Small Size, Big Capability
Crossovers are all the rage these days, and in a segment where it’s easy to get confused in a sea of same-same crossovers, how does one stand out? Luckily, the Subaru XV does stand out in more ways than one. While most small crossovers tend to be merely raised hatchbacks without the ground clearance and capability to match, the XV manages to be a better SUV than some true-to-form SUVs, mainly because of its high 220 mm ground clearance. Add to that some class leading safety and convenience features, and you’ve got the perfect recipe to become one of the brand’s best selling vehicles. Does the Subaru XV live up to the hype? Let’s find out.
While the exterior is best described as evolutionary, it is nevertheless a welcome one. It is a more stylish and dynamic iteration of the XV’s original design. Especially in this Sunshine Orange paint, the XV looks about as trendy as the latest pair of colored socks from Iconic, especially when it’s complemented by these snazzy pair of 18-inch “ninja star” alloy wheels. Up front, Subaru’s trademark hexagonal grille is flanked by a pair of LED headlights with C-shaped LED daytime running lights. The daytime running light graphic is then mimicked by the shape of the LED tail light graphic, which gives the rear a more masculine look. Though based on the Subaru Impreza hatchback, Subaru’s designers have made strides to create a distinct and organic look in order to avoid being passed on as merely an Impreza on stilts. Impressively, stilts may be an understatement, as the XV has a relatively high 220 mm ground clearance, making it on par with some midsize pick-up based SUVs. More on its ground clearance later.
Subaru’s improvements are even more felt once you step inside the interior. Underpinned by the Subaru Global Platform (SGP), the body is at least 70% stiffer than its predecessors. Its newfound levels of solidity is more than evident the moment you open and then shut the doors closed. Hefty and solid they indeed feel, which is closer to being German rather than Asian. If you’ve been inside the new Impreza lately, you won’t be surprised, but if you still haven’t, you’ll indeed be surprised. Gone are the utilitarian switchgear and plastics found in its predecessor, replaced with heftier feeling buttons, and a lot more stitched details than I could remember. Stitched padded materials are found on the dashboard, door trims, and even the center console. The seats are also adorned with the same orange stitching, which does a lot to liven up the interior. It bodes well with the XV’s target demographic, which are the “young and active” crowd who go on wakeboarding sessions on a weekend with friends. It’s a nice place to be in, further made pleasant as all the controls are easy to reach and use.
Space and Practicality
Up front, drivers will be able to find their comfortable driving position easily thanks to the 8-way electronically adjustable seats, which gives drivers of different body types numerous ways to get comfortable. The XV’s slightly wider and longer body gives it more legroom and shoulder room for three adults at the back, and that’s despite the transmission tunnel eating into middle seat space.
The trunk is also slightly bigger, now at 310 liters with the seats up. This more than doubles to 765 thanks to the flat folding rear seats that makes it easy to slide things into the car. Further aiding practicality is the presence of many cubby holes, cupholders, and a generously-sized glove box.
Features, Safety, and Infotainment
The Subaru XV is equipped with Steering Responsive automatic LED headlights, rain sensing wipers, passive entry with push button start, and Subaru’s Starlink infotainment system, which first debuted in the Impreza and XV.
Subaru Starlink is one of the nicest infotainment systems to use. The ease of use is about as straightforward as having an iPad placed on top of your dashboard. The icons are large, which makes them easy to press even while on the move, plus the presence of shortcut buttons and a home button makes the system easy to use from the moment you bring it out of the showroom. Response is snappy, even accepting multi-touch gestures, plus it even comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Still, even without the smartphone integration features, Subaru Starlink works good enough, that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto acts as an icing on top of a delicious Starlink cake.
This being a Subaru, it is no surprise that this is packed with plenty of safety features, and then some. I was left impressed by Subaru Eyesight. It contains six features, namely, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Sway Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lead Vehicle Start Alert, Pre-Collion Braking, and Pre-Collision Throttle Management. It’s a very reliable and easy to use driver assist system that it was worthy of another article. If you want to read (and watch) more about it, click this link. Additionally, it contains a plethora of other safety features that are not part of EyeSight. This includes Blind Spot Warning with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Reverse Automatic Braking, as well as a rear view camera, a plethora of airbags, hill start assist, and stability control. Additionally, there are ISOFIX child seat anchors at the second row outboard seats.
A minor downer, however, is the lack of speed sensing door locks, and this is something that I notice on most Subarus, including the Forester and WRX. Not that I’m nitpicking, but if a Honda Jazz RS has it as standard, why not a Subaru that costs more?
Because this is Subaru, it is fitted with its trademark horizontally-opposed H4 boxer engine mounted in the middle of the car’s spine, rather than longitudinal. It’s Subaru’s 2.0-liter FB20D fitted with direct-injection to improve fuel economy and power delivery compared to the FB20B that it replaces. It produces 154 hp @ 6,000 rpm and 196 Nm of torque @ 4,000 rpm. It is then mated to Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT, sending power to all four wheels via Subaru’s Symmetrical AWD system, with a default torque split of 60/40 to the front/rear under normal circumstances.
How It Drives
Underneath the Subaru XV’s platform is the aforementioned Subaru Global Platform (SGP), which will underpin all the upcoming Subarus from here on, and this new platform will be mentioned quite frequently. Here’s why. The moment you open the doors, the XV presents some newfound levels of quality and solidity never before felt in any Subaru anyone has come across. Being at least 70% stiffer than its predecessors has done wonders to the overall ownership experience. Aside from feeling more solid and upmarket the moment you open the doors, SGP also presents a host of improvements the moment you press the engine start button. The engine breathes to life with a purr when the doors are closed, thanks to extensive sound insulation and thicker glass that makes it a very quiet place to be in.
As you drive out on the highway, these newfound levels of refinement make the Subaru one of, if not, the most refined small SUV in its segment. Hardly any road or wind noise comes into the cabin. As I have activated EyeSight during most of my highway journeys, I oftentimes questioned the speedometer, because 100 felt more like 60. With its long travel suspension, the XV’s ride is supremely good. It turns highway expansion joints into mere concrete control joints, and when you combine the EyeSight safety systems and the car’s newfound levels of refinement, the Subaru XV is a vehicle I would love to be in when travelling across continents.
The 2.0-liter boxer engine, while refined, is best described as adequate for the XV’s size and weight. Overtaking is an okay experience, if any, and its acceleration is also best described as adequate, too. With a little less than 200 Nm of torque, the XV could use the benefits of turbocharging to give the XV a little more oomph just to make things more exciting.
The same feeling of adequacy translates to the driving experience in the city, too. Impromptu drag races on stoplights won’t leave you feeling underpowered, but you won’t be thrilled, either. The CVT does a good job of keeping the engine within its sweet spot, and in order to avoid the “rubber band” feeling that many car enthusiasts complain about, Subaru has programmed the CVT to mimic a traditional torque converter automatic in its way of changing gears. Rather than hold revs, the transmission upshifts and downshifts like as if it had actual ratios.
This is further evident once you take it out on a twisty road. With its standard paddle shifters, the CVT can be placed into “manual mode” and make it act like a traditional automatic with seven gears. Once you do, you will appreciate the XV’s responsive and sharp steering that provides decent feel enough for the driver to know what the front wheels are doing. The suspension does a good job of counteracting body roll, too. While it’s doesn’t stay as flat as a Mazda CX-3, the independent MacPherson Struts up front and independent double wishbone rear suspension still manages to keep the XV’s body movements in check, with weight transfer feeling progressive and controlled as you power in and out of a corner. This is further aided by Symmterical AWD, which gives good levels of grip as you go into corners, further proof that AWD is not just something one could enjoy during inclement weather.
The Subaru XV is also one of the only few small crossover SUVs that can venture out into the woods. Whereas a Mazda CX-3 or Honda HR-V would fear trekking into the roads less travelled, the XV is one of those few small SUVs that you could truly trust. Its 220 mm of ground clearance give it excellent approach and departure angles. More impressively, due to its short wheelbase and high ground clearance, the XV has a very excellent breakover angle (the angle in which the car will not scrape the middle of the chassis), making the XV truly one of those small crossovers perfect for those who love going into the woods to venture off road. The addition of X-Mode makes the XV even more convenient for first-time off-roaders. X-Mode solely relies on computers to provide grip on slippery surfaces electronically despite the XV not being equipped with a locking differential or a low range gearbox.
Despite having standard AWD, the XV still manages to achieve 9.9 km/l fuel economy, and considering I even brought this thing to a screeching halt in EDSA while Subaru EyeSight was on, this is a very impressive fuel economy figure indeed.
On The Downside
The Subaru XV is one stellar performer, being one of the rare breed of small crossover SUVs that can truly take the beaten tracks. As such, this car is very hard to find fault in. Just to nitpick, I would hope to one day find speed sensing door locks in the Subaru line-up, and I guess the engine could use a little more torque in order to carry its weight better.
The Subaru XV is a small crossover with plenty of capability. It puts to shame some true-to-form SUVs in terms of off-road prowess, whilst tackling the asphalt in a refined and supremely hushed manner. The Subaru Global Platform has done wonders to how these new crop of Subarus drive, and I’m excited to see what the platform is capable of when the new generation of Subarus come out in the near future. As a matter of fact, with the way the XV drives and how well it is equipped to the brim with intelligent safety and convenience features, the Subaru XV may well be one of our highest rated small crossover SUVs. Sure, the price tag may be at P1,618,000 already for the 2.0i-S, with a mere P50,000 additional cost for the EyeSight safety system, but one should also remember that many of the Subaru’s competitors also sit in the same price range, and yet the Subaru manages to be one of the few that offers the best driving experience, as well as the most comprehensive list of advanced safety features. In the end, the Subaru XV’s popularity is not just about hype. It’s the real deal.
Price: P1,618,000 (+50,000 for EyeSight)
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4.3 out of 5