From the get-go the Subaru XV, or as one wag said the ’15’, was destined for a future outside the norm of the compact sports utility vehicle. And has stayed true to form.

For a start, it was powered by Subaru’s trademark horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine mated with the marque’s ubiquitous all-wheel drive system. And styling was not your average small SUV set-up, with more of a nod to the wagon.

A minor mid-life makeover for the second generation was cause to look back over the road travelled so far, while the addition of two petrol / electric hybrid versions will give us a glimpse into the XV future when we drive them.

In the meantime, apart from a fresh look, the major change is the introduction of Subaru Intelligent Drive across the range. There’s also the addition of driver assist technology, with a Front View Monitor and Side View Monitor integrated into the front grille and passenger side door mirror.

The hybrids also are fitted with e-Active Shift Control, which in SI-Drive on winding roads, engages automatically, based on information including accelerator use and the G sensor signal. It deactivates when it works out normal driving has resumed.

The arrival of the hybrid pair takes the model choice to six, with the XV 2.0i AWD, at $29,690, plus on road costs, getting things under way. The car on test, the 2.0i Premium AWD ($34,590) sits amidships the range, while the two hybrids, in L and S spec, cost $35,490 and $40,790, respectively.

While every MY21 XV has a new grille, front bumper, foglight surround, and alloy wheel designs, the look of the car has not changed. The XV is like no other SUV, with a design theme based on sharp edges and bold curves producing a solid profile and no soft styling.

A strong horizontal bar across the radiator grille is a reminder of a horizontally opposed engine conrod and Subaru’s Boxer heritage, while a sharp windscreen angle, together with a large rear spoiler and bumper, aids aerodynamics. The 2.0i-Premium and lower grades run on 17-inch alloy wheels.

Quality fit and finish are the first thing that strikes occupants on entry to the XV Premium cabin. Supportive seats are a combination of classy cloth and leather-look trim, with contrasting orange stitching. Manual adjustment is a mild let-down.

Second row seating maintains the comfort score but boot volume at 310 litres, is nothing to write home about and does not compare with the more traditional compact SUV. 60:40 folding backs push up the space to 765 litres.

In-cabin storage is nothing out of the ordinary, with twin cupholders, a central bin, a cubby forward of the gear lever, and a spot behind the cupholders for small items. There are a couple of USB points in the front console.

XV 2.0i-S AWD

The XV infotainment set-up is a screen-lovers’ delight, with an 8-inch in-dash touch display for Bluetooth, sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone stuff and DAB+ digital radio.

A second screen, above, shows many of the XV’s systems including climate control. Here, tech heads can take a look at information such as roll and pitch angles as well as torque distribution.

A third screen, in the instrument layout in front of the driver offers a digital speedo, fuel consumption, and a nudge to the driver if the car in front has moved off and he or she hasn’t.

It’s ‘as you were’ for the MY21 XV powertrain, with the lot lifted from the upgraded second generation.

Over and above the standard active and passive (seven airbags) safety systems, the Premium includes Subaru’s Vision Assist package featuring blind spot monitor, lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, reverse automatic braking and front view monitor.

On the bitumen active torque vectoring has the XV turning better with improved response and control, while the upper range models, with all-new lane keeping assist and reverse automatic braking when parking underlined the car’s five-star safety rating.

There is no change to the 2-litre four-cylinder boxer engine, which delivers 115 kW and 196 Nm, claiming a combined urban / highway fuel consumption of 7 litres per 100 kilometres. The test vehicle pushed that to 8 litres per 100 kilometres in the urban environment and 5.4 on a motorway run.
SI-Drive offers the choice between frugal efficiency in I mode and sportier performance in S mode, for greater engine responsiveness, switching via steering wheel-mounted controls.
Noise and vibration were kept to a minimum, and while the four-cylinder engine was refined in its power delivery, it did manage a roar only when pressed hard. The CVT works smoothly and without fuss across a wide range of ratios and offers the chance for the driver to become more involved with a seven-speed manual mode paddles. The offer is not worth taking. Leave the CVT to its own devices.

Comfort and handling have come in for an upgrade with revised tuning allowing the front suspension to move more smoothly for a better ride, added agility and improved steering response.

The Subaru XV is at the cheaper end of the massive compact SUV market but holds its own in quality and equipment with much more expensive rivals. There’s no mistaking the smart looks of the XV too. Subaru loyalists will love it.

XV 2.0i AWD $29,690
XV 2.0i-L AWD $31,990
XV 2.0i Premium AWD $34,590
XV 2.0i-S AWD $37,290
XV Hybrid L AWD $35,490
XV Hybrid S AWD $40,790
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Subaru dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Subaru XV 2.0i Premium, petrol, CVT, AWD, SUV)

Capacity: 1.995 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders horizontally opposed
Maximum Power: 115 kW @ 6000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 196 Nm @ 4000 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 98 RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 7.0 L/100km


Length: 4485 mm
Wheelbase: 2665 mm
Width: 1800 mm
Height: 1615 mm
Turning Circle: 10.8 metres
Tare weight: 1429 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 63 litres

Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Ventilated disc

Five years / unlimited kilometres

About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
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