The Subaru XV is arguably one of the pioneers of the subcompact crossover SUV segment. Back in 2013, the XV stood out with its striking looks, excellent on-road handling, and good off-road capabilities for a small crossover SUV. A new generation model came out in 2018, which we also reviewed back then. This is the 2021 Subaru XV 2.0i-S EyeSight, and in a market that has since then grown to even include Chinese crossovers that are almost just half its price, how does Subaru’s small crossover entry still stand out?
In terms of its design, the updates made to the 2021 Subaru XV are very minor. But to make things easier for you to spot, watch out for its newly-redesigned front bumper, new grille, cleaner LED daytime running lights (aka the individual LED diodes are much more hidden), and perhaps the easiest way to spot a 2021 XV over a pre-facelift model is its new 18-inch alloy wheels. Amongst other small crossovers, the XV manages to look functional and rugged. Sure, it’s basically an Impreza hatchback on stilts, but the 220 mm of ground clearance and copious amounts of black cladding should make the XV deal better with the rough stuff compared to other small crossovers.
Interior changes for the 2021 Subaru XV 2.0i-S EyeSight are even more minor. Actually, from an aesthetic standpoint, almost no changes were made. What Subaru focused on is adding more features for the 2021 model year, such as reverse-linked tilting side mirrors and two-person memory for the power-adjustable driver’s seat and mirror adjustments. Other than that, the XV’s cabin remains aesthetically pleasing, albeit focusing more on the functional side. Soft-touch materials adorn the upper door panels, dashboard, and center console, and this is adorned with orange stitching. The Mazda CX-30 is still the benchmark in terms of aesthetics and overall quality, though there’s no denying that the XV’s interior is more spacious for the rear occupants.
But before we dwell on that, let’s talk about the XV’s new infotainment system. In lieu of Subaru’s Starlink infotainment system is a new unit developed by Panasonic for the Southeast Asian market. I’m not a fan of infotainment systems made by third-party companies like in most Toyotas and Isuzus, but the one in the Subaru is an exception. The graphics are slick, and the touch response is even better than Subaru’s own. The main reason to switch to this infotainment system is the ability to display a 360-degree camera system, which can be activated via the touch screen or the “view” button on the steering. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto also come as standard, but unfortunately, the XV’s sound system lacks the punch and clarity of the CX-30’s 12-speaker Bose sound system.
Space inside the Subaru XV is perfectly adequate for all five occupants. Even 6-footer adults will find decent amounts of headroom and generous amounts of legroom. However, while space for rear occupants is good, trunk space is on the small side. At 380 liters, this is 50 liters less than the Mazda CX-30’s and 68 liters less than what the Honda HR-V can swallow. Still, with the rear seats folded, the XV offers more than 1,200 liters, which should be good enough to store a bike.
Also remaining unchanged for the 2021 Subaru XV 2.0i-S EyeSight is its powertrain, which is still the FB20D direct-injected 4-cylinder boxer engine that produces 152 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.
Back in 2018, I praised the Subaru XV for its excellent ride quality and stellar chassis rigidity. The Japanese automaker says that they’ve improved the car’s suspension to offer a better ride, but for me, the improvements are hard to discern. A back-to-back drive with the pre-facelift XV is definitely in order, but already in 2018, the XV’s ride is already one of the best in its segment. With these improvements though, the 2021 model should easily continue its reign as the best-riding small crossover SUV.
With that improvement in ride, does it mean that its handling has been affected? Absolutely not. The 2021 Subaru XV still handles tidily in corners with body roll kept in check. The steering is reasonably responsive, though its handling leans more towards stability rather than all-out agility. A Mazda CX-30 is slightly more agile with more richness to the steering feel, but only ever-so-slightly compared to the XV. And with the added reassurance of a permanent AWD system, there’s more confidence in pushing the Subaru XV to its handling limits.
Speaking of that AWD system, its X-Mode has now been re-calibrated to now feature two driving modes: Mud/Snow and Deep Snow/Deep Mud. X-Mode has the capability to simulate a locking rear differential through the traction control, which makes the XV one of the more capable small crossover SUVs out there.
If there’s one aspect I wished Subaru have improved upon, it would be its refinement and powertrain. Back in 2018, I considered the XV’s refinement to be good. Fast forward to 2021, and competitors like the Mazda CX-30 have pushed ahead in offering a much quieter driving experience. As for the powertrain, the engine itself is good. My main concern would be its CVT, which in certain scenarios would not shift down to the ratio I want for overtaking. Though fuel economy for an AWD vehicle remains good, ranging at 10 to 11 km/l (9 to 9.9 l/100 km on the trip computer) throughout my daily use here in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
A Subaru review wouldn’t be complete without talking about its EyeSight suite of advanced driver-assist features. It’s still the benchmark when it comes to advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). When full-speed adaptive cruise control is activated in traffic, EyeSight still manages to drive like a human rather than a robot, which means it overtakes, merges, and glides through traffic with smoothness.
So, back to the original question, how does the 2021 Subaru XV 2.0i-S EyeSight stand out in an ever-growing subcompact SUV segment? Well, it’s the only small crossover SUV out there with decent off-road capabilities without any compromise in on-road handling, which is something you can’t say in pickup-based passenger vehicles (PPV) like a Toyota Fortuner. Not to mention it also has the most comprehensive suite of ADAS out there in its segment. Yes, at P1,908,000 (less P80,000 with current promos), it’s now one of the most expensive small crossover SUVs, but it’s also one of the safest, comfiest, and most off-road capable in its segment.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Price: P1,908,000* (P1,828,000**)
Overall: 4.2 out of 5
*Pricing is correct and accurate as of this article’s time of writing.
**A P80,000 introductory discount is being offered as of this article’s time of writing.