-wheel drive, and that includes the hybrid. This is not a four-wheel-drive system, which large off-road vehicles like the Toyota LandCruiser use, so I wouldn’t try to cross the Simpson Desert in an XV. Really the XV’s all-wheel drive is designed for on-road duties but occasional dirt and gravel tracks are fine, as long as you don’t get too wild. Still, it is truly one of the most sure-footed small SUVs for the price that I’ve driven, and the impressive 220mm of ground clearance will let you head down bumpy tracks that would tear the innards out of other small SUVs.

The X-mode function is activated by pressing a button and the throttle, transmission and drive to the wheels is managed automatically to maintain optimum traction.

Where the Hybrid is at a disadvantage against its fellow XV family members is in terms of towing. The braked towing capacity is 130kg less than a straight-petrol XV at 1270kg.  

Verdict

Well this is awkward. On one hand the XV Hybrid is excellent and on the other it’s… not.

It’s great to drive on and off the road, the fit and finish of the cabin are superb and the safety tech is outstanding. On the other, the value for money isn’t good when you consider that it’s almost the most expensive XV, but still doesn’t have sat nav, dual-zone climate control, nor the larger display.

And then there’s the fuel economy. Even if we had matched the 6.5L/100km Subaru says we should get, the saving is a mere 500ml for every 100km compared to a straight-petrol XV. The plug-in hybrid version of the XV, as sold in the United States, can get about 2.6L/100km. Now that type of hybrid XV would make far more sense.

Pricing guides

$32,885
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$29,240
Highest Price
$36,530

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
2.0i 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $29,240 2020 Subaru XV 2020 2.0i Pricing and Specs
2.0i + EYESIGHT SPECIAL EDTN 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $30,740 2020 Subaru XV 2020 2.0i + EYESIGHT SPECIAL EDTN Pricing and Specs
2.0i LIMITED EDITION 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $31,040 2020 Subaru XV 2020 2.0i LIMITED EDITION Pricing and Specs
2.0i PREMIUM 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $33,420 2020 Subaru XV 2020 2.0i PREMIUM Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.3
Price and features7
Design8
Practicality7
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption5
Safety8
Ownership8
Driving8
Richard Berry
Senior Journalist

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