Car Review: 2018 Subaru XV 2.0i & S Comparison.

Subaru’s continued product updates continue with a revamp of their XV, first released in 2012 and a car that immediately shook up an already crowded market place. Complete with a higher riding look, black cladding, and some cool colours, A Wheel Thing compares the 2.0i and 2.0i-S Subaru XV level machines, providing an entry and top level comparison.There’s little doubt that the external tweaks have sharpened up an already good looking hatch. The tail lights are the newer C shaped LED style and the front gains the slimline look for the 2.0i and the Impreza LED DRL enclosed style on the S. The 2.oi was clad in a funky Sunshine Orange and the 2.0i-S in Cool Grey, a colour the junior members of AWT likened to a sea on a overcast day…The XV started with the wheel arches getting some extra urethane cladding and the 2018 version stays with it, making the machine look more capable of off-roading, along with the 220 mm ground clearance. Visually, though, the front makes the sheetmetal between the wheel arch and A pillar look slimmer. There’s a rear spoiler on top of the rear window as standard and the 2.0i-S cops a sunroof.All XV’s are loaded up with roof rails as well, making the once shortish hatch a more imposing 1615 mm in height. That extra ride height lends itself to easier access, both getting in and out, as do the wide opening doors. The tailgate though is manual, even in the top of the range S, meaning people with shorter arms may struggle to reach the door handle when open. There’s a handy 310 litres of cargo space; handy but somewhat compromised also with the space saver spare seemingly located higher in the overall cargo space. Seats down, you’ll be seeing 765 litres inside the 2665 mm wheelbase machine.Both have the familiar 2.0 horizontally opposed or “flat” four cylinder boxer engine. It drinks from a 63 litre tank standard unleaded and produces peak power and torque of 115 kilowatts and 196 Nm. Transmission is Subaru’s very well sorted CVT which, in the car at least, has less of the slipping clutch feel found in many others. A gentle throttle to start will have the XV hooking up and motorvating much easier… However it’s good for a 0-100 kph time of 10.4 seconds, so any expectation of something approaching rapidity should be put aside. There’s a win in the economy stakes though, with a worst of just 7.2L/100 km and a best of 5.3L/100 km.Although it’s the flat four, the standard exhaust lacks the throb this engine’s aural characteristics are known for. There’s hints of it when pushed hard from standstill but otherwise it’s somewhat lacking in appeal. There’s little road noise as well, allowing the car’s Apple and Android apps fitted system to do its job and, sadly, that’s not that great. The tuner sensitivity was below par with drop outs and static in areas there should be clear signal. The actual audio quality was ok, not great, and DAB tuners would be a nice addition.The audio system is accessed via touchscreen, with the 2.0i having a 6.5 inch screen with the S receiving an 8.0 inch. Naturally there’s auxiliary inputs, in this case awkwardly tucked away in a nook ahead of the gear selector. Bluetooth phone connectivity is standard through the range as well. Inside the centre console storage bin are two five amp USB sockets and another 12V socket. You’ll use these whilst seated in cloth trimmed seats in the 2.0i and gorgeous looking grey/black leather in the S. Yes, the S gets heating but again no venting, a huge oversight for a hot Australian market.The S also gets a sunroof and there’s a tweak here with tabs for the Lane Departure Warning and Collision Warning located in the EyeSight housing. It’s an odd choice given the other tabs, including the off switch for the swivelling headlights, along with tyre pressure monitoring and more, are located in a cluster near the driver’s right knee. Interior plastics are of a high quality, a great fit but the leather look material on the doors could use more padding.All models have Hill Descent Control and X-Mode, with all models bar the entry level having a swag of safety features including Adaptive Cruise and Lead Vehicle Start Alert. There’s the now standard info screens in the top centre dash and centre driver’s binnacle, accessed via tabs on the steering wheel arm and lower left, covering tyre pressures, fuel usage, drive display and the like. There’s also different plastics with the S getting a carbon fibre look garnish and orange stitching.It’s on the road when the fettling of the XV shines…mostly. The rear end is too soft, hitting the bumpstops too easily and even more so with a week’s shopping loaded in. The front end’s travel is too short, with a legal school zone speed over the school zone speedhumps feeling and sounding as if the front end will pull itself out. It’s not a comfortable feeling. Thankfully the handling balances it out, with one noticeable benefit being a lack of need to constantly adjust the steering in a long and sweeping corner. It’s beautiful in weight, requiring some effort to move but not so that it’s going to give you Popeye forearms. It’s well ratioed at around 3.5 turns lock to lock, meaning you won’t be endlessly spinning the wheel for turns and makes shopping carparking so much easier to deal with.The S feels better on the road than the 2.0i, with a tauter ride and more damping in rises and falls. The tyres may have something to do with it also, with the 2.0i having Yokohama BlueEarth 225/60/R17s and the S the sole 18 inch entrant, with Bridgestone Dueller 225/60s. The tyre pressures were higher in the S, adding to the firmer ride. There’s plenty of grip from both, with the symmetrical all wheel drive system that Subaru is famous for powering down through all four paws, allowing confident and intensive driving. There’s no lift off oversteer either, as you’d expect, it’s a simple and neutral resettling of the chassis.Although the engine isn’t the gruntiest around, it’s partnered with that very well sorted CVT, which responds quickly to throttle input and is programmed to feel more like a traditional six speed. It’s smooth, shifts quickly, and using the manual change does little, if anything, to improve .The XV starts at around $32500 with the 2.0i and tops out at a recommended price of a few dollars short of $40K. It’s a step up, literally, from the Impreza hatch and represents damned good value. There’s the standard three year warranty and perhaps it’s here that Subaru may need to consider upping that to five as standard rather than an extended version of an extra two years. However it’s nice to know there’s 24/7 roadside assistance.Subaru positions itself as a niche player. A Wheel Thing feels it’s now mainstream as the XV range stands alongside the Liberty sedan, the Impreza range, the Outback wagons, the BRZ and sporty WRX and STi, as offering a car that provides everything the discerning small to mid-sized SUV buyer would want.
Here is where you’ll find the XV and where you can configure one to suit your needs: 2018 Subaru XV

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