Subaru XV 2021 review

The XV is a well-built and safe crossover with seriously impressive off-road ability

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Out of 5


  • Fantastic off-road ability
  • Brilliant safety record
  • Lots of standard kit


  • Quite pricey for what it is
  • Uninspiring powertrains
  • Small boot
Model review

While Subaru might be best remembered for its rallying days and sporting models, this manufacturer is increasingly trying to move away from that era and focus on another market that’s proven lucrative for it – rugged SUVs. 

With the exception of the BRZ sports car, all it sells in the UK is four-wheel-drive vehicles, and one of its more popular options is the XV – essentially a raised version of the Impreza hatchback, which has since been continued. 

Sitting alongside the Forester and Outback in Subaru’s 4x4 range, the XV was first introduced in 2012 as a funky new crossover, but unlike others, one with genuine rugged ability thanks to its standard-fit all-wheel-drive system. It’s also become renowned for its safety, with the model being consistently recorded as one of the safest cars in its class. 

It continued with regular updates, before having one major update at the end of 2017. While it looked similar to before, this new XV actually sits on completely new underpinnings that brought improvements in the way it drives. The brand’s acclaimed ‘Eyesight’ system was also included to improve safety further. 

Latest model

Since then, there was a big change in 2020 when Subaru introduced a new hybrid system to the range, known as e-Boxer, which sits alongside a separate 1.6-litre petrol option. It’s the first step in Subaru’s electrification, with the same powertrain also being offered on the larger Forester

A subtle updated model was introduced in 2021, too, which brought light design changes along with two new colours – Plasma Yellow and Horizon Blue. Tweaks were also made to the all-wheel-drive system to improve it further, along with enhanced driver assistance technology to make it even safer. 

Value for money

The XV has always been priced at the higher end of the spectrum, and that’s true today with the range starting from £28,335 for the standard petrol SE and rising to £33,655 for the top-spec hybrid. It certainly makes it a rather pricey choice in this class, though you do get the all-wheel-drive system, which is often a pricey addition on some of its rivals. Standard equipment is also generous, with all models benefiting from automatic LED headlights, heated front seats, keyless entry and a suite of driver assistance technology that leads the way in this class.

If you’re looking at earlier XVs, prices start from as little as £6,000 for an example with higher miles, with around £8,000 buying an example with around 70,000 miles on the clock. That said, with Subaru not doing particularly well at the moment in the UK, nearly-new models are available at big discounts, with around £5,000 available off a model with delivery miles. 

Looks and image

The XV might not have the cutting-edge design that some of its rivals in this class, but it’s still an appealing-looking model, with even earlier used examples looking newer than their number plates will suggest. The more modern 2018 examples are the most appealing, though, with more stylish alloy wheel designs and a fresher face, but regardless all XVs look reassuringly rugged. 

It’s a similar story in the cabin, too, with the XV not feeling especially ‘premium’ but favouring durability and functionality. It’s certainly brilliantly built, and feels sturdy enough to last the harshest of lives. That said, some might find the quality can’t live up to the price, while it lacks the technology of some of its rivals. 

A key reason for choosing the XV will be for its impressive off-roading ability, and it’s deceptively capable on tough terrain, with a dedicated ‘X-mode’ helping with this. It’s also a good option on tarmac, too, as it’s good to drive, with the steering having a good weight to it, while still being refined and comfortable, though the powertrain options (which we’ll get onto later) prevent the XV from being any better in this area. 

Video review

Space and practicality

Crossovers and SUVs are often bought for being more practical than a conventional hatchback, and that rings true with this Subaru. It’s easy to get in and out of, with great visibility and plenty of storage spots throughout the cabin. A high roofline also means adults should be able to sit comfortably in the rear. 

The only weak link is the boot, which isn’t as roomy as some of its rivals in this class. While it’s a good shape, 385 litres isn’t a huge amount of room for a car of this size, and it drops to 340 litres if you go for the hybrid e-Boxer. 

On a more positive note, the XV has an impressive safety safety record, and is one of the best cars in this segment in this respect – receiving the top five-star rating from Euro NCAP. It also gets far more standard driver assistance technology than just about all its rivals. 


If you’re considering a new XV, there are just two options available – a regular petrol and a 2.0-litre mild-hybrid petrol known as the e-Boxer. They also all use a CVT automatic transmission, while four-wheel-drive has always been offered on the XV, so you won’t find one without it. 

The standard model is a 1.6-litre unit that pushes out a somewhat measly 112bhp, and means it’s rather slow – 0-60mph taking 13.7 seconds. The second choice is the mild-hybrid e-Boxer, which kicks out 148bhp and has a bit more punch, with 0-60mph taking a more reasonable 10.5 seconds. 

Previously, Subaru offered a regular 154bhp 2.0-litre petrol, while a diesel was also offered for a time – this 145bhp 2.0-litre unit is the quickest XV to date, with a 0-60mph time of 9.1 seconds. This diesel was also available with a manual gearbox. 

Running costs

When it comes to running costs, the lowest are available from the now-discontinued diesel, which Subaru claimed would return 52.3mpg, with CO2 emissions of 141g/km. 

The petrol options are thirsty, though – even the new hybrid e-Boxer. With claimed fuel economy figures of around 35mpg, along with CO2 emissions of 180g/km, it means they will be rather thirsty to run. 

Things to look for

Though Subaru isn’t the most popular car firm in the UK, as with other Japanese brands, it has a great reputation when it comes to reliability, and the XV should prove to be a solid choice. As with any off-roader, though, it’s worth having a good look underneath to make sure it hasn’t been damaged from excessive use. 


The market for four-wheel-drive crossovers is smaller than you might expect, and the best options are those from Suzuki, with both the S-Cross and Vitara being worth considering in this respect. A Jeep Renegade or Compass could also be considered if you value that extra ability. Better options in this class (providing you’re not so fussed about off-roading) include the Skoda Karoq, Volvo XC40 and Kia Sportage, though. 


With Subaru having quite a niche following in the UK, it means models tend to depreciate quite heavily, with good discounts available on nearly-new models with minimal miles on the clock. It tends to hold its value better as it gets older, though, with used four-wheel-drives often proving popular with buyers. 

Trims explained

Two trim levels are available on the XV – SE and Premium SE. Equipment highlights and pricing are as follows.


All XVs get a generous amount of kit, with the SE model including automatic LED headlights with high beam assist, electric folding mirrors and 17-inch alloy wheels. You also get heated front seats, keyless entry and start, a heated windscreen and dual-zone climate control. In terms of technology, the XV comes with an eight-inch touchscreen with DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with Subaru’s EyeSight safety system, which includes blind spot monitoring, a reversing camera, lane change assist and adaptive cruise control to name but a few features.

From £28,335

Premium SE

Upgrading to the Premium SE brings an electric sunroof, an electric driver’s seat, leather upholstery and satellite navigation. E-Boxer models also benefit from larger 18-inch alloy wheels, along with LED front fog lights and aluminium pedals.

From £30,335


  1. Introduced in 2012, heavily revised in 2018
  2. Brilliant off-road ability
  3. Underwhelming powertrains…
  4. But otherwise, good to drive
  5. Roomy cabin space
  6. Impressive safety record
  7. Generous levels of standard kit
  8. Solid reliability reputation
  9. Thirsty to run
  10. A credible rugged choice if you need that extra ability

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