Subaru in Australia positions itself as a niche player. That may well be the case but it also does the brand a disservice. For example, March of 2021 saw 4,212 Subarus sold, with over 10,700 on a year-to-date basis. That puts the brand, for the month and YTD, ahead of Volkswagen, Honda, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz, and just over 300 shy of Nissan. It’s one of the brand’s best set of sales numbers.It’s an astounding result for the company here in Australia given the range is Outback, BRZ sports coupe, Forester, Impreza sedan and wagon, WRX, and Impreza wagon-based XV. There is no large SUV nor a two or four door, two or four wheel drive ute.We were able to drive, back-to-back, two examples of the late-2020 updated XV. In honesty, the naming system needs work, with a base model simply called XV, then L and a hybrid, Premium, then S and a hybrid version. S and then Premium is what we were supplied with however it would make more sense to change S to Premium and vice-versa.
For 2021 there have been some minor changes to pricing. The base model starts from $29,690 (up $450), with the L from $31,990. That’s an increase of $380. The Premium jumps by a heft $1,170 to $34,590, with the S up by $760 to $37,290. The Hybrids, now a pair rather than a single offering are unchanged at 435,490 and $40,790. These are not inclusive of on-road costs.Externally there are minimal sheetmetal differences between the two. The wheels themselves are different in design, plus have an inch of diameter in difference. The Premium has 17s, the S has 18s and a more striking design. The Premium sources rubber from Yokohama at 225/60, the S has Bridgestones at 225/55. A mid-life update in late 2020 saw minor tweaks to the front bumper and around the driving lights in the lower sections, plus a refresh of the grille.The Premium now has folding wing mirrors and they’re heated as well. The S has self-leveling headlights and they are auto on, as are the wipers. Unfortunately the Premium and below don’t have auto on lights, a safety issue in our opinion.
There is an extensive colour palette too, including Lagoon Blue for the Hybrids. There is Crystal White, Dark Blue and Horizon Blue, Magnetite Grey and Crystal Black, along with Cool Grey, Ice Silver, Plasma Yellow and Pure Red.On the road the pair have gained suspension updates too, with a change to the front providing a slightly more precise handling. The front has MacPherson struts & coil springs, with the rear having double wishbones. Although ostensibly there’s been no change to the rear it feels slightly softer and more compliant over the smaller ruts and bumps. It’s quick to damp out any intrusioons from the road however we did notice some bump steer and a slight skip sideways over road joins.Drivewise the engine and transmission are unchanged, with the 2.0L flat four working quite handily with the CVT. It’s modestly powered at 115kW, with torque a handy 196Nm. The trick to extracting the best from the CVT is to not go heavy and hard from the start on the accelerator.A light but progressive press seems to extract the best overall acceleration, with a linear growth in speed, rather than the more traditional feel of slipping under pressure.
There is manual shifting available via paddle shifts, which can be quite handy in certain driving conditions such as uphill traffic, providing the driver with more overall control. Having said that, the CVT in both did display some of the traits they’re known for, with sensations of surging at low speed, but we also have to say that they weren’t as noisy as we’ve experienced.The drive system now has the SI Drive, an electronic program that adds some sporting spice to the engine’s mapping and the the changes in the CVT’s seven preset ratios. The S mode sharpens the throttle response and the XV feels sprightlier, zippier, and makes for better highway manouvering. The steering itself has some weight to it, but not so that it’s fighting the AWD system. It’s quick in response, and is ratioed for a tight 10.8 metre turning circle. The AWD system is naturally well sorted with no noticeable pull from either end but the grip levels are noted when hunting corners at speed.
Economy on both finished smack on 7.0L/100km, equaling the quoted economy figure on the combined cycle. However, our figures were on a our traditional 70/30 urban to highway, with Subaru quoting 8.8L/100km for the urban cycle. It’s a reasonable highway cruiser, with the revs ticking over just below 2,000 at Australian limits. It’s quiet, too, with the engine only showcasing its metallic keen and the boxer warble from the exhaust when pressed.
Safety for the Premium sees the “Vision Assist” package added in, with the Blind Spot Monitor, Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, automatic braking in reverse if an object is sensed, and a front view monitor via a left wing mirror camera. The whole range has seven airbags including a kneebag. All but the entry level version have the Eyesight package which includes Adaptive Cruise, Brake Light Recognition which alerts the driver to say the vehicle ahead has moved on, Lane Departure Warning, and Lane Keep Assist. The latter is less aggressive in its workings than that found in the two Korean brands. Tyre Pressure Monitoring is standard, however, across all models.The S ups the ante thanks to Subaru’s X-Mode, a preprogrammed soft-road mode for snow or mild off-roading. There’s a bit of extra “looxshoory” with memory seating for the driver, heating but no venting for the front seats, good looking stitching across the dash and binnacle, piano black gloss trim, and auto dipping wing mirrors.
The expected user controls such as Info on the lower left of the steering wheel remain, showing a multitude of options on the dashboard’s upper screen. The 6.3 inch main screen stays with its frustrating lack of information being fully displayed as in artist and song title, whilst otherwise remaining easy to read and use.Premium has cloth covering in the centre of the seats and it’s a funky mix of bright yellow stitching contrasting with the light grey cloth and black leather. The interior door handles have a faux carbon-fibre inset, with the S having a higher quality sheen. The S also has alloy pedals and footrest. The rear seats have a fold-out centre section with two cupholders.Neither have a charge pad for smartphones nor a powered tailgate. There are 12V sockets up front but no rear seat ports. Cargo space is 310L with the rear seats up, 765L when they’re folded. The spare is a temporary or space saver. With the XV being the same body as the Impreza hatch, but raised in ride height, it makes for loading the cargo bay just that little bit easier thanks to less bending down.There’s a five year and unlimited kilometre warranty on the XV range, with capped price servicing with prices available via your dealer. There is also 12 months complimentary roadside assistance, and three years satnav maps update.At The End Of The Drive. It’s an axiom of driving a car that you’ll suddenly see “thousands” of the same car all of a sudden. That was so true during our fortnight with the S and Premium, with an XV seemingly on every corner.
There’s good reason for that; the Subaru XV is a willing performer, well priced, and not a bad drive once the vagaries of CVTs are understood. Economy is a plus too, so the hip pocket pain is minimised. Not unattractive to look at in the driveway is another plus, making the 2021 Subaru XV the smart choice.