Racy looks but within hides an honest and steady performer
Energetic from day one, Subaru’s XV has been a shining light for the carmaker over the past decade.
Essentially a jacked-up version of the Impreza hatch, over the past decade it was a trailblazer for the brand and one of the leaders in the compact SUV realm — a genre which is now bustling with opposition.
Armed with extra equipment, along with a new grille, front bumper, fog light surround and alloy wheel designs, the 2021 editions of the XV have arrived as part of a midlife update.
Hybrid models join the cohort of new iterations, but the pure petrol models remain the most popular. Despite having the ‘Premium’ badge, this model sits one rung down from the top of the XV ladder.
There’s a reasonable list of features on the Premium XV, with complimentary items including 17-inch alloys, satnav as part of the six-speaker infotainment system which uses an eight-inch touchscreen, dual-zone aircon and an electric sunroof.
While the inclusions are adequate, questionable are the absences. For just shy of $40k, it’s surprising niceties such as folding side mirrors when locking, full leather trim, heated seats, automatic lights and rain sensing wipers are not standard. Some of those are only in the S model which requires an extra investment of about $2780.
Unlike most other manufactures, Subaru doesn’t charge extra for metallic paint, and external options include white, silver, grey, black, blue, red and yellow.
Subaru was among the last manufacturers to extend its warranty to five years and unlimited kilometres. That’s on par with most mainstream brands.
The servicing schedule is annual or every 12,500km, with a package available covering three ($1279) or five ($2430) services.
Staunch buyers love the brand and Subarus typically have strong resale values.
Featuring some of the best new technology, there is good reason the XV has a five-star rating (awarded in 2017).
This midlife update has delivered extra kit for the Premium variant, with the most notable inclusion emergency braking that can stop or slow the XV if an impeding frontal collision is detected now also working when travelling in reverse.
Another new inclusion is a front view monitor, as well as blind spot warning with lane change assist to avoid sideswiping other vehicles.
Also part of Subaru’s Eyesight system are radar cruise control that makes easy work of traffic by always maintaining a safe braking distance from other vehicles, along with lane keeping functionality to steer the car back into the centre of the lane if the driver drifts without indicating.
Entry and exit is easy given the XV’s height compared with a hatch or sedan — one of the primary reasons older buyers have gravitated to SUVs.
Having three screens can take some time to become accustomed.
The central infotainment touchscreen’s operation is straight forward, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for improved smartphone integration, but sitting on top of the dash is the Eyesight safety information. Inside the driver’s instrument binnacle is another configurable display.
Once your bearings are obtained, the cabin becomes easy to navigate. Fast access to the aircon controls are below the primary touchscreen, and on the steering wheel are toggles which control the various travel info and display options.
Two USB ports are in the front to keep devices charged, along with a pair of 12-volt outlets but nothing in the boot — usually a handy spot when inflating mattresses or stand-up paddle boards.
The boot space is limited at just 310 litres despite having a space-saver spare. Rivals like the Kia Seltos offer 468L or an MG ZS has 359L, but use the 60-40 seat folding functionality and there’s a long load space. We managed to fit a small surfboard inside.
Back seat space is impressive for a small SUV, and two adults can find comfort if those in the front don’t shift too far rearward.
Reliable and consistent, the petrol four-cylinder boxer engine does its job without fanfare. Sending power to all four wheels, the XV feels stable and honest in varying circumstances. Saw the steering from left to right and directional changes are handled with a relatively flat cabin — better than many SUVs.
Changes have been made to the suspension set up and a function that enables the driver to change between I mode for economic drive and S for sportier characteristics have been added.
Rarely feeling dramatically athletic, the XV remains responsive with easy throttle inputs rather than calls for dramatic acceleration. Subaru typically does a good job with its continuously variable automatic transmissions, although ask for too much punch off the line and it battles to meet expectations.
Hybrid models are available and they offer some mild additional acceleration firepower, yet the fuel efficiency gains are minimal for the extra bottom line outlay.
Average fuel consumption proved only slightly greater than the official figure from Subaru at 7.3L/100km.
All-wheel drive along with the Eyesight tech provide high levels of safety, throw in Subaru’s reputation for reliability and collectively it ticks the primary boxes.
Funky looks light my fire, and the XV’s external lines are adventuristic without being futuristic.
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Controlled adventure is the heart of Subaru’s XV. It boasts sporting looks with good internal dimensions and reliable performance without exceeding excitement levels.