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Subaru XV 2.0i-S farewell

We say goodbye to our long-term Subaru XV 2.0i-S, an SUV big enough for the family yet small enough that you won’t feel like you’re driving a tank.

LIST PRICE: $36,240 (+ORC)


IT’S GONE. Our Kermit green Subaru XV 2.0i-S long-termer has finally left the building, replaced by a 2015 Mitsubishi Pajero. And, you know what, I’m going to miss the XV.

In my time with the thing it did absolutely everything I asked of it. From cocking a wheel or two off-road, to schlepping from home to work everyday (200km round trip), and then carting the family around on the weekend. It never once missed a beat, although it was laid low for a few weeks during the loan because of a stone or two stuck in the brakes, but it could have happened to any car.

Anyway, the good thing about the stone getting stuck in the brakes was that it gave me something to whinge about (and we worked out how to flick the buggers out too), and there were precious few moments where I complained about the XV. Although, that said, I did recently take umbrage over the way Subaru’s trimmers had finished the cut out for the ISOFIX buckle. Looking at it again yesterday I realised just how easily it would be to tear the seat from this seeming sloppiness. But, hey, if you never, ever fit an ISOFIX seat to your XV, well, you’ll never, ever have a problem, so it’s all swings and roundabouts.

Oh, and one more gripe I had was the paddle shifters on the steering wheel. These things are designed to make you feel more a part of the driving experience than you otherwise might with a CVT, DSG, or conventional automatic transmission. But I can tell you there’s absolutely no point bothering to use the shifters in the XV; you won’t get a skerrick more control or performance. Try it for yourself if you own one and don’t believe me; drive up the same hill once using the paddles and the second using just your right foot … Drive is best.

Actually, now that I think about it, I also didn’t like the multi-media unit. Don’t get me wrong, it’s feature packed but it’s tedious and fiddly to use for anyone who’s got fingers bigger than the tip of a ballpoint pen. And if you drive around in anything other than failing light or at night, the screen is virtually impossible to see due to glare.

But these are minor issues in the grand scheme of things. It’s how the XV handles the key duties of getting you from A to B on bitumen or off it that really matters. And, as far as that’s concerned, it’s impossible to fault the XV.

Subaru’s engineers have done a fantastic job of endowing a high-riding SUV (and at 210mm ground clearance, it’s a very high-riding SUV) with performance car-like body control. True. When developing the ride and body control of the current Impreza and XV, Subaru’s boffins benchmarked all manner of performance cars from VW Golf GTI to BMW 1M, and even Porsche Cayman. Yep, the XV’s body control is that good.

There’s almost no body roll even when attacking corners a little too aggressively, and the thing’s ability to cope with mid-corner bumps without being bucked off line is impressive. The steering isn’t up to the same quality, which perhaps dulls just how good the chassis is, but it’s accurate and well weighted but there’s zero feel.

Noise control is excellent, indeed the XV is one of the quieter SUVs on the road and certainly infinitely quieter across broken surfaces than a Mazda CX-5.

The interior looks simple when you first climb in, but is well appointed, particularly in 2.0i-S guise. The plastics are strong but some of the finishes, the leather included, mark a little more easily than I would have thought in a robust car like the XV. That said, even with my kids doing their best to destroy the interior, the thing looked like new when it went back to Subaru yesterday. So, I can definitely attest to the fact that while it might show a few marks, the interior will stand up to chocolate, biscuits, drinks, muddy shoes and sticky fingers and look none the worse for wear. So it definitely passed the family test.

As did the boot. Lift up the rear hatch and the XV’s 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 and sundry other bits and bobs. 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.

The engine. If you Google the XV you’ll find numerous reports of how the thing is let down by its engine; that it’s not got enough poke. Well, that’s total and utter bollocks. No, it doesn’t accelerate like a BMW M3, but nor is it as slow as a wet weekend either.

Indeed, the XVs 2.0-litre four-cylinder Boxer engine (the cylinders ‘face’ or oppose each other, just like two boxers), makes 110kW at 6200rpm and 196Nm at 4200rpm. Our car had the CVT which is my pick for the XV, but a six-speed manual is available. The CVT, once you get your head around the fact it doesn’t respond like a traditional automatic transmission and that you’ll get the best out of the thing if you’re clever and smooth with your right foot, offers a smooth and effortless pouring on of torque. I only had one moment with the thing where I thought it was missing a bit of zing and that was when I was using the paddles…

I didn’t get off-road too often in the XV, but when I did the thing performed flawlessly. Some more aggressive tyres and I think the XV would become a properly capable little rough roader. Thanks to its permanent all-wheel drive, the XV is able to find grip and maintain momentum where some of its part-time all-wheel drive competitors would struggle.

But the all-wheel drive system doesn’t mean you can plow into a wet corner at stupid-speed and expect the XV to turn-in and grip the road. It won’t. It can’t defy physics and it will understeer. That said, the speed at which it’ll run out of grip is much higher than front-drive or rear-drive only vehicles.

So, all up the XV is a neat little SUV that’s big enough for a family but small enough that you won’t feel like you’re driving a tank.

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.