Hot on the heels of Subaru’s midlife update, tech additions and model changes to the popular XV, we take a look at the most affordable hybrid model – the 2021 Subaru XV Hybrid L AWD.
Given the popularity of hybrid models within the Toyota range, for example, the addition of a hybrid was much needed for Subaru. Now into the mid-section of its life cycle, the brand has made some subtle changes in an attempt to make an already popular model even more appealing. Subaru knows a thing or two about SUVs as well, don’t forget. The Forester first appeared in the late ’90s, so Subaru has been at it for some time.
You can read our pricing and specification guide for all the details, but a quick glance at the details shows some highlights like two grades for the XV Hybrid (the L tested here and a more expensive S), all models get X-mode for increased grip on loose surfaces, a mild facelift, tech upgrades, and there’s been a price shift as well.
|2021 Subaru XV Hybrid L AWD|
|Engine||2.0-litre four-cylinder e-Boxer Hybrid|
|Power and torque||110kW at 6000rpm, 196Nm at 4000rpm|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||6.5L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||8.0L/100km|
|ANCAP rating||Five stars|
|Warranty||Five years/unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Toyota C-HR Hybrid, Mazda MX-30 Hybrid|
The range now starts from $29,690 for the entry-grade XV, while the most expensive XV is the Hybrid S, which starts from $40,790, both before on-road costs. The L that we are testing this week starts from $35,490 before on-road costs. For comparison, a 2WD Toyota C-HR Koba Hybrid starts from $37,665 before on-road costs, putting the XV Hybrid L right at the sharp end of the pricing scale. Interestingly, our test vehicle is $90 cheaper than the outgoing entry-grade hybrid model.
There’s a new SI-Drive system, offering the choice of driving modes, and ride and handling have been refined with new front suspension. According to Subaru, that change up front improves comfort and sharpens up steering response. The XV – based on the Impreza of course – was no sloth before, so that bodes well for drivability.
Our Hybrid tester is powered by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, naturally aspirated petrol engine, which generates 110kW and 196Nm, with an electric motor assisting the transmission to the tune of 12.3kW and 66Nm. Subaru’s Vision Assist package is standard, as well as E-Active Shift Control, which automatically changes the vehicle’s driving mode based on driving and road inputs. Select ‘S’ mode and you get these changes.
In addition to X-Mode, there’s also EyeSight, an 8.0-inch infotainment screen with digital radio, rain-sensing wipers, premium cloth trim, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearshifter, 17-inch alloy wheels, auto headlights and front LED fog lights. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are provided, there’s Bluetooth phone and audio connections as well, but no spare tyre, which is a factor for some Aussie buyers. You get a puncture repair kit.
The changes, then, are quality ones, and make an impact on the specs sheet. Subaru is an interesting case study, though, as we move to new technology. Because while a hybrid system will need to bring efficiency to the table, buyers expect a Subaru to drive in a certain way, given the legacy the brand has for delivering affordable, sporty hatches and sedans. Those two widely varying concepts don’t always go hand in hand either.
The styling is par for the XV course – that is attractive and edgy. Well, that’s certainly what the buying public seems to think of the Subaru XV. The colour choice of our tester is a good one, the wheel design works well with the exterior styling, and trim such as the plastic cladding around the arches doesn’t grate like it does on some vehicles.
Take your seat behind the wheel, and you’ll notice that as ever the Subaru cabin presents well, and feels quite sporty in its execution. Subaru has a way of doing this, and has been doing so for years now. Even if the platform isn’t sporty, the cabin tends to feel that way, which ensures the driver feels good about spending time in there. The XV Hybrid is no different. The cloth seats are comfortable, with the contrast stitching providing a neat counterpoint, and the centre trim section has a non-slip look and feel to it.
As Rob noted in his review of the previous model, the faux carbon fibre (should that be carbon fauxbre?) trim doesn’t look tasteless, but rather it’s quite understated and matches the rest of the cabin nicely. There’s not as much clever storage in the cabin as the segment leaders, but there’s more than enough storage for the average punter. Cupholders are tight to the elbow rest and out of the way of the shifter, while you can sneak a smartphone into the cavity where the USB port is.
The doors open wide, making getting in and out as easy as possible, while the seats themselves – beyond the way they look – are comfortable. There’s oodles of adjustment in them for drivers of all heights and visibility is excellent. The rear-view camera is also nice and clear, too, but the thin A-pillars especially make forward visibility as good as it can be.
Room in the second row is, as you’d expect, a little tight for tall adults, but for the family buyer, or for occasional touring use, you can accommodate two adults back there. The second row gets a fold-down armrest, with cupholders and door storage pockets as well. Some air vents in the second row would be a good addition. That said, it was pretty warm during our week with the XV, and second- row occupants never reported being too hot. Compact cabins are good like that.
Fold that second row down, however, and you have a cavernous, flat-floored, luggage area to the tune of 919L. With the second row in use, you get 345L. Those figures are particularly useful for the target buyer, who according to Subaru is likely to get involved in outdoor activities and camping.
The smartphone connection worked without fault for us on test, and while the infotainment screen and general display fonts and design do feel a little dated, the system that Subaru has provided works, and works well. Much of the surface area that you come into contact with is soft-touch, so there’s no harsh plasticky feeling to the cabin of the XV either – another tick there.
Following the release of the outgoing model, punters claimed the power and torque figures weren’t up to scratch, and as such, Subaru has tweaked the electronic trickery to assist with that assumption. So, while the numbers remain the same on paper, the way in which the system works promises to add some beef.
This engine is referred to by Subaru as an e-Boxer, and works with a permanent magnet AC electric motor that runs off an air-cooled lithium-ion battery pack. You don’t plug the XV Hybrid in to charge, rather charging takes place through braking regeneration and coasting, where otherwise wasted energy is harvested. It’s technologically quite complex, but the electric system will only drive the wheels at very low speed (up to 40km/h) in ideal conditions when coasting.
When conversations turn to hybrid technology, the direction eventually heads toward fuel efficiency. After all, what is the point of a hybrid if not for efficiency? The combined fuel claim on the ADR cycle is 6.5L/100km. During our week of testing, we averaged 8.0L/100km, which is two things. One, it’s not as low as you might expect a traditional hybrid to return, but then the XV isn’t a traditional hybrid. Two, it’s hardly thirsty given we did plenty of running around town in traffic.
Once you get into a drive, the point needs to be made that it would be advantageous if the XV were able to drive purely on electric power for a decent amount of time. I don’t say that to detract from the driving experience in any way, because the XV is smooth, composed and enjoyable.
There’s no sharp kick in the backside when you take off, and you do get some combined drone from the engine and the CVT, but once you’re moving the XV rolls on speed neatly enough. The torque delivery is smooth and constant through the middle of the rev range, and if you need to overtake or get moving a little more quickly, the XV is good to go without feeling strained.
Switch into ‘Sport’ mode and the changes that Subaru has made become even more evident. We’d hazard a guess that the Hybrid feels punchier in this mode than a regular XV; a situation where the Hybrid starts to make sense. I’d probably err on the side of Sport mode most of the time if I were an owner – the opposite of most cars we test.
The XV weighs in at 1576kg – so it’s a little portly – and it’s a lifted Impreza, so you might not expect it to behave as well as it does. Subaru’s AWD grip and balance come to the fore, and the XV is always balanced and surefooted even when you push hard into tight corners. We’d need to drive the pre-facelift model back-to-back with this new version to properly assess the differences to the front end specifically, but there’s no doubt the front end is well tied down.
The ride comfort is also a strong point, and something that Subaru has been delivering for some time now. The XV can soak up poor surfaces with ease, including sharp speed humps and expansion joints, and the sporty handling doesn’t come at the cost of composure. All in all, the XV is an exceptional around-town runner on any roads.
The Subaru XV Hybrid is covered by a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, with an eight-year/160,000km warranty covering the battery pack for ‘private buyers and private use’. It is also covered by a capped-price servicing scheme, which is required to be done every 12 months/12,500km. At the time of testing, those services added up to $2430.85 over the first five years/62,500km.
There’s no doubt the Subaru XV Hybrid is a solid platform that is well executed and priced attractively. It’s not quite as efficient as it might be, and we’d like the ability to drive it a little further on electric power alone. But those minor gripes aside, it’s a quality offering within the extensive XV range.