2018 Subaru XV 2.0i Premium – $32,140
(4 / 5)
Defining what is and what isn’t an SUV is becoming a bit of a minefield.
Crossovers add a whole new element to the equation. Where it becomes really difficult is when a crossover actually has more off-road ability than many SUVs.
Case-in-point? The Subaru XV.
It’s more utilitarian than many pretenders, and excursions onto rocky trails or the beach prove the point very effectively.
Simply press the X-mode button and you’re ready to tackle tracks that would make a Captiva or CX-5 faint.
But the XV also has a weakness that needs to be remedied before it can be heartily recommended.
Let us explain.
Here’s what you get
To look at, you’d probably think it’s just another hatch. Granted, it’s a bit taller, but its styling is handsome yet unassuming.
There’s no way of differentiating what it is from lesser specced versions, the most obvious difference being Subaru’s “EyeSight” cameras at the top of the windscreen, which help detect obstacles ahead, bringing autonomous braking and lane departure warning.
It will also steer itself back into the middle of the lane if you don’t.
The base model doesn’t come with such tech, which (among other things) saves nearly $4K.
At $32,140, the XV 2.0i Premium isn’t bare bones at all.
A clear, eight-inch touch screen handles the infotainment and reversing camera, and you get adaptive cruise control, sunroof, dual-zone climate control, and very nicely textured seats.
But make sure you own a decent vacuum cleaner – grains of sand like to disappear into the pattern.
It’s spacious, right?
For its size, definitely. Both front and rear passengers find a good amount of space for legroom and headroom, thanks to the XV’s new longer platform, which liberates more room than the previous XV.
We’d like to see a slightly larger boot, but even at 310 litres, there’s enough room for shopping.
Put down the back seats and that grows to 710 litres (1220 litres if measured to the ceiling).
Here’s what’s under the bonnet
As the “2.0i” name suggests, it gets a 2.0-litre, petrol, four-cylinder but it’s unfortunately one of the weakpoints of the car.
Not because it’s coarse, or rattly, rather because it’s a bit too weak.
Weighing in at 1474kg, it’s no featherweight, so it needs a little grunt to get it going, especially as it has a CVT gearbox to contend with.
However, this motor only produces 115kW and 196Nm. Yeah, it’s not fast.
Does it drive okay, though?
Driven sedately, it feels right, with enough torque from step-off to get it going and it feels like there’s plenty in reserve.
But put your foot down and the lack of torque becomes immediately apparent.
It takes forever to wind up, meaning overtaking has to be done with a lot of care and plenty of straight road.
The XV really, desperately needs a turbocharger to properly transform it into a very good machine.
No, it doesn’t have to go like the WRX, but an extra 50-60Nm would do it.
Are you listening Subaru?
Of course, because it’s not that quick it’s actually quite economical.
The government listed figure is 7.0-litres/100km and we managed 7.9L/100km in our week of running around in the city.
It gets better
Behind the engine is a continuously variable transmission (CVT) which usually is a huge disappointment.
But this one will change your mind completely.
Gone is the elastic response from so many CVTs, rather the ‘box that Subaru uses (and has calibrated) acts as close to a regular automatic as you can get.
There are steps which approximate gears, and you get paddles behind the steering wheel so you can take manual control.
If you like driving, you’ll actually enjoy the XV – apart from the lack of power, that is.
The suspension is also well judged. There’s a fraction of lean if cornering with enthusiasm, but the ride is good and it never crashes over bumps.
It’s a good balance between comfort and cornering; really, the perfect tradeoff.
The electric steering is weighted well, and if your mind wanders (and so does the car), it can steer itself back into the lane. Try not to do that…
It will brake and accelerate autonomously as well, thanks to active cruise control.
Again, if you like your driving, you can switch it off.
The XV also has a five-star safety rating, like the rest of Subaru’s range, which means that it’s safe, spacious, frugal, built well has plenty of toys.
But here’s the best part
Yes, this is what makes it truly versatile – X-Mode.
This button on the centre console backs off the traction control at higher revs and holds the revs up – perfect for driving in sand.
It’ll also activate hill descent control and seek out maximum grip when traversing rocky trails or dirt tracks.
Remember, too, that it’s not an on-demand AWD system – it’s permanent.
Thus, having 220mm ground clearance, it’s able to tackle more off-roading than most buyers would even dream of.
Lack of power aside, there’s a lot to like about the XV.
It does everything well and is reasonably priced, too.
It just needs that little more poke and it would be a segment leader.