Car Reviews

2018 Subaru XV 2.0i-S Review

Isaac Bober’s 2018 Subaru XV 2.0i-S Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.

In a nutshell: The all-new Subaru XV is a big step ahead of its predecessor and easily the benchmark compact SUV.

2017 Subaru XV 2.0i-S

Pricing $35,240+ORC (from $27,990+ORC) Service Intervals 12 months, 12,500km Warranty three-years, unlimited kilometres (standard); five-years, unlimited kilometres (offer until 30 June) Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder Boxer petrol engine Power 115kW at 6000rpm Torque 196Nm at 4000rpm Transmission CVT Drive All-wheel drive Dimension 4465mm (L); 1800mm (W); 1615mm (H); 2665mm (WB) Turning Circle 10.8m Ground Clearance 220mm Angles 18-degrees (A); 28.8-degrees (D) Boot Space 310/765L Spare Temporary Spare Fuel Tank 63 litres Thirst 7.0L/100km (claimed combined)

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THE ALL-NEW SUBARU XV HAS arrived in Australia with its local launch conducted earlier this week in the Snowy Mountains. Based off Subaru’s Global Platform this is only the second new model to make use of the platform (Impreza was first) but it’ll see service in everything from the WRX, to the Forester, Outback and Liberty going forward.

What is the Subaru XV?

Well, it’s a compact SUV, as if that wasn’t patently obvious. It goes up against the likes of Mazda CX-3, Nissan Qashqai and even the quirky Toyota C-HR and Honda HR-V, but it’s the only model in the segment with real rough road ability and permanent all-wheel drive. Indeed, while Subaru’s local marketing will play up its connectivity and urban-friendliness, it’s this things ability to clamber up and inch down a rough hill that really stand it out from the crowd, and we’ll get to all of that shortly.

The new XV continues the theme set by its predecessor which was launched here in 2012, and offers the contrasting colour bumpers and wheel arch spats. The rest of the design borrows from the new Impreza and the same goes on the inside, although the mid- and upper-spec models with their contrast orange stitching elevate the cabin beyond the Impreza.

2018 Subaru XV 2.0i-S Review

Subaru was wise to launch the Impreza and XV so far apart from each other as the XV has been a stand-out seller for the brand and will be again, and could have overshadowed the launch of the brand’s small urban runabout. Indeed, Subaru Australia boss, Colin Christie, speaking at the local launch said, “We’re almost more excited about the launch of the new Subaru XV”.

Despite the Impreza helping Subaru lift both sales and market share in Australia, the former by 10% and the latter by 4.5%, we suggest the XV will lift it even further so practical and well equipped is it… then there’s the option of the five-year warranty if you place an order for one before the end of June and the extended service intervals introduced on Impreza.

There are four model grades of XV available, the entry-level 2.0i, 2.0i-L, 2.0i-Premium, and top-spec 2.0i-S (which we spent all our time in at the local launch). Prices range from $27,990+ORC through to $35,240+ORC.

XV 2.0i

  • New generation touchscreen infotainment system featuring:
    • Apple CarPlay connectivity
    • Google Android Auto™ connectivity
  • Subaru Global Platform
  • Active Torque Vectoring
  • Front fog lights with integrated Daytime Running Lights (DRL)
  • Tyre pressure monitoring system
  • 115 Kilowatts of power at 6000 rpm and 196 Newtonmetres of torque at 4000 rpm
    • Higher power output, up from 110 kW
  • 17-inch alloy wheels

XV 2.0i-L adds (to 2.0i specification):

  • 8-inch touchscreen
  • Premium cloth trim
  • Dual zone fully automatic air conditioning
  • Electric folding mirrors with integrated indicators
  • EyeSight driver assist, with new Lane Keep Assist feature
  • Leather accented trim steering wheel and gear shift

XV 2.0i Premium adds (to 2.0i-L specification):

  • Electric sunroof
  • Factory fitted SatNav powered by TomTom

XV 2.0i-S adds (to 2.0i Premium specification):

  • Automatic head lights
  • Automatic front wipers
  • Heated front seats
  • Heated mirrors
  • High Beam Assist
  • Leather accented trim
  • Power driver’s seat
  • Steering responsive LED head lights with integrated DRLs
  • Vision Assist features:
    • Blind Spot Monitoring
    • Lane Change Assist
    • Rear Cross Traffic Alert
    • Reverse Automatic Braking – debut feature in Australia
  • 18-inch wheels – pattern unique to the variant 

Subaru is hoping to shift around 1000 XVs each month and after our local drive of the thing I don’t think they’ll have any problem realising that. But let’s look at the new XV in greater detail.

What’s the Subaru XV like on the inside?

The interior of the XV follows in the footsteps of its Impreza sibling with the key difference being (from mid-spec variants up) the bright orange contrast stitching on the seats, dashboard, steering wheel, centre console lid, and gear shifter boot, and the X-Mode and hill descent control buttons just below the transmission shifter on the centre console (they don’t have contrast stitching, they’re just not on the Impreza).

2018 Subaru XV 2.0i-S Review

Subaru never used to be known for the fine quality of its interiors, although some models were better than others but with its new generation of cars that’s no longer the case and, Subaru is now on-par with anything coming from either Europe or Korea at this price point. The materials used in the XV, both on the dashboard and elsewhere, are all excellent (read, fine grained and soft-touch) with only a little bit of hard, scratchy plastic found on the entry-level XV 2.0i in the sort of out of the way places your hand will never touch.

The dashboard layout is typical Subaru (read, functional and easy to read) and almost identical to the Impreza. This means you get a small storage space at the base of the centre stack which can be used to hold your phone and other odds and ends; there are two 12V/120W outlets and two USB ports (only one for the entry model) in the front of the car but none in the back. Above this space is the climate control which is single-zone only in the entry-level variant and dual-zone after that; our top-spec 2.0i-S variant also featured heated front leather seats which given the morning of the launch started out at -1-degress C were greatly appreciated.

From there, you move up to the infotainment screen which is 6.5-inches wide in the entry model and 8-inches wide for all others. Thankfully, there are shortcut menu buttons which makes navigating the system a breeze and with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity syncing your smartphone is a cinch. The 2.0i-Premium and 2.0i-S we tested both get native sat-nav via TomTom with three-year’s worth of map updates included, which is handy if you lose mobile coverage can can’t use the mapping from your smartphone, although sometimes this can be used offline.

What’s the Subaru XV’s passenger space like?

The new XV measures 4465mm long (up 4450mm), 1800mm wide (up from 1780mm) – body only, and runs a longer wheelbase of 2670 (up from 2640mm), it maintains the current car’s 1615mm height. The longer wheelbase and clever packaging has allowed Subaru’s interior designers to squeeze in a bit more passenger room and that’s clear whether you’re sat in either the front or the back of the thing.

Our XV 2.0i-S test car offers driver’s side electric front seat adjustment (eight-way) and manual passenger side adjustment, all other variants are manual adjustment only. The front seats are comfortable for long haul driving and while they feel quite broad initially they’re grippy and supportive enough for when the corners start appearing or the terrain becomes bumpy.

2018 Subaru XV 2.0i-S Review

Getting in and out of the front seats is a cinch thanks to the just-right hip point which literally allows you to swing your legs out and walk away; there’s no dropping down or grabbing hold of the A-pillar to pull yourself out. And vision from the front seats is excellent, too. Subaru tries to ensure that, from the driver’s seat, you’re able to see something one-metre tall outside the car and while I didn’t measure and test the claim, I’d believe it. Throw in the rear vision camera and the automatic reverse braking on the top-spec variant and visibility and safety is well taken care of.

2018 Subaru XV 2.0i-S Review

Move into the back of the XV and there’s plenty of room for two adults to sit comfortably; the middle seat is shaped more like a perch and the transmission tunnel robs foot and legroom, meaning it wouldn’t be a super comfortable place to be for any length of time. There are ISOFX mounts for the two outboard seats and top tether anchor for all three seats across the back of the seats.

What’s the Subaru XV’s boot space like?

The boot measures 310 litres with the back seats up and 765 litres with them folded down. Now, this isn’t a huge space and this is probably the only area where I think Subaru should focus a little more attention… if the boot was nudging 400 litres it would be handier for a family of four. That said, having lived with a previous generation XV for six months, I can tell you the boot is just about big enough. The shape of the boot is nice and square although it’s quite shallow. Lift the boot floor and you’ll see the temporary spare wheel, emphasis on the temporary rather than space-saver spare.

2018 Subaru XV Review - Preview Drive in Japan
Image of the boot taken from our preview drive of the Subaru XV in Japan

What’s the Subaru XV like to drive?

The Subaru XV uses the same refreshed 2.0-litre four-cylinder Boxer engine as its Impreza sibling with the same power and torque figures, which are 115kW at 6000rpm and 196Nm of torque at 4000rpm. This engine is mated to a CVT with “seven gear ratios” when driving in Manual mode or “Auto Stepped Speed Control” when in D for Drive. Fuel consumption is a combined 7.0L/100km.

2018 Subaru XV 2.0i-S Review

Undoubtedly, you’ll read in other reports or comments on those reports (by people who’ve never driven the thing) that the engine is a little underpowered. And they’d be wrong. Sure, put the XV up against a Golf GTI and it’ll feel underpowered, but the XV has more than enough grunt to keep up and overtake traffic with a family on-board, so, let’s just move on…

2018 Subaru XV 2.0i-S Review

The launch route took in some delicious twisting roads and some rough dirt tracks, some with potholes that could have swallowed the XV. And this was a clever move by Subaru, because it showed off the work done to match the suspension to Australian conditions. That’s right, it’s not just Kia and Hyundai and now Holden that tweak the ride and handling of their cars to suit Australian driving styles and conditions; Subaru has been doing it for years and years.

Indeed, the XVs Practical Motoring drove in Japan rode very well but that’s a depth to the Aussie tune that turns up the body control and compliance up 11. So much so, that I’d suggest the XV is the best riding and handling compact SUV on-sale right now. The way the thing handles corrugated roads, changes in direction on both bitumen and dirt, dials in the driver to the car’s doings but insulates the cabin from road and wind noise really is benchmark-setting stuff.

The steering too is nice and meaty with good on-centre feel and stability. The brakes are progressive and feelsome in their action and the transmission is both quiet and adept at making the most of the power and torque available to it.

2018 Subaru XV 2.0i-S Review

The headline-grabber for the XV is undoubtedly the addition of X-Mode which, when activated works below 40km/h and adds another layer of practicality and usability to the XV that its competitors just don’t have. And X-Mode isn’t a gimmick either. We got to play with it in water, mud and snow at our preview drive in Japan and, at the local launch this week Subaru had a short off-road course set-up that showed off the hill-descent control, the ground clearance which is a 4×4-rivalling 220mm and the suspension’s compliance at low speed.

Once activated, X-Mode is operational below 40km/h and tweaks the stability, traction and throttle mapping. The hill descent works at up to 20km/h with the speed set via the brake; meaning whatever speed you enter the descent is the speed the vehicle will maintain and it’ll work down to 1km/h.

2018 Subaru XV 2.0i-S Review

Subaru’s X-Mode system isn’t a toy and there’s no other compact SUV on the market that offers the XV’s low-speed throttle control; the thing, when X-Mode is activated offers a softer throttle making it harder to over-rev when you’re driving in rough terrain. The system also speeds up the lock-up between the front and rear axles by 25% to reduce the chance of wheelspin. And the brake traction control is clever in that it actually works (unlike those that run an on-demand system), pop a wheel off the ground and that wheel will stop spinning while drive is shuffled to the wheels with grip (switch off stability control, something you might want to do when driving off-road and, thankfully the XV’s system keeps traction control active). We’ll delve into the XV’s performance off-road once we’ve had it through the garage.

I said it after my preview drive in Japan and the drive this week in Australia has confirmed my earlier statement, that the new Subaru XV is the best riding, best handling, most capable compact SUV you can buy.

What are the Subaru XV’s safety features like?

The Subaru XV has been awarded a five-star ANCAP safety rating. It’s worth noting that only the entry-level variant misses out on Subaru’s EyeSight system (autonomous emergency braking) which will be required on all variants from next year (2018) to qualify for a five-star ANCAP rating.

According to Subaru, it’s new global platform is future-proofed to ensure that whatever is built on top of it can achieve the top safety rating out until 2025. The XV offers improved visibility over its predecessor thanks to the thinner pillars while the overall strength and rigidity of the chassis and body is much higher than the old car (collision energy absorption is improved 1.4 times). And, packaging of the engine and transmission has lowered the centre of gravity by 5mm, ensuring improved stability when cornering.

2018 Subaru XV 2.0i-S Review

Then there are other things like the seatbelt tongue… I’ll bet not many of you pay too much attention to that, but Subaru and Honda are notable brands that have started using a locking tongue; basically, this locking tongue helps to reduce hip movement and the load on the chest in a collision.

All models above the entry-level 2.0i feature EyeSight which for XV adds lane keeping assist which can actively steer you back into the middle of the lane if it senses you drifting. Also improved is the adaptive cruise control function which, thanks to EyeSight’s better recognition of brake lights, is now more effective. The top-spec XV 2.0i-S adds blind spot monitoring, high beam assist, lane change assist which will warn if you try and move into a lane with a car approaching from behind, rear cross traffic alert and reverse automatic braking. A reversing camera is standard across the range.

Subaru offered demonstrations of its EyeSight system in both forwards and reverse and in both instances the systems performed flawlessly, indeed so convincing was the reverse automatic braking on the 2.0i-S that I offered to stand behind the car and have it reversed towards me, but OHS wouldn’t allow that. Watch the little video of it in action; the car in it was travelling somewhere between 5-10km/h; the system will work up to 14km/h.

So, what do we think of the Subaru XV?

I was a fan of the old XV, so, maybe I’m a touch biased, but I think this new one is a big leap ahead of that car. And, while I spent all my time at the local launch in the top-spec 2.0i-S, I think the new XV is a good thing indeed. It’s easily the best driving and riding compact SUV in the segment and while the boot could be bigger, there’s more room in the front and back seats which makes it a more comfortable thing. It’s bang up to date in terms of connectivity and while Subaru wants you to think of it as the ultimate urban runabout, it’s ability when the going gets rough shouldn’t be ignored.

2018 Subaru XV 2.0i-S Review

Editor's Rating

What's the interior like?
What's the infotainment like?
What's it like on the road?
What about safety features?
Practical Motoring Says: No other compact SUV comes close to the new Subaru XV in terms of on-road ride and handling or NVH, and none are in the same postcode when it comes to rough road capability. The pricing is a little higher than some of its key competitors model for model, but the XV offers more versatility and permanent all-wheel drive and that's worth a little more, I'd suggest. So, if you're in the market for a compact SUV that's more than just a paper tiger, then the new Subaru XV should be right at the top of your list.

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober was born in the shadow of Mount Panorama in Bathurst and, so, it was inevitable he’d fall into work as a motoring writer. He began his motoring career in 2000 reviewing commercial vehicles, before becoming editor of Caravan & Motorhome magazine. He then moved to MOTOR Magazine before going freelance and contributing to Overlander 4WD, 4×4 Australia, TopGear Australia, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, The Australian, CARSguide, and many more.