Isaac Bober’s 2014 Subaru XV review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and rating.

It’s no secret Subaru is a firm-believer in SUVs. Indeed, for the last decade and more the company’s most popular vehicles were its high-riding SUVs, particularly the Forester. And so it comes as a bit of a shock when you realise just how long it’s taken Subaru – arguably, alongside Land Rover, the only other truly town-and-country brand on the market – to release a proper tiny-tot crossover. Enter the Subaru XV.Subaru is hoping its XV will capitalise on our love affair with SUVs. And indeed it already has and, since launch (late-2011), it’s been selling well over 1000 units every month.



It’s more of the same for the MY14 (Model Year 2014 in car speak) Subaru XV and besides the green paint job on our test car Subaru hasn’t touched it at all. And that’s rare for a brand that likes to meddle with its models – sometimes for the worse – every five minutes, or so it seems. No doubt there’ll be a few of you who remember the XV moniker from years gone by. Well, that car was really nothing more than a cosmetic enhancement of the Impreza hatchback – it was a marketing ploy and little more.

Subaru XV rock rear

Today’s Subaru XV now stands apart from the Impreza line-up. It runs a different nose, stands taller, and is a smidgen shorter in the wheelbase (2635mm v 2645mm), and really is Subaru’s first ‘proper’ model in the growing sub-compact SUV segment. While many of its competitors in this crossover segment are predominantly part-time 4WD, the Subaru XV is a true all-wheel drive. It also offers what most buyers looking at cars like this really want; a raised seating position affording good vision and the go-anywhere styling of a true SUV.Styling has never really been a Subaru strong point, and the brand has had plenty of misses, and only the odd hit over the years. But, to me, the Subaru XV is one of its more convincing designs. Obviously it’s been spun off the Impreza, but the XV has been given a sleeker (than the Impreza hatch) profile and a different, more hawk-like face than the Impreza.


The dash layout is minimalist but logical, dominated by three large air-con dials and information screens. All of the controls are easy to use on the fly and there’s plenty of storage space.


While the XV is a big step up in improvement over previous Subaru models, some of the interior plastics still feel a little cheap although the centre stack and dashboard plastics are attractive. Despite its improvements, Subaru still has a long way to go to match its European and now Korean rivals. That said, the dash feels solid and should be typically Subaru hard wearing.

Subaru XV backseat

Back seat passengers are well catered for with decent headroom and excellent knee and legroom, thanks to the concaved backs of the front seats, and there’s plenty of room in the front, too. The seat frames are straight out of the Liberty which is how Subaru’s achieved the commanding driving position; the seats are both comfortable and grippy with decent lateral support.


The plastic cladding, jutting rear bumper, and pumped wheel guards give the XV good street presence. And the narrower lower sills and wide door openings (coupled with a rear seat that’s been pushed back) makes for easy entry.

Subaru XV Boot

The low boot floor makes it easy to load and unload the XV, but the boot size of just 310 litres is less than you get in the back of a Nissan Dualis (410L), but it’s more than capable of swallowing a full-size pram. Drop the 60/40 split-fold rear seats and boot-space grows to around 1200 litres. There’s a full-size spare wheel under the boot floor, which can be easily accessed.Dimensionally, the XV is an impressive story; it’s just 1615mm high, which is only 200mm taller than a standard Impreza hatch, and exactly the same height as a Mitsubishi ASX. Yet, with a staggering 220mm of ground clearance, the XV betters Mazda’s BT-50 ute (220mm vs 200mm).


The Subaru XV runs a 2.0-litre four-cylinder Boxer engine (the cylinders face each other, just like two boxers), producing 110kW at 6200rpm and 196Nm at 4200rpm. This is mated to either a six-speed manual (standard) or a Continuously Variable Transmission (cost optional and the unit fitted to the test car) with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifts. While I’ve driven manual-equipped XVs and loved them; the six-speed manual is typically (for Subaru) notchy but it’s beautifully matched to the light but feelsome clutch and is actually a joy to use. But, my pick for using the XV to tackle the daily grind would be the CVT; the gearshifts are smooth and there’s an effortless pouring on of torque from the moment you touch the throttle.

Subaru XV parked front three quarter

Plenty of other testers have criticised the XV for its lack of lowdown torque, but in our week of testing, and I piled on around 1000km of city and country driving, (taking in the Blue Mountains, NSW) I couldn’t fault it. Subaru claims combined fuel consumption of 7.0L/100km for the CVT and 7.3L/100km for the six-speed manual model. Against other non-diesel rivals the consumption is on the money, but it’s no match for the VW Tiguan 103TDI which returns 6.0-6.2L/100km. The XV’s 60-litre tank offers a theoretical range of around 850km, and is recommended to run on hip-pocket friendly 91RON.


The Subaru XV might offer more ground clearance than a Mazda BT-50, but it’s more enjoyable on a twisting road (either bitumen or dirt) than you might think. Indeed, almost none of the XV’s competitors, with the possible exception of the Skoda Yeti, can match its comfortable ride and nimble handling.Thanks to the lowest centre of gravity in the class, sharp (but light) steering, tight high and low-speed body control, and all-wheel drive (50:50 drive split) offering impressive grip, the Subaru XV is an impressive package. Sure, it’s more aimed at the dirt road set (hence the high ground clearance) than those after a school-run SUV, but across all surfaces the XV is well insulated with only a faint whistle of wind noise from around the big wing mirrors, and muted road and suspension noise.

Subaru XV parked cliff

Part of the XV’s charm is how Subaru’s engineering boffins have been able to give it such sharp handling without upsetting its ride; this is a seriously comfortable car to drive across all surfaces.


The XV is a big step up in improvement over previous Subaru models and while some of the plastics still feel a little cheap (though these are mostly hidden out of the way), the XV is very well screwed together. Subarus are generally very well built and reliable, indeed the brand is always at the pointy end of the Australian JD Power Customer Satisfaction Survey. Subaru also has a long history of building rugged cars, and does plenty of testing here in Australia to ensure its vehicles will stand up to our unique conditions, and this new Subaru XV is no different, so, it will take rough-road work in its stride, and the warranty of three years and unlimited kilometres should provide peace of mind.


Priced from $28,490 (+ORC), the XV undercuts just about every other all-wheel drive compact SUV on the market (and it matches most of the two-wheel drive variants, too).The Subaru XV is available in three model grades: 2.0i; 2.0i-L; and 2.0i-S and is priced from $28,490 (+ORC) for a 2.0i with six-speed manual, stretching to $36,990 for a 2.0i-S with Lineartronic CVT. In terms of equipment, the XV is well spec’ed with things like Bluetooth and iPod connectivity as standard. You also get a reversing camera, hill-start assist for manual models, auto air-con, cruise control, reach and rake on the steering wheel, 17-inch alloys (with a 17-inch steel spare wheel), front driving lights, and a three-year unlimited kilometre warranty.

Subaru XV interior isn't exactly luxurious but it's a positive step in the right direction.

Move up into the mid-spec model (2.0i-L from $31,990 – six-speed manual) and you additionally get sat-nav with voice activation, rear privacy glass, and dual-zone climate control. Go for the full-fruit 2.0i-S ($36,990) and you get added extras like full leather interior, heated front seats and electrically adjustable driver’s seat.


The XV comes with an impressive selection of safety equipment, including seven airbags, ABS and traction control, hill-start assist (manual model only), retractable pedal box, and a five-star ANCAP safety rating (it scored an impressive 14.33/16 in the offset crash test). In terms of security, the XV is equipped with DataDot, engine immobiliser, remote central locking, and a cargo security blind.


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  1. Thanks for the guide.
    I previously has a Subaru Imprezza 2007 model with the 1.6 Engine. It was a good little car but since it was stolen and crashed (picked the worst car in the street to steal) I am now looking for a new one.. I love subaru and its reliability but I am not sure if I should be going for the new XV or another Imprezza.

    For the price and specs you have mentioned in the article above, would you recommend anything else or does this really hit the mark.

    1. Hi Mitchell, I’m a big fan of the XV and would recommend it in a heartbeat. But it really comes down to what you’re after. There are other compact SUVS, but none besides the XV offer permanent all-wheel drive… How much do you want to spend, where do you drive and do you absolutely have to have all-wheel drive?

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