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June 13, 2017

First Drive: 2018 Subaru XV 2.0i-S

Six years ago, when it was spun out as its own distinct model (it used to be a variant of the Impreza), Subaru successfully carved a market for itself. No one, probably not even Subaru, thought that a slightly-smaller-but-not-too-small compact crossover would quickly become one of its most loved and best-selling core models. Hoping that lightning would strike twice, the all-wheel drive specialist isn’t taking any chances.

This is immediately apparent by staring at the design which sticks to a familiar silhouette because, apparently, that’s what Subaru XV buyers want (or so says Subaru). As such, it’s basically a raised Impreza hatchback that’s toughened up with additional cladding, roof rails, and wider tracks to accommodate meatier tires. Dig deeper though and some design elements do stand out. See the new 18-inch rim design? They’re supposed to echo the intersecting side body creases while gaining an inch in size (it matches the Forester XT’s 225/55R18). And that new grille? It’s now distinct from the Impreza’s and filled with a pattern that echoes the bordering hexagonal shape.

Like its exterior, the 2018 Subaru XV’s interior is largely the Impreza’s, and that’s a good thing. It feels cutting edge from its choice of materials to the layout and design. The chrome, carbon fiber, aluminum, and high-gloss black accents all blend together creating a high-tech look without compromising on two brand hallmarks: space and visibility. Compared to the cut-and-dried interiors of past Subarus, there’s a bit of learning curve in here, especially when it comes to operating the various LCD screens (there are three). But once you figure out which button or toggle switch operates which screen, it’s all a cinch. There are also new interior elements that add a dose of fun like the orange stitching on the dashboard and seats, orange highlights on the instrument cluster, and the hexagonal pattern on the perforated leather seats.

In terms of space utilization, there’s almost nothing to complain about the 2018 Subaru XV. It’s done well to resist the urge to grow in terms of exterior dimensions while growing inside. But while it has vastly more head, shoulder, and leg room than before, the Subaru XV still fails to implement the clean sill design of the Forester. The floor height and door sills may have been lowered, but soiled pant legs are still the norm when stepping in or out after playing in the mud pit. It’s a missed opportunity for sure.

On the subject of mud pits and off-roading, a handling course was constructed to show off the 2018 Subaru XV’s handling chops. The first obstacle is something very familiar to Subaru enthusiasts: the Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive (SAWD) course. Consisting of steel ramps and rollers, it’s meant to show that this crossover means business. It may look like a fashion accessory of sorts, but the Subaru XV’s the real deal with an 18-degree approach and 30-degree departure angle. It’s even managed to retain the 220 mm ground clearance (better aerodynamics have been served by numerous underbody panels). It also gains the much-vaulted X-MODE system. A pleasant surprise here is the log pit which, even when taken at full speed, failed to shake the cabin and undercarriage. It’s a rattle-free, shake-free ride—a testament to the Subaru Global Platform’s solidity.

Speaking about the Subaru Global Platform, the two other handling courses were meant to highlight the Subaru XV’s class-leading handling compared to two other compact crossovers: the Mazda CX-3 and the Honda HR-V. The second obstacle featured a high-speed gymkhana course complete with a skid pad covered in sand and mud. Pitted against the CX-3, the Subaru XV is way easier to control. Because of its shorter wheelbase, the Mazda can snap into oversteer quickly that’s almost impossible to recover from. In comparison, the Subaru XV’s longer wheelbase and brake-based Torque Vectoring Control manages to fulfill WRC fantasies power sliding through the skid pad. A simple tug of the steering wheel is all that’s needed to track straight once more; no drama, no fuss.

The final handling course ups that experience by having the Subaru XV do a high-speed right hander on a steel plate covered in oil. After that, it’s more left-right-left transitions, again covered in oil. This is an exaggeration at the highest level, but once again proves the sheer ability of the Subaru XV’s underpinnings. Although the HR-V put up a good fight this time (admittedly, Honda’s stability control is well-tuned), it reaches its limits early on. It’s easy to slide the HR-V’s rear and once it lets go, it’s a tooth-and-nail battle just to regain composure. Meanwhile, the Subaru XV can go through the course again and again (three laps in total) at progressively higher speeds. Simply put, it can operate at a wider range of speed through the same oil-ridden course with little difficulty.

Filled with curves, tight corners, and almost no straights, all three handling courses seem to downplay the Subaru XV’s glaring weakness: the lack of outright power. However, this is all subjective since the 2.0-liter FB20 does make more power (156 horsepower, 196 Nm of torque) than the CX-3 or HR-V. Even the Lineartronic CVT is responsive, enhanced with a revised final drive for Subaru XV duty. It’s just that the chassis can take much more grunt—it’s that good. Sadly though, there are no plans to release a turbocharged variant, not even one sporting a downsized engine. Nonetheless, 95 percent of the time, this new direct injection equipped engine delivers peppy response and potentially long road trips thanks to its 63-liter tank (13 liters more than the Impreza).

The original Subaru XV stuck a chord with buyers with its fun and out-of-the-box design and execution. It blends style, substance, and safety, offering true SUV performance in a city-friendly package. It’s pleasing to the eye, comfortable, and can go off the beaten path when needed. The all-new 2018 Subaru XV continues where the previous model left off. It remains bold while also smoothening out all of the rough edges of the previous model, and then some. Though a full Philippine test drive beckons when it arrives in September, as it stands, Subaru has once again come up with a hard-to-beat package once more.

Other Articles on the 2018 Subaru XV Regional Launch:


  1. I read in the newspaper (Philippine Star) that the FB20 is 12kgs lighter than its predecessor (FA20), same as the updated CVT gearbox which is 7.8kgs lighter. This will surely make the XV a little bit more fuel efficient and better engine response.

    1. First of all, the current Subaru XV still uses the FB20. The one in the 2018 Subaru XV uses an updated FB20 engine that introduces direct injection.

      And though the engine and transmission are both lighter, Subaru says that overall weight will likely stay the same because of higher equipment, better safety, etc.

      That said, the Lineartronic CVT has been tweaked with distinct "steps" to mimic a regular automatic when depressed past 30 percent and a different final drive ratio.

    2. The FA20 is the engine in the Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86. A turbocharged version of that, the FA20DIT is found in the Subaru Forester XT and WRX.

    3. That's good to know Sir Uly, it may have the same Curb weight as the outgoing model but still a good deal nonetheless since there's a huge upgrade in the safety department.

      I forgot to factor out the thicker and stronger crossmember joints in the A pillar made the chassis a bit heavier. Plus the array of active safety systems.

      Is the improvement in the CVT gearbox substantially noticeable Sir Uly?

    4. At the speeds we were going, they were noticeable. I don't know how they'll perform when you push it through.

  2. Planning to have one b4 this years ends, but still torned between this and the all new cx 5 awd sport, SIR ULY, CAN U HELP ME DECIDE? I know that the 2 are on the diff class pero itong dalawa tlga ang gusto ko, i just wanna know the pros and cons of the 2, and which do you think is more suitable for me (2016 montero sport owner)

  3. no sunroof for the top trim model?,.will it be optional?.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. sir Uly, need your expertise. i am torn between 2018 subaru xv 2.0i (base) and 2017 honda hr-v 1.8 el (premium). which can you recommend of the 2? points of consideration:
    a. performance
    b. safety
    c. equipment
    d. quality
    e. maintenance costs
    f. fuel efficiency
    by the way, it's for home-office use during weekdays and seldom out of town ride. many thanks and more power!

  6. Subaru all the way ang hina ng hp at ac ng honda samin 3 yrs palng cvic 2008 1.8s model pugakx2 na ac pkarga na sa banawe

  7. Is Subaru xv euro 4 compliant?


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