Kez Casey | Apr 21, 2012 | 9 Comments


What’s Hot: Spacious interior, excellent handling, bold colour palette.
What’s Not: High boot floor, thirsty city-cycle fuel consumption.
X-Factor: A rugged outdoorsy type for the style-conscious.

Vehicle Style: Compact SUV
Price: $36,990 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 7.0 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 9.2 l/100km



Subaru wasn’t always cool. Back in the late 1980s there wasn’t anything terribly sexy about an L series wagon, the rural veterinarian’s vehicle of choice.

But that was before the SUV craze gripped the world; then, suddenly, Subaru’s versatile all-wheel-drive vehicle range found itself with a winning advantage.

Now, the Subaru brand is synonymous with capable, comfortable SUV wagons. The Outback and Forester have led the way, but now its the XV’s turn to stand up and be noticed.

Stepping out of the shadow of the Impreza range and into the limelight with a new-found rugged look, Subaru’s littlest SUV is ready to shine.



Quality: Subaru has taken another leap forward in interior presentation, but it comes with a qualifier: the smart-looking dash is the most premium-feeling ever to grace a Subaru, but the door cards and armrests are flat, thin and unappealing.

All fittings and controls however are well-integrated and well laid-out except for the aftermarket-looking audio unit. While these are positive improvements over the outgoing Impreza, the interior still feels a half-step behind most competitors.

Comfort: There’s an unusual feel to the front seats of the XV, you sit on them - not in them. They’re wide and softly-cushioned, but aren’t as supportive as they should be and adjustable lumbar support is sorely needed.

The rear seat is good. It offers real head and legroom, is wide enough for three abreast, and coupled with the tall glasshouse has an airy, open feel.

Equipment: Powered front seats with leather trim and seat heaters, multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, trip-computer, sports pedals, dual-zone climate control, electric sunroof, front fog lights and xenon headlights make up some of the luxury items.

Audio is handled by a touch-screen unit incorporating reverse camera display, satellite navigation, Bluetooth audio and telephone connectivity, CD/MP3/WMA/iPod/DIVX compatibility and aux-in and USB connectivity delivered through six-speakers.

It’s the same head-unit however as featured in the Toyota Yaris and the touch screen is a pain to use.

Storage: In the rear there’s 310 litres of available space, so the XV doesn’t lead the way for storage. A high boot floor limits storage opportunities due to the almost full-sized space-saver spare.

In the cabin there’s a big cubby at the base of the centre stack, a deep centre-console and a glovebox of generous proportions. Slim door pockets and a lidded cupholder round out a functional interior.



Driveability: Subaru’s fresh FB20 2.0 litre boxer engine puts out 110kW of power and 196Nm of torque. Although power and torque outputs remain as before, it’s an all new engine. The big changes have come in setting up the engine for greater fuel economy.

As a result, power delivery is steady rather than lively. However, unless giving the accelerator a hefty shove, Subaru’s ‘Lineartronic’ CVT automatic goes about things with less-noticeable droning than CVTs usually produce.

But if called upon to really work, kickdown response is a little lethargic.

With a slight front-drive bias (a standing 60:40 split), the steering wheel is prone to tugging a little in the wet or on gravel, but the rest of the time the XV’s handling feels light and agile. More so than expected given the ground clearance and tall stance.

Around town the XV leaps off the line enthusiastically, but quickly falls victim to an underperforming torque output - the mid-range performance is a little dull.

Disappointingly, city fuel consumption registered almost 11.6 l/100km, way above the claimed city figure of 8.9 l/100km - even with its start-stop technology.

Refinement: Thanks to the natural balance of a boxer engine, there’s no harshness at any point in the rev range (a nice side effect of the lightweight, low friction internals).

Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT works wonders too for its smooth, refined power-delivery and unobtrusive character.

Suspension: Front MacPherson struts and rear independent double-wishbones carry the XV smoothly and without jarring over even quite jagged terrain.

There is an elastic feel to the way the wheels track over surface imperfections which gives a surprisingly comfortable ride.

Being upright and softly damped, cornering is slightly rolly, but the XV handles precisely and with good cornering grip.

Braking: Vented front rotors and solid rears provide confident stopping on bitumen and gravel. Repeated stops showed a little fade but braking performance is good pedal feel is excellent.



ANCAP rating: 5 stars

Safety features: Subaru’s trademark all-wheel-drive plays a big part of the safety package and it integrated with stability and traction control, ABS brakes with brake assist and brakeforce distribution.

All seats feature three-point belts and belt reminders, front belts also get pretensioners and height adjustment, there’s also a suite of seven airbags (dual front, side, curtain airbags and a driver’s kneebag)



Warranty: three years/unlimited kilometres

Service costs: Service intervals are every 12,500 kilometres or six months. For service costs contact your local dealer.



Nissan Dualis Ti 4x4 X-tronic ($34,390) - Nissan opened up a new subset to the segment with the Dualis, and the formula has really taken off. The engine outputs are so close that it’s hard to pick behind the wheel.

Nissan’s CVT isn’t quite as clever as the newer Subaru unit but interior comfort and style is good. (see Dualis reviews)

Kia Sportage Platinum ($36,720) - Like the XV, the Sportage makes an eye-catching first impression with svelte exterior lines and superior interior presentation.

On-road manners are no match for the sharp-handling Subaru but it’s well-built and has a good-sized interior and boot. (see Sportage reviews)

Mitsubishi ASX Aspire ($36,990) - The ASX seems more utilitarian and less-refined than the XV, and it’s no match on-road.

The older drivetrain is also starting to show its weaknesses but a rich equipment list adds to the value. (see ASX reviews)

Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.



Subaru’s XV compact SUV is a mixed bag. It provides great on-road feel and capable rough-road ability. For handling, it is certainly at the head of its segment.

But poor mid-range engine performance and fuel economy that doesn’t live up to expectations are debits to the score card. Points also have to come off for the compact boot although a large rear seat offers some compensation.

While its trendy lines and style make other small crossovers look a bit mundane, the XV might not be for you if you need to carry a boot full of prams on a regular basis or if most of your driving is on city streets (where fuel economy suffers).

It might be a ‘crossover’, but is better on the open road than shuffling around town.



  • 2012 Subaru XV 2.0i six-speed manual: $28,490
  • 2012 Subaru XV 2.0i CVT: $30,990
  • 2012 Subaru XV 2.0i-L six-speed manual: $31,990
  • 2012 Subaru XV 2.0i-L CVT: $34,490
  • 2012 Subaru XV 2.0i-S six-speed manual: $34,490
  • 2012 Subaru XV 2.0i-S CVT: $36,990

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