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subaru xv 2 0i p review best off the beaten track mediocre on the motorway

Subaru XV 2.0i-P review: Best off the beaten track, mediocre on the motorway

The chassis can handle more than the drivetrain gives, so expect great handling with nothing to exploit it

Christopher Ng Photo

Christopher Ng

21 Sep 2018

Subaru, the makers of mobiles that champions the idiom ‘don’t judge the book by its cover’, especially when it comes to the company’s SUVs, have designed a vehicle that isn’t too hard on the eyes. In fact, it is quite the opposite because the new generation Subaru XV appears sleeker and sharper than the previous generation’s XV.

You can’t tell this is the new XV at first, similar shape and design misled plenty into thinking that this a facelift rather than the second generation XV, despite sporting a number of subtle changes. A steeper-raked windscreen, a more tapered roofline and dramatic angles around the body (check out the taillights) give the XV a roguish appearance.  

The more noticeable differences are its grille and headlights, the latter illuminates with LEDs. It’s worth to note that, on the 2.0i-P variant, the headlights turn as the wheels do. Also spotted immediately is the new LED daytime running lights with a signature design that appears to be inspired by Izuru Kira’s Wabisuke.

The horizontal placement of the lights lends the XV an appearance wider than 1,800mm (an increase of 50mm) and tricks the eye to think that it is lower than the 220mm ground clearance. Along with wider dimensions, Subaru’s crossover is a bit longer and a bit taller.

Although bigger in every aspect, including the wheelbase that affords good leg room, the interior isn’t as cavernous as one might expect. As a result of the tapered roofline, taller passengers will have their hair (or head) get brushed by the headliner. 

There isn’t much by way of interior design, too. In fact, it looks dated with chunky dials and plain, broad surfaces. A large screen in the centre console controls the SUV’s multimedia and the narrower screen on top displays more of the car’s information, like water temperature and the angle of incline, which seems overboard at first but makes perfect sense when you’re in the rough and tumble. And here is where the XV sets itself apart from others in its class.

Where the competition is content with wading in the urban pool, the XV’s all-wheel drive nature lets it traverse comfortably into roads unpaved. But the real magic comes from the XV’s X-Mode, which comes standard no matter the trim. It works to put equal force on all four-wheels, increasing where needed, if needed. If a wheel slips, the XV automatically applies the brakes on that wheel before sending more torque that-a-way.

The CVT also locks itself to swim inside the lower gear ratios, where most of the torque lives, giving you instant access to call up more force when needed. The X-Mode also engages hill descent control that keeps the XV under 20kph when going downhill. There’s no need to feather the brakes or throttle here, all you need to is to steer away from obstacles.

During the test, I drove it on sand that constantly shifted under the wheel as the XV plodded forward. And when the weather turned for the wet, fortunately, I took it on a short off-road track where the ‘road’ consists mainly of mud and wet grass. With the X-Mode engaged, I could feel the wheels slipping, catching itself and then finding grip where there were none before. The only other time where I was in a vehicle capable of such feats is with a proper 4x4 truck.

With that said, most XV owners will use the 154hp/196Nm 2.0-litre flat-4 in city-commuting situations. The drivetrain has the adequate power to accomplish the everyday tasks but it struggles when you want more from it. Acceleration isn’t stellar, the competition and their front-wheel drive offerings feel livelier. 

It’s a shame, the company’s new Subaru Global Platform and its stiffer body can certainly handle more grunt. And you’ll start wanting more power from the drivetrain on the back roads; the driving experience would have been more engaging and fitting from the company that brought you the legendary Impreza WRX. 

That aside, the XV remains a pleasure to drive. The damping is more than well-prepared for the big lumps and dips on the road, clearly showcasing its off-roading ability. It will go where you point it to go and the steering makes sure communication to the wheels isn’t delayed. The rigid chassis is able to handle any sudden changes in direction while keeping body roll in check with more than enough grip and stability for all kinds of road conditions.

The Subaru XV handles beautifully and rides comfortably, which may just be enough to offset the small cabin and lack of big power. As is, the Subaru XV does present characteristics not found on other vehicles in its class. It’s bona fide four-wheel drive system that opens up roads even where there is none.

Subaru XV 2.0i-P



Horizontally-opposed, 4-cyl., DOHC, 16 valves


Lineartronic CVT

Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive



@ 6,000rpm



@ 4,000rpm



On-the-road without insurance

Overall Rating

7_5 Rating