Road review: Subaru XV 2.0i-S Lineartronic CVT

We at TCR aren’t exactly fans of the increasingly popular crossover segment of vehicle; sure there are one or two interesting models such as the Nissan Juke, but for the most part, these vehicles are less than special off-road, and are basically nothing more than hatchbacks on stilts.  So on the rare occasion we receive something from arguably one of the greatest rally-brands in history, we take notice and a glimmer of hope stirs that it may be at least semi-capable!  That was what happened when we received a bright orange Subaru XV last week Tuesday, a sight to behold against the dreary greys, blues, and whites of the vehicles we see everyday on the roads.


Subaru’s latest offering in the crossover segment is perhaps one of the brand’s most appealing designs, where the others struggle to establish themselves, the XV stands out boldly with it’s sharp design, high ride height, and bright orange paintjob, the colour we advise any potential buyer to choose.  We were given the top of the range model (Subaru have just released 2 more affordable models in the past week), with all the features onboard arriving standard, including leather seats, sunroof, reverse camera, GPS navigation, iPod connectivity, Bluetooth, sports pedals, dual zone climate control, cruise control, headlamp washers, leather steering wheel and gear lever, colour multi-function display, gear-shift paddles, and Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive (standard across all models).  This model goes for a price of R345 000,00.


From the very first drive, several things were apparent; the interior is classy and comfortable, gloss plastics are kept to a minimum to avoid a tacky feel, and the soft touch plastic bits feel strong and high quality.  The leather seats are comfortable and offer good support, and the biggest perk was the visibility, almost perfect visibility from a great ride height, with almost no blind spots.  The reverse camera’s depth perception is slightly odd, but one gets used to it within a few days.  Overall the interior is well kitted out, but certain aspects are flawed:  The GPS seems to insist on taking spiralling routes in towards the final destination, this happened several times when we tried to navigate directly to a few destinations, and we found it to be slightly slow on recalculating the route.  The boot space is really limited for a vehicle with such a large footprint; although the ride height and full size spare wheel is a huge plus, it leaves you with a small boot, even with the back seats folded down.  Bar these two issues, the interior was brilliant!


The top two models utilise Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT gearbox, which results in silky smooth gear changes throughout the rev range, and a fantastic ride whilst meandering about town in traffic.  The downfall to the CVT is acceleration from 60-120km/h, the XV’s weakest point in all areas.  From any other speed the Subaru is fine, but merging onto a highway or overtaking is slightly worrying as the crossover doesn’t pick up speed quick enough.  The paddle-shifters work seamlessly, delays between shifts kept to a minimum, and whether driving manually or automatically, the ride quality is maintained superbly.  This in conjunction with AWD and a great suspension setup makes for an ideal car on any South African roads.


Where the XV really comes into its own though is off the beaten path, on dirt roads and rocky terrain.  The Symmetrical AWD offered on almost all Subaru’s has been refined over decades in the rally world, and the lower centre of gravity from the 2.0 litre boxer motor improves on the balance of the entire setup.  The XV comes standard with under-body shielding for dirt driving, ready for any situation, but we really didn’t expect just how “ready” it was to handle what we threw at it.  The XV handled everything, from rocky gullies to dirt paths used only by tractors, and whatever we asked of it, it delivered with pleasure.  The CVT finds itself at home on dirt, offering constant torque delivery to compliment the epic handling and ride comfort of the capable crossover.  We were truly surprised at the sheer ability of a “crossover” which offered far more than just a hatchback on stilts.


The AWD system maintained composure at any given time, and even with the traction control turned off (It never fully disengages) the XV stuck to the path we sent it on and corrected itself when it started to slide.  Rally heritage is clear in the off-road setup of this Subaru, and it really is the “softroader” for all occasions.


Being AWD and having a Subaru 2.0 NA boxer motor, one must wonder what the fuel consumption would be like though.  On a combined cycle over 650km we achieved 8.6l/100km, 0.7 more than the claimed figure from Subaru of 7.9l/100km.  Our routes included rigorous off-road work, highway trips in peak traffic between JHB and PTA, and suburban driving conditions, and in almost all circumstances, the XV was an absolute pleasure to drive.


The Subaru XV is not only a great vehicle to look at, but a fantastic environment to be in.  Kitted to the hilt with features and capable of handling any conditions you throw at it, the only flaws are boot space, GPS accuracy, and lazy midrange acceleration.  If you can forgive these details, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better, more capable crossover vehicle than the Subaru XV at such a bargain price.


The Stats:


Engine Capacity:


No. of Cylinders:


Max. Power:

110kW @ 6200RPM

Max. Torque:

196Nm @ 4200RPM


CVT Lineartronic

0-100 time:

10.7 seconds

Top Speed:


Dry Weight:


Fuel Tank Capacity:

60 litres

Fuel Consumption (Regular driving, combined cycle):



Active Torque Split AWD

Price (as tested):

R345 000,00





Author: Roger Biermann

Photos: Roger Biermann


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