THE small SUV segment is where the cool kids hang out.
Car makers are getting all hip and bold in this class - new players include the Toyota C-HR and Hyundai's Kona - but Subaru's XV was smoking behind the bike sheds long before most rivals.
Unmistakeable in design and with a mighty dose of flair and all-round ability, the Impreza-based XV has proved a hit with active lifestyle buyers, the young and young-at-heart.
Compact dimensions mean the XV is not a true family SUV and you won't haul a huge amount of kit in its 310L boot space. Active types can drop the rear seats to lug sports and adventure gear and the 220mm of ground clearance and all-wheel drive mean it's a lot more "go-anywhere” than most, if not all, rivals.
Debuting in January 2012, the first-generation XV ran until June this year and there are plenty of used examples listed as owners upgrade.
A sole engine powered XVs, the 110kW 2.0-litre four-cylinder boxer turning a six-speed manual or constantly variable transmission with paddle-shifters.
Three grades came with unique 17-inch alloys. Hawk-eye style headlights made a strong frontal impression and the funky, bright colours were a no-cost option, so many went for the XV's signature Tangerine orange pearl, complementing the SUV's out-there intent.
Seven airbags and reversing camera helped it to earn a five-star safety rating.
Entry came with the 2.0i manual, which launched from $28,490 before on-roads. Standard were fog lights, auto stop-start, iPod/Bluetooth/USB connectivity, hill start assist, auto aircon, cruise control and 4.3-inch multi-function display with digital readouts for speed, trip info and fuel efficiency.
Next, the 2.0i-L added a 6.1-inch screen, voice activated satnav, dual zone climate control, sunroof and leather trimmed steering wheel and gear knob.
Top of the tree, the 2.0i-S added leather trim, power driver's seat, heated front seats, chrome door handles, drilled alloy pedals and HID headlights. In May 2015 Subaru enhanced the infotainment and dropped prices by $2000 over the previous year in the face of strengthening competition.
The 2.0i XV gained a 6.2-inch touchscreen, the others a seven-incher. Cabins were jazzed up, rear passengers got a pair of USB ports and, in the 2.0i-L and 2.0i-S, there were new multi-information displays and silver stitching replaced black on the leather.
The model earned praise for its bold design, good cabin space, decent standard kit and, for a small SUV, off-road competence and ground clearance. Tow rating was 1400kg.
Not so good were the rather underpowered engine (not helped by the sometimes tardy CVT), hard seats and the small boot.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Many owners are content but a recurring grumble is excessive oil consumption, a Subaru trait. Many report regular oil top-ups between services. Serious engine damage can occur if owners don't stay on top of this.
Poor Bluetooth also crops up in owner feedback, while others have reported gremlins with the CVT. Others bemoan the boot, so check it's suitable for your typical cargo tasks.
If you've not driven a CVT before, also decide if you can live with the occasional sluggishness at low revs and the whine when the throttle's floored. Subaru's CVT is one of the better ones but it still sucks a lot of fun from the driving.
Many XVs will have been city slickers, so target one of these rather than one that's actually explored its off-road potential. Scratches to the body or plastic arches, plus any damage or dirt underneath, suggest a harder life.
The model has had three safety recalls: in April 2013 for a wiring harness rerouting; August 2015 for a wiring harness malfunction; and March 2016 for a starter motor pinion gear. Check these have been done.
One of the few small SUVs with genuine off-road ability to go with its tough, fun looks.
It has its compromises and reports of excessive oil use are a concern but it's still a decent all-round package and good value.
Aim for a 2.0-L or 2.0i-S for the better kit and target a pampered town-use only one. For extra fun, find an orange XV. They look superb.
Sharleen Pereira: We've had our XV for four years and it drives beautifully. We have no complaints except for the very small boot space. It drives wonderfully well on muddy roads. Even in extreme cold weather, it starts immediately with no hesitation.
Elizabeth Downes: I bought my XV in June 2015 to replace an 11-year-old Forester. I bought the XV without test driving it - and love it. My only disappointment is the boot as I was used to the Forester's larger space. My dogs sit on the rear seats or I fold the seats down for them.
Karen Artis: We bought a 2.0i-S when they first came out. It's ideal for putting a bike in the back without removing the wheel or for taking our two dogs and it tows a trailer easily. We bought another, a 2016 2.0i. I always carried a spare litre of oil in the older XV because it used a lot but Subaru seems to have rectified the problem on our newer one.
THE EXPERTS SAY - RED BOOK
From launch to the arrival of the second-generation model this year, Subaru sold about 54,000 XVs here.
Among used listings, the sportier 2.0i-S variant is the most popular, followed by the base 2.0i and the comfier 2.0i-L. Manuals account for fewer than one in five.
Retained value for the 2.0i manual of 2012 ($28,490 new) is $16,950 for a vehicle in good condition that's done 15,000km a year. The range-topping 2.0i-S of the same year ($36,990 new) is now about $22,050. This year's models are respectively $25,050 and $33,200. (New prices reduced since 2012 to $26,740 and $35,540.)
The retained value of the XV from 2012 outpaces major competitors of that year, including the VW Tiguan, Mitsubishi ASX, Hyundai ix35 and Nissan Dualis. This year, prices have fallen behind the Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V, possibly reflecting the arrival of the new-generation XV this year.
SUBARU XV 2012-17
PRICE NEW $26,490-$36,990
SAFETY 5 stars
ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl, 110kW/196Nm
TRANSMISSION 6-speed man, CVT; AWD
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