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2021 Subaru XV Hybrid S review

By David Bonnici, 20 Mar 2021 Car Reviews

Subaru XV Hybrid S

Is it worth paying more for the hybrid version of the top-spec Subaru XV variant?

What is the Subaru XV Hybrid S?

Subaru recently gave the second-generation XV small-SUV mid-life update that brought a minor facelift, additional kit, retuned suspension and a higher-spec hybrid version called the Hybrid S that shares all the features with the petrol XV 2.0i S but has the more expensive hybrid powertrain.

2021 Subaru XV Hybrid S review

Priced at $40,790, or $45,450 driveway, the new XV range-topper costs $3500 more than the 2.0i-S and $5300 more than the lesser-equipped XV Hybrid L which has the same powertrain.

It features the same 2.0-litre petrol engine as the petrol-only XVs, but links it to a 12.3kW/66Nm electric motor that provides a bit more oomph from a standing start. It also allows the XV to coast on lithium-ion battery power alone, resulting in modest fuel savings.

With sharp looks that convey a sense of adventurism, the XV fits the ‘sports utility’ description more than most. Its off-road capable AWD running gear makes it initially pricier than most of its upper-spec hybrid crossover rivals, which include Toyota Yaris Cross Urban AWD ($37,990) and Toyota C-HR Koba ($37,665).

What is the Subaru XV Hybrid S like to live with?

The Hybrid S brings additional features over the mid-spec XV Hybrid L including leather-accented seats, satellite navigation, reverse automatic braking, blind spot-monitor, front-view monitor, 18-inch alloy wheels (up from 17s) and a sunroof.

Ford Focus Active infotainment system

Powertrain aside it’s otherwise identical to the XV 2.0i-S with a premium interior that came through the recent facelift untouched, but still looks slick and has a quality feel to it with soft-touch surfaces highlighted by attractive contrast-stitching that also adorns the seats.

MORE 2021 Subaru XV pricing and features

The seats themselves are firm but comfortable, with the driver benefitting from eight-way power settings to help find a good driving position and both front seats are heated. That said, I prefer the woven cloth seats in cheaper XV variants.

Rear-seat space is great for a small SUV with plenty of leg and shoulder room to keep two big adults quite happy. The stadium-style seating provides good forward vision as well, and there are vents for heating and cooling.

2021 Subaru XV Hybrid S review

Cabin storage includes a smallish centre console bin with stitched leather-trimmed lid and a front centre tray to hold a phone. There are also two front centre cup holders, two rear cup holders in the fold-down centre armrest, bottle holders in each door bin and map pockets behind the front seats.

The XV hybrids have a smallish 340-litre boot space, which is more than the 310-litre boot in the petrol versions. However, the extra size is due to batteries taking up space under the boot floor meaning there is nowhere to put a spare wheel. The petrol XVs come with a full-size spare, which is particularly handy if you get a flat when driving the XV off the bitumen, but hybrid versions have to make do with a less convenient tyre repair kit.

Ford Focus Active boot space

The rear seatbacks split 60:40 to extend load space up to 765-litres.

Another hybrid compromise is reduced towing capacity, partly caused by the hybrid versions weighing around 100kg extra resulting in braked towing capacity reduced from 1400kg to 1270kg. Unbraked towing capacity is the same across all versions at 650kg.

MORE Boot sizes of Australia's favourite SUVs

Unfortunately, these compromises aren’t really rewarded with significant fuel savings, the XV hybrids having an official combined fuel consumption rating of 6.5L/100km which is just 0.5L/100km less than petrol versions. CO2 emissions meanwhile are reduced from 159g/km to 147g/km.

There are better fuel savings if you mostly drive around town, with the hybrid’s official urban consumption being 7.5L/100km compared to the petrol’s 8.8L/100km.

The XV only requires 91 RON unleaded petrol when filling the 48-litre fuel tank, which is 15 litres smaller than petrol versions.

All Subaru XVs come with a five-year warranty with no limit on kilometres travelled for private use. There is also an eight-year/160,000km warranty on the hybrid’s lithium-ion batteries.

Service intervals are 12 months or 12,500km, which is the same as the petrol versions. Subaru offers capped-price servicing for the first five years, which includes a free check-up after the first month with subsequent annual servicing priced at $341, $591, $347, $797, and $353 respectively.

What is the Subaru XV Hybrid S like to drive?

The Subaru XV is a high-riding wagon version of the Impreza and all variants, including the hybrids, are all-wheel drive and share the hatchback’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder horizontally opposed ‘Boxer’ petrol engine that’s coupled with a CVT auto.

Because the XV weighs a little more than the Impreza, its engine has to work a little harder. You won’t really notice this in most situations but things do get a little loud and sluggish when putting the foot down to overtake or join freeway traffic.

2020 Subaru XV

The hybrid overcomes this a little thanks to the electric motor that provides an additional 12.3kW of power and 66Nm of torque when you put the foot down.

However, the benefit isn’t as much as the numbers suggest as the hybrid’s petrol engine has been detuned a little to produce 110kW/196Nm which is 5.0kW less than the standard petrol versions.

Then there’s the fact the Hybrids weighs almost 100kg more – 1536kg compared to the equivalent XV 2.0i-S’s 1440kg.

So while there is a little bit of extra power it isn’t really that noticeable, just like the moderate fuel savings. That’s because this is more of a mild hybrid system, but with the ability to recoup energy.

On the plus side, the Hybrid S does everything that we like about the 2.0i-S.

It features SI-Drive, which is like Sport mode in other cars. Selecting S that changes the rev mapping to delay upshifting for sportier acceleration, while I is an ‘intelligent’ mode that throttles up gradually for smoother and more economical driving.

The Hybrid offers more dynamic handling when in S mode through e-Active Shift Control that actives automatically based on the G sensors to ensure the CVT is always in the appropriate rev range while cornering, exiting bends and down hills.

The XV handles as well as the Impreza despite its jacked-up ride height. One of the most noticeable things about the 2021 update is retuned suspension, which involved tweaked damping force to allow the front suspension to move more smoothly.

As a result, the ride feels soft but not spongy and while you feel it bounce over road imperfections, it settles very quickly.

The steering feels a little light but active torque vectoring and the flat-four engine’s low centre of gravity compensates for the higher ride height and keeps the front end pointing where you want when driven with enthusiasm through bends.  

Subaru X-MODE

But while it’s a great city car, the XV is truly in its element on dirt and gravel tracks, with its 220mm ground clearance, all-wheel-drive system and sharply-tuned electronic stability control keeping things stable on loose surfaces.

MORE Subaru X-Mode explained

Off-road capability is further enhanced in the Hybrid S with X-Mode dynamic off-road traction control that helps it climb slippery slopes, and has hill descent control that helps you back down without having to touch the brakes.

What is the Subaru Hybrid S like for safety?

All XVs, except the entry-level 2.0i, are equipped with the third generation of Subaru’s EyeSight active safety suite, which uses stereo cameras to operate autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control.

The top-spec 2.0i-S and Hybrid S versions improve on this with a Vision Assist suite, which uses radar-based sensors to bring other ADAS functions such as blind-spot monitoring, lane-change assist, rear-cross traffic alert, high-beam assist, and reverse automatic braking.

The XV’s compact size makes it easy to park and safely negotiate tight spots. It has good all-round vision, with additional help from a reversing camera, as well as front- and side-view monitors to help you see below the window lines at low speeds.

Passive safety includes anti-lock brakes, stability control, seatbelt reminders for all seats, seatbelt pre-tensioners on the front and outer rear seats.

There are also seven airbags: one apiece ahead of the driver and front passenger; a knee airbag for the driver; an airbag outside each front occupant at chest level to protect from side impacts; and side-curtain airbags extending past both seat rows at head level, protecting occupants front and rear from side impacts.

Subaru XV airbags

Child safety includes two sets of rear-seat ISOFIX anchor points, three top tethers and rear-door child locks.

The Subaru XV was awarded a five-star ANCAP safety rating in May 2017 and the hybrid versions, which first appeared in January 2020, are also covered by this rating.

The Verdict

The XV is still one of the better crossovers, with a ruggedly handsome high-riding hatch aesthetic that other brands haven’t quite managed to emulate. 

Subaru XV

It’s almost alone in its ability to competently handle most road and weather conditions and is very well equipped, especially in this top S spec that brings some decent kit to the table not found in the other XVs, including X-Mode, that are worth the additional expenditure over mid-priced variants.

Usually, we’d recommend paying a little more for a hybrid version but we can’t see real benefit in spending $3500 more on the Hybrid S over the 2.0i-S unless your driving is exclusively on busy urban roads.

Rating 6/10

Pros: Safety, styling, driveability, versatility
Cons: Minimal hybrid benefits, reduced towing capacity, no spare wheel

Subaru XV Hybrid S specifications

Body: 5-door, 5-seat SUV
Drive: AWD
1995cc, 4-cyl, direct injection ‘Boxer’ petrol
Power: 110kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 196Nm @ 4000rpm
Electric Motor power/torque 12.3kW/63Nm
Battery Lithium-ion
Fuel consumption: 6.5L/100km (combined)
Weight: 1536kg
Transmission: CVT
Suspension: MacPherson strut/double wishbone  
L/W/H: 4485/1800/1595mm
Wheelbase: 2665mm
Tracks: 1550/1555mm
Brakes: Front and rear ventilated discs  
Tyres: 225/55 R18 98V Bridgestone Dueler
Wheels: 7Jx18
Price: $40,790

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