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June 12, 2021

Review: 2021 Subaru XV 2.0i-S EyeSight

I honestly thought they cheated. A few kilometers after I got the 2021 Subaru XV, I checked the tire pressures at a nearby gas station. I checked it again at home the next day. I even switched units on my digital tire gauge from PSI to kpa to get a more accurate reading. Holy crap; I couldn’t believe it—they actually fixed the ride.

Being a motoring journalist for 23 years now, I’ve seen my fair share of how car manufacturers cheat when it comes to their press units. Whether it’s installing optional accessories undeclared on supposedly stock vehicles to fitting better biting brake pads to actually giving their cars a tune, some go through lengths to make their cars look and drive better. The most common misdemeanor though has to do with tire pressures; specifically, how some of them lower it—sometimes below the recommended pressures just for the sake of improving the ride. That’s why my first order of business is always a quick check of all four tires before a week’s worth of driving.

And so, when I got my hands on the 2021 Subaru XV, I had some apprehensions. Sure, they claim that the springs and dampers have been tweaked for a better ride, but could artificially low tire pressures also contribute to its newfound composure? Re-checking the Bridgestone Duelers once every three days, I could safely say that there’s no cheating here. Riding on the exactly recommended cold tire pressures of 230 kpa front, and 220 kpa at the back—that’s around 33 PSI front, 32 PSI rear—Subaru’s compact crossover has displayed a remarkably improved ride.

The Subaru Global Platform, the Subaru XV’s bones since 2018 has been giving this compact crossover a strong sense of solidity and stability. However, its ride, especially over small, undulating ruts, wasn’t exactly polished. For 2021 though that’s all changed with the retuned suspension setup. I now find that it rides well even when going over those chipped up pieces of asphalt. It’s pliant—more so than even the current cream of the compact crossover crop, the Mazda CX-30. Plus, across larger obstacles like humps, there’s more suspension travel to play with now. It affords a level of confidence of taking them at speed without causing things to bottom out.

Now, if the 2021 Subaru XV’s revised CV—increased coil spring travel, improved shock absorber performance—sounds like ingredients for better off-road performance, it is. Not only does it have the best ground clearance in its class (220 mm), but it now gains the Forester’s dual X-MODE which adds a Deep Snow/Mud setting. Being a responsible motoring journalist though, I kept this test drive strictly on the pavement, but I’m pretty sure those changes add up on the trail (perhaps in the future, it’s possible to take it off-road with Subaru’s blessing, of course).

For all of the 2021 Subaru XV’s improvements though, it still suffers from two issues. First is the road and tire noise—they’re atrocious. Compared to other compact crossovers in its price range, it’s hard to appreciate BTS’s Butter, let alone carry a decent conversation starting at 60 km/h. True enough, peek at the wheel wells and you’ll see that Subaru’s still holding out on installing those felt-like sound absorbing liners so common in modern cars these days.

The second issue has to do with the carryover powertrain, particularly the Lineartronic CVT. I’m not a big fan of gearless, belt-driven slush boxes, but in the case of the Subaru XV, the problems are magnified. There are two drive modes here, and in the Subaru SI-Drive’s default “Intelligent” mode, mash the throttle and almost nothing happens. The 2.0-liter flat-4 spins to around 3,000 rpm, and stays here. With its peak torque and horsepower coming in at 4,000 rpm and 6,000 rpm respectively, the straight-line speed feels greatly neutered. Plus, the vasectomy has done little to improve the fuel economy which stands at 7.35 km/L at 15 km/h. Switching over to “Sport” mode greatly improves things, although 0 to 100 km/h is still quoted at a lazy 10.4 seconds.

Besides the carryover powertrain, most of the Subaru XV’s aesthetics has remained almost unchanged from the model that first appeared in 2018. In typical Subaru fashion, this midcycle refresh is so subtle, it escapes the undiscerning. The attention-grabbing Plasma Yellow Pearl is the most obvious change, but added to the list are: a new grille, front bumper, fog lamp housing (now with LEDs), and saw blade-patterned 18-inch alloy wheels. Towards the back, the rear lamps have also been tinted. I had zero qualms about its design before, and I certainly have no qualms about it now. Besides, I’ve come to realize that Subaru designs are more dictated by function than by form.

This brings me to the subject of the Subaru XV’s interior. The large windows and thin pillars not only promote stellar visibility—perfect for Manila’s urban confines—but also give the cabin a sense of airiness. Subaru’s geometric approach to the dash layout makes everything look busy, visually at least, but it is easy to use and understand. Finding a comfortable seating position is a cinch thanks to ample adjustments of the steering wheel and seats. That said, the seats themselves could use better back support.

It may not look it, but the Subaru XV’s steering wheel is home to 21 controls (including the paddle shifters). It’s a lot, but they’re a godsend when you’re driving. There’s absolutely no reason to let go of the tiller since all the controls including the SI Drive and camera are there.

The Subaru XV still uses the three-screen layout prevalent in Subaru’s modern offerings. In front of the driver, there’s a traditional two-gauge cluster with a full-colored 4.2-inch LCD multi-information display (MID). On top of the center dash, there’s a 6.3-inch multi-function display (MFD), and below that an 8-inch infotainment system. Interestingly enough, for local units, Subaru has binned the Starlink system in favor of an aftermarket solution. It looks pretty OE though in terms of graphics and usability—they’ve incorporated Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to boot, only to be betrayed by a non-syncing clock (the clock display though can be turned off in the infotainment system menu).

Subaru’s decision to switch from Starlink to a Panasonic system one may sound like a bummer, but it did unlock one feature not found in Subaru XVs outside ASEAN: the Superview Around Recognition 360 System. Granted the camera’s resolution isn’t as high-res as those found in say, the CX-30’s, but it does add driver confidence when tackling tight spaces. Better yet, when the car is switched off, the camera automatically switches to curb view. This allows passengers who’re about to alight to look out for obstacles like low lying poles or rocks.

The 360-degre camera is just one trick up the Subaru XV’s safety sleeve. Chief among them is still the pair of cameras on the top of the windshield called Subaru Eyesight. Despite the lack of customizable options (there’s no way to adjust sensitivity, for example), it’s still the best one out there. Plus, if you don’t like all the nannying, it allows you to shut off certain features easily thanks to shortcut buttons. It also has speed-sensing door locks (a first for Subaru), reverse tilting rear view mirrors, and a rear seat minder system. All in all, these features are great, save for the last one. With no weight sensor installed in the back seat, it will always warn you to check your rear seat, even if there’s no one sitting there in the first place. Thankfully, this can be turned off.

I had some doubts as to how Subaru could really improve their compact crossover for 2021. Suffice to say, after all’s said and done, I come out pretty impressed. When Subaru came up with what’s essentially a lifted-up hatchback in 2012, it was still considered a niche product—slotting between the traditional sub-compact SUVs and compact SUVs. Nine years on, the segment is now awash with offerings. Regardless, the Subaru XV has managed to stand its ground through careful evolution. The latest iterations, with its small but noticeable changes, is the most convincing one yet. And it’s also a reminder that carmakers need not cheat to come up with a winner.

2021 Subaru XV 2.0i-S Eyesight

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Ownership 2021 Subaru XV 2.0i-S Eyesight
Year Introduced 2018 (Refreshed: 2021)
Vehicle Classification Compact Crossover
Warranty 5 years / 140,000 kilometers
The Basics
Body Type Compact Crossover
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/AWD
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.0
Aspiration Normally Aspirated
Fuel Delivery Direct Injection
Layout / # of Cylinders F4
BHP @ rpm 156 @ 6,000
Nm @ rpm 196 @ 4,000
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 95~
Transmission CVT
Cruise Control Yes, Adaptive w/ Low Speed Follow
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 7.35 km/L @ 15 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,485
Width (mm) 1,800
Height (mm) 1,615
Wheelbase (mm) 2,665
Curb Weight (kg) 1,473
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, Double Wishbone
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Vented Disc
Parking Brake Electric, w/ Auto Hold
Tires Bridgestone Dueler H/P Sport 225/55 R 18 V (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 7
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Rear
Parking Camera Yes, 360-degree
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR x 3
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features Hill Start Assist
Hill Descent Control
Pre-Collision Braking System
Pre-Collision Throttle Management
Lane Sway and Departure Warning
Blindspot Indicators
Rear Cross Traffic Alert
Reverse Automatic Braking
Exterior Features
Headlights LED, Active
Fog Lamps Yes, Front (LED), Rear
Auto Lights Yes
Rain-sensing Wipers Yes
Tailgate Manual
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) Electric, 8-way w/ Memory
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Manual, 4-way
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
Sunroof Yes
Trip Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, w/ Fold
Rear View Mirror Auto-dimming
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Dual Zone
Audio System Stereo
Smartphone Connectivity Apple CarPlay
Android Auto
# of Speakers 6
Steering Controls Yes


  1. I noticed there's no mention of the price. LOL!!! Mahirap ata ma justify. HAHAHA

    1. It's priced at P 1.828M which is even lower than the previous Subaru XV 2.0i-S EyeSight. It's still pretty good value considering the CX-30 AWD is priced at P 1.990M.

    2. Where did you get your price? Updated ka ba? It's priced at P1,908,000 as of today.

      Good value daw. LOL.


    4. The price is P 1.908 with a discount of 80k, so it's 1.828M. Again, please watch yourself Joji.

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. I stand corrected then. Granted it's introductory price is at 1.828 mil, plus its a single variant only, its stillb gonna be a tough sell.

  2. @Joji malakas lang loob mo kasi hindi lumabas pangalan ko. But that was my replying to your comment. I know you've been trying to troll this page, but watch yourself.

  3. Its a relief to know that you also dont prefer CVT's like i do. Traditional automatics is still my transmission of choice, although I havent driven any car with DCT's yet.

  4. They did not even bring in the 2.5L version!

    I have the 2.0 and back then the TOL was around 1.496M I think. I might consider PHP1.9M if it was a 2.5L engine but then again at that price range i’d be looking at the forester and CX-5.

    The Mazda CX-5 2WD Sport is around php1.89M with the same HP with this XV but bigger in size, more refined interior, Better NVH, better fuel economy, Non CVT. Too many upsides to consider.

  5. H an allwheel drive n wd those lot of convinience n advance safety features i think d priced s tama lang. Ow in h made in japan. Meanwhile hari tucson gls 4x2 wd 2 airbags n halogen hedlites s priced 1.9m

    1. A mazda Cx-5 2.5 AWD at 1.990M which is just 82K more brings a lot more than this new xv. Also ive never mentioned hyundai Tucson as that comparison will never fly.

      No need to sell me on subaru. I own two. Im just saying the value proposition on this is not that great. Only if youre a die hard subarist would you pull the trigger on this 2021 xv. Even if i were a die hard, i’d spend a few extra thousand for the forester.

    2. The best value for money though is the Toyota RAV4, 2.5 N/A Traditional AT with 203hp. It might not be as good looking or as tech laden as the competition, but the so called "Toyota reliability" is unbeatable.

    3. Actually the current Forester isn't a good drive...the 2.0-liter engine betrays it. The Subaru XV is better than the Forester full stop. That said, you're right in mentioning that there are 2WD offerings which are in the same price range. The CX-5 2WD Sport for P 1.890M is the best. You don't get AWD and the large wheels, but you get everything else that the AWD Sport has. If I were to go AWD on the CX-5, I'd go all in and get the Signature Diesel.

    4. @Lau Sai Bin Nope, the RAV4 is a no go, too much of a gas guzzler. 6-7 km/L in city driving. Even Toyota encourages people to just get the diesel Fortuner at that price range.

  6. D current forester is underpowered for its size n didnot undergo d recent quality control on suppliers instituted by new subaru management. D rsult of new quality control s d new levorg n i bliv also d new 2021 xv as it is a new updated version. Ds d rson i didnot bought d prvious xv vrsion n take my time to wait for ds updated xv...hoola h worth d wait

  7. The updated Subaru XV is a really good value for money.
    The stance,styling and ground clearance of it is really good.
    Subaru Forester looks dated already..That one needs a powerful engine.

    1. Seriously? People this is 1.8M, soon to be 1.9M... For a raised Impreza. Do people even look at the competition? Add 100k or 200k, and you get a helluva lot better cars.

      Everyone keeps mentioning the Forester needs better engine. People, you can buy the Forester for 1.6M, a lot cheaper than the smaller XV. Both of them has the same lame 2.0L boxer engine anyway.

    2. I think you're too focused on price and you're comparing the base Forester and the top of the line Subaru XV. The base Forester--the 1.698M that you mentioned doesn't have:

      -EyeSight Driver Assist Technology
      -Heated Door Mirrors
      -Leather Seats
      -Power Driver’s Seat with Memory
      -Power Passenger’s Seat
      -Steering Responsive Headlights

      These features are all present in the XV 2.0i-S. To get those features in the Forester, you have to go with the 2.0i-L EyeSight which is at P 1.938M, and you still get smaller wheels than the XV.

      The XV 2.0i-S has always been the top of the line trim for the XV, and they still have a base 2.0i coming in the next few months.

      So I suggest, before commenting, please make sure you compare the features vis-à-vis rather than being just stuck on the subject of price.

      That said, yes. They do share the same 2.0-liter boxer engine and that's why the XV is faster and actually more economical than the Forester. The Forester seriously needs a bigger engine.

    3. As a follow up, to get the bigger wheels and sunroof in the Forester, you have to go for the Forester 2.0i-S and that's already P 2M.

    4. As the only variant of the XV at 1.908M, which is pitted against the various trims of the XV from 1.6M to 2.170M lies the problem. plus you get a bigger Forester with the same engine as the lighter XV. something is wrong with the product line-up.

      Back then, comparison would be either i get the TOTL XV at 1.6M or move up to the forester XT at Php2M, now you're stuck with one variant at 1.908M versus a forester with a less engaging drive on all trims. That kinda sucks for buyers of the forester.

      If they had a 2.5L Forester offered in the PH then that gives you a bit more segmentation. Then forester buyers won't feel shortchanged.

    5. Agreed. The Forester should have gotten the 2.5 NA. As for the XV, more variants will be made available, or so I hear.

    6. Ooooh there's a cheaper model that may be available in the future? As long as there is a base model XV, its all good. Otherwise RIP Subaru XV.

  8. Hi Uly,

    Thank you for the good responses here. Again, you have people debating a lot because of how this is priced and segmented. I don't think you get the same type of debate when it comes to with HRV vs. CRV. Toyota Cross vs. Rav4.

    At 1.9M, yes you get a lot of goodies and AWD but at that price point you welcome yourself to a lot of competitors which swings your customer to another segment or another brand.

    Similar to the CX-30, a fully loaded one doesn't really make sense to most and you end up buying the CX-5, unless you really want a smaller car and for a specific use case which is very niche.

    Going back to Subaru - in the US, you get the XV at either 2.0 and 2.5L engine, with the forester it's all 2.5L. The XV at 2.0 does not have Eyesight, the 2.5L XV's have eyesight, all foresters get eyesight.

    I think it boils down to segmentation and pricing.

    1. Agreed. Subaru is one of the first few automakers who actually went with an overlapping pricing structure. Typically, car makers won't do that due to the small size of our market. They did this already with the previous Subaru XV / Forester.

      I believe the top-of-the-line XV will serve a niche market now. They badly need a base model, which again, I hear will arrive. It will have EyeSight as standard, but features like the power driver seat, etc. will be stripped out.

  9. 7km/L even while using a rubberbanding tranny. I blame AWD, which is totally unnecessary for a subcompact urban runabout. No owner would take this off-road even w/ that ground clearance. You don't need AWD to wade through floods or potholed city streets. At most, make the AWD system a part-time/on-demand one. A full-time one is just a literal drag on the powertrain. A waste of fuel & added weight as well. This category of cars should all be using 2WD.

    1. Yas I completely agree. I dunno where the hell people use AWD here. Crossovers are mostly driven in the city anyway.

  10. H a niche mrket n it is for wat it is. H absurd to say dat dos ho hav cars use it in city only. Almost all ct cars users also use it to go outside ncr...tagaytay, batangas, baguio cntral luzon etc, jaz lok at der social media post in u wil knew. ders a olt of choice f u dont want awd.

    1. You still don't need AWD to go to those places you mentioned. I've seen a Kia Pride CD5 loaded with 5 people & luggage overtake 4WD SUVs going up Kennon Road. You don't need AWD to go out of town.

  11. Planning to get XV for 300k less. Do you think it’s worth it @ 1.6M now?

    1. Honestly? If you can get the outgoing XV at P 1.6M, that's a steal. I actually prefer that overall than the Crosstrek.


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