2012 Subaru XV 2.0i-S Review

Kez Casey | 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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Filed under: Featured, review, Subaru, petrol, crossover, 2012, awd, suv, hatch, automatic, CVT, small, family, Advice, special-featured, 4cyl, 5door, subaru xv, xv, 5seat, available

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  • Neville says,
    3 years ago
    1 like
    What a poorly written review! The reviewer did not tell us how the car was driven and how the fuel consumption was worked out, particularly when we were given two different fuel consumption figures, 9.2L in summary and 11.6L in the body of review.
    • Tim O'Brien says,
      3 years ago
      1 like
      Yo Neville,

      The convention is to record both an urban fuel use measurement, an 'extra-urban' measurement, and then a combined (average) measurement.

      Under ADR81 fuel consumption testing (upon which manufacturers make the basis for their fuel-use claims), there is a 20 minute test cycle split into two unequal phases.

      Phase 1 (13 minutes) is the ‘urban’ cycle; testing is conducted at a low average speed (19km/h) with 30% of the time at idle, plus a number of stop starts representing conditions in stop-start traffic.

      Phase 2, the ‘extra-urban’ cycle (of 7 minutes) involves the vehicle accelerating to a peak speed of 120km/h, some speed changes representing highway use, and an average speed across the test of 63km/h.

      Fuel used in both phases of the test is accurately measured and recorded; these results are then averaged to create the 'combined cycle' figure.

      When we test cars, we drive them and use them - mostly - as you might drive them and use them. We generally notch up around 800-1000km for each car tested (sometimes considerably more).

      But we also extend their performance to ascertain how a vehicle performs at 'the margins'; this may involve some higher speed testing, acceleration tests (from stop and also 'rolling acceleration' testing of that critical 80-120km/h overtaking performance) and also cornering tests.

      The upshot is that the car is in our hands for longer than '20 minutes'. In the review above, Kez has recorded and indicated the average consumption while the car was in our hands - ie. 9.2 l/100km. He also recorded the consumption for his city driving (11.6 l/100km), which is naturally higher.

      We welcome your views and comments Neville - even critical ones - as we want to be certain that our reviews are useful and accurate guides as to the value, qualities, performance and capabilities of the cars we test.


      • Neville says,
        3 years ago
        1 like
        Hi Tim,

        Thanks for the explanation.

        I have no doubt that car manufacturer can overstate its fuel economy to attract buyers, and for that reason, it makes reviews like this one more interesting to read. However, I expect a good review would give its readers a fair comparison by either including all the test results or just a combined figure.
        • John says,
          3 years ago
          1 like
          Manufacturers are only allowed to state the test results.
      • Red says,
        3 years ago
        OK, just in case anyone is interested, my XV 2.0i CVT around Sydney, during business days with peak hour traffic, sticks religiously in the eights (8.0 to 8.8). On the weekends, it falls into the sevens (7.2 to 7.8). This is without Auto-Stop Start activated because some board needs replacing to fix this issuedry. (But the rest of the car is perfectbiggrin. When the Auto-Stop Start was working, my weekend cycle ranged from sixes to low sevens. Remarkable! When everything is fixed I might report back - if anyone wants to know...
        • wayne says,
          2 years ago
          Read yr comments have tried everything 91ron,95ron unleaded, stopstart on and off driving within speed limit,back to 2 different dealerships, around town, not city approx. 5klms each way only and other short runs cannot get any better than 10lts. Per 100 klms. On highway 100klms distance reading was closer to reading of 7lts per 100klms, official reading 6lts. Vehicle klms is about 13,000 klms.vehicle is 18mths.old. we brought this vehicle on the contense and told by dealership this vehicle would achieve for our type of running would achieve 7lt. Figure we feel this is false selling grounds for faulty product. Thanks for some feedback if you have some.
  • Patrick says,
    3 years ago
    1 like
    I am interested to know the method you used to measure the quantity of fuel used in your testing.
    For example did you use a fuel bladder that is installed removed and weighted for the test.

  • Ric. Hudson-Taylor says,
    3 years ago
    I love my Subaru XV , but the Item I really do miss as standard equipment ,is floor or dash mounted Trunk=boot release .Ric.
  • Michael Gutman says,
    2 years ago
    First I like to now XV is camping in manual speeds only or automatic to?
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