At Drivelife, we know that Subaru’s make good adventure vehicles. In fact, their brand has always revolved around this idea. New Zealanders generally love a good road trip, yet in a world confronting climate change, frivolous adventures out to the back country may seem like an irresponsible undertaking.  

However, Subaru seemingly has the solution with the new XV E-Boxer Hybrid.  The adventurous spirit of a Subaru, combined with a hybrid drivetrain to help you tread a bit lighter on New Zealand’s environment.

I was impressed with the XV Premium I drove earlier in the year. Is this the perfect XV for 21st century New Zealand?

The Range

The Subaru XV range consists of three different model variants.  The entry level model is the XV 2.0i Sport, priced at $37,490.  The range then splits-off into two directions, with the XV 2.0i Premium and the XV e-Boxer Hybrid both priced at $42,490.  

DriveLife has already reviewed the Subaru XV 2.0i Premium and the Subaru Impreza in 2020.

Both of the higher spec models are true to their literal names. XV 2.0i Premium adds extra features, such as heated leather seats, extra safety and tech gizmos, plus a few nice aesthetic upgrades. The XV e-Boxer Hybrid instead opts for the petrol/electric hybrid drivetrain for the $5,000 premium over the entry level XV Sport. 

The Subaru XV e-Boxer Hybrid is powered by horizontally-opposed Boxer 2-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine and a Permanent Magnet AC synchronous motor to create the Hybrid drivetrain. The petrol powertrain is paired with Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT transmission.

The XV e-Boxer Hybrid comes with a number of features as standard, including; 17’’ alloys, 7 airbags, an 6.5-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, 6.3’’ LCD multi-function display, 6-speaker audio, reverse camera, rear-parking sensors, keyless entry with push button start, electronic park brake, power-folding mirrors, privacy glass, auto headlights, daytime running lights, rear LED lights, auto stop-start, auto vehicle hold, ABS, ESC, EBD, traction control system, brake assist, a limited-slip-differential, X-mode, tyre pressure monitor, and roof rails.

All XV models also receive Subaru’s Eyesight Driver Assist System, which includes; adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, lane sway and departure warning, pre-collision braking, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management, lead vehicle start alert and brake light recognition.

The XV range is offered in nine different colours, including some striking and interesting colours (like my favourite – Sunburst Orange). The XV e-Boxer Hybrid gains a tenth colour option, being Lagoon Blue Pearl, which is also the colour of our test vehicle. 

You can view the full specifications of the XV e-Boxer Hybrid and the rest of the Subaru XV range on the Subaru New Zealand website. 

First Impressions

I’ve always liked the styling of the Subaru XV. The chunky alloys and tyres, the tasteful use of plastic cladding, and the heightened ground clearance make the XV appear more rugged compared with its rivals. 

Walking up to the car, I wasn’t expecting any surprises on the looks front, yet from afar, there was something different I couldn’t quite put my finger on. 

After a minute or two, it clicked. The roof-rails now sit flush with the roof line. I don’t really understand why Subaru made this decision for the Hybrid, but looks wise, it doesn’t disturb things too much. 

The major distinguishing feature between the Hybrid and the rest of the XV range is the front bumper. The trims surrounding the fog lights are now silver, whereas they’re black on other XV models. The front grille also has a silver garnish on it too.
On the subject of colours, I was impressed with the Lagoon Blue Pearl colour on our test vehicle, which is unique to the XV Hybrid.

Overall, the differences are subtle, but they do soften the appearance of the car.  For me, they’re no big deal, plus the car does look good in Lagoon Blue. The XV Hybrid gets a thumbs up from me. 

The Interior

The design of the interior of the XV and Impreza is fundamentally the same across the range. I’ve already expressed my thoughts on the interiors of the XV Premium and the Impreza in their reviews.

I drove the XV Hybrid after testing the Subaru Impreza. The Impreza impressed with its interior and feature offerings for the price point, even if the exterior styling left me uninspired.

The opposite is true for the XV Hybrid. The exterior design is sharp, but unfortunately, it appears that the accountants managed to find their way into the interior. 

Inside the XV Hybrid, you’ll find the usual XV bits. You get comfortable seats, a good driving position, Subaru’s tri-screen set-up, and some peculiar button placements. However, it doesn’t take long until you begin to notice the cost cutting measures.

Starting off, the dashboard in the XV Hybrid appears to have been lifted directly out of the Subaru Impreza, while the seats and steering wheel have been taken from the XV Sport.

Even though they’re virtually the same, the XV Sport has an orange contrast stitching finish on them, which on the Sport and the Premium variants continues across the dashboard. The Impreza does not have this contrast stitching, meaning that in the XV hybrid, the stitching doesn’t continue onto the dash. This isn’t a biggie, yet the lack of continuity does seem a bit odd.

A unique component of the XV’s interior is the tri-screen set-up. There’s the centre infotainment, a 6.3’’ vehicle information display above that, plus a 4’’ display on the instrument cluster. Personally, I like the arrangement, even though most of the useful information all comes from the infotainment and the instrument cluster displays. The third screen atop the dash is mostly there for fun.

On that third screen, the XV Hybrid gains one additional graphic showing the drivetrain and battery charge status, which adds to the small list of useful information this screen actually shows.

A major difference inside the XV Hybrid compared with other XV models relates to the infotainment screen. The XV Hybrid uses a smaller 6.5’’ screen, whereas both the XV Sport and XV Premium use an 8’’ screen. All the same functionality is there, but the 6.5’’ screen is noticeably smaller and not as nice to use after the 8’’ screen. It’s smaller size means a larger plastic fascia surrounding it, resulting in a finish which looks cheaper too.

I find this decision by Subaru surprising given that the Hybrid is only XV model in the range that gets this treatment. Even the Impreza gets an 8’’ screen, despite being $10,000 cheaper!  

So it has a smaller screen and some missing stitching? So what? Well, it doesn’t stop there.

The dual-zone climate control has been removed. You miss out on Hill Start Assist, and to make space for the battery, the spare tyre has been replaced with a pump.

Other smaller cost saving measures include using different trims for the door handles and around the gearstick. The XV Hybrid gets black plastic handles, whereas other XV’s and the Impreza have metal finishes. The garnish surrounding the gear stick on Hybrid is finished with a cheaper-looking silver plastic, rather than usual piano black.   

Although the differences are starting to stack up, it’s not all bad news. To Subaru’s credit, the XV Hybrid does come with the extra safety features typically reserved only for the XV Premium. This means you do get Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic alert. Arguably, this stuff is more important than some interior bits.

Overall, the interior of the XV hybrid is a bit of a parts-bin special. But let’s face it, hybrid drivetrains are expensive, and I do not doubt that Subaru would have been pushed down this path to keep the price down for the consumer.

Even though the XV Hybrid misses out on a number of features, the interior is still a comfortable place for its occupants. The main downside is that you simply do not seem to get the same value for money, which is generally a strong selling point of XV range.

Let’s hope the hybrid drivetrain makes the spared expenses worthwhile.

The Drive

Under the hood of the XV Hybrid is the same 2-litre 4-cylinder boxer engine powering the entire XV range. In the XV Hybrid, it produces 110kW of power and 196Nm of torque, only 5kW down compared with the XV Sport and XV Premium. The engine is paired to Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT transmission.

Despite the slight loss of power from the petrol engine, the electric motor more than compensates for this. The hybrid system adds on a Permanent Magnet AC Synchronous Motor, developing 12.3kW of power and 66Nm of torque.  

As mentioned in the review of the XV Premium, the boxer engine offers a good base of performance for this segment, even if the engine does produce a lot of noise when under load.
It gives you the impression that the engine is working hard for not a lot of momentum. I was also left wanting for more mid-to-high end power, after noting that it felt like it bogged down after shifting, which was especially noticeable when passing on the open road. 

The CVT transmission? Subaru has their one sorted out. No complaints here.

So how does the driving experience of the XV Hybrid compare? The most obvious difference is the low-end to mid-range performance. The XV Hybrid definitely had more poke than its exclusively petrol-powered brothers, largely thanks to extra 66Nm of torque from the electric motor. Even though the 4.8Ah battery adds up to 102kg of weight, the XV Hybrid still felt sprightlier for around town driving.

The ride in the XV Hybrid is virtually the same as the XV Premium, which is a good thing. Subaru’s all-wheel-drive grip, plus the XVs low centre of gravity gives it good stability through corners. The suspension is also nicely set-up for managing open-road tarmac too. 

Subaru claims that the XV Hybrid has 4 driving modes. However, there’s no driving modes to manually select, meaning that you rely on the XV Hybrid to do its own thing. Of these four modes, one of those is an EV driving mode, where the car will briefly run on battery power alone.

In reality, you can barely drive the XV on battery power alone. Is it a range problem? Well, maybe. The main reason is that as soon as you even feather the accelerator, the car will fire up the internal combustion engine again. The only instances where EV mode would come on, and stay on, was when you were briefly coasting or driving downhill. 

I tried very hard to keep the car in EV mode in certain situations, but it wasn’t easy to do. It does make you wonder whether it’s actually being useful at all.

Furthermore, I can’t really say that XV Hybrid significantly reduced operating noise either. The engine would still be operating most of the time, and the 2-litre boxer is already rather quiet when not under load.

So, the XV Hybrid does have better performance in the low-to-mid range, but otherwise the driving experience is not too dissimilar from the XV Premium we tested. Importantly, it doesn’t really address the other performance issues I experienced with the XV Premium. Having the extra oomph down low is a plus, though I’m not entirely convinced whether it’s enough to justify the extra $5,000.

Hence we should consider some of the core arguments for buying a Hybrid, which are fuel economy and emissions.

During our time with the XV Hybrid, much of our driving was spread across the motorway, with some suburban and inner-city driving. We achieved an average fuel economy figure of 7.2L/100kms, which isn’t too far behind Subaru’s claimed 6.5L/100kms. However, it’s not a huge improvement over the XV Premium we tested, which managed 7.8L/100kms. We also managed to get 6.9L/100kms from the Subaru Impreza, which uses the same petrol engine without the hybrid assistance. 

Seeing that the difference was only a measly 0.6L/100km, this result got me thinking – what distance would you need to travel to recoup the $5,000 cost over the XV Sport?

This mightn’t be the most precise maths you’ll see, but my rough calculation with our fuel consumption results indicates that you’d need to travel 312,500Kms just to recover your money in fuel savings, and that doesn’t include any maintenance which may arise. 

Sure, there’s a bunch of assumptions underlying that figure, but even if I heavily skew the numbers in Subaru’s favour, you’d still need to cover 108,695Kms just to get your money back. Again, no maintenance or servicing costs included.

I strongly suspect that many buyers would need to go well past the 200,000Kms mark before seeing their cash back. I know I’d rather have heated seats and a sunroof for that mileage, if spending the extra $5,000.

I’ll include my calculations at the end of this review, so you can see how clever (or dumb) I am.   

Co2 emissions aren’t substantially lower either. The XV Hybrid emits a combined figure of 147g/km, whereas a petrol-only XV puts out 159g/km. Both cars meet Euro 6B standards.

I support the argument that every little difference counts, yet I suspect you may be better off using the extra $5000 to plant some trees. 

Another unexpected victim of the drivetrain swap is range. A smaller 48L fuel tank is used in the XV Hybrid, down 15L with the 63L tank in the other XV variants. With our fuel economy results (7.2L/100kms), you would get approximately 667Kms range from a full tank. Compared with our fuel economy result from testing the XV Premium (7.8L/100kms), you’d get around 807kms.

The Numbers

If you’ve read the whole article – Good! This part will make sense. If not, enjoy the pretty pictures instead. It must be bedtime soon?

Let’s assume the cost of 91 Octane is $2.00 per litre. It’s obviously been higher than this before, but the price per litre was lower than $2.00 when we tested the XV Hybrid. 

We’ll use our average fuel economy results for this exercise, being 7.2L/100Kms for XV Hybrid, 7.8L/100Kms for the XV Premium. Subaru claims that the Sport and the Premium have the same fuel economy, meaning we’ll use the 7.8L/100Kms figure achieved on our test of the XV Premium. 

To cover 100kms, the XV Hybrid should cost $14.40 (2*7.2), whereas the XV Sport/Premium is $15.60.  So, $15.60 – $14.40 = $1.60 is your fuel saving every 100Kms.

Take the extra cost and divide by the fuel savings ($5000/$1.60) equals 3,215. Multiply by 100 (Kms), that gives you 312,500.

There’s definitely some assumptions and technicalities underlying these figures. So how about we change them around a bit?

Let’s use Subaru’s combined fuel economy claim of 6.5L/100Kms for the XV Hybrid. For the XV Sport, let’s use the urban fuel economy rating of 8.8L/100Kms (the worst of Subaru’s claimed figures).

Now, there’s a 2.3L/100Kms between them, in their best and worst-case scenarios. Cost of petrol will remain the same.

To cover 100kms, the XV Hybrid should cost $13.00, whereas the XV Sport/Premium is $17.60.  So, $17.60 – $13.00 = $4.60 is your fuel saving every 100Kms.

Take the extra cost and divide by the fuel savings ($5000/$4.60) equals 1,086.95. Multiply by 100, that gives you 108,695Km.


The Competition

There are several options available if you’re looking to purchase a crossover. The list below outlines many of the available options. However, not many of these are hybrids. The Subaru XV E-boxer Hybrid is unique on this list, being the only all-wheel drive hybrid available. 

Brand/ModelEnginePower (kW)/Torque (Nm)Economy, L/100km (claimed)SeatsBoot Space, LitresTowing Capacity, KgPrice Highest to Lowest
Mazda CX-30 Limited (AWD)2.5-litre 4-cylinder139/2006.8 54221200$50,990 
Jeep Compass Limited (AWD)2.4 litre 4-cylinder129/2299.751000$46,990
Kia Seltos Limited (AWD)1.6-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder130/2657.654331250$46,990
Peugeot 2008 GT (FWD)1.2-litre turbocharged 3-cylinder 115/2406.154341200$45,990
Nissan Juke Ti (FWD)1-litre turbocharged 3-cylinder84/1805.854221250$44,990
Hyundai Kona GDi Elite (AWD)1.6 litre turbocharged 4-cylinder130/2656.753611250$42,990
Skoda Kamiq Monte Carlo (FWD)1.5-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder110/2505.554001250$42,990
Subaru XV E-boxer Hybrid (AWD)2.0-litre horizontally opposed 4-cylinder hybrid122/2626.553451270$42,490
Subaru XV Premium (AWD)2.0-litre horizontally opposed 4-cylinder115/1967.053101400$42,490
Toyota C-HR Limited Hybrid (FWD)1.8-litre 4-cylinder hybrid90/1424.35318600$40,490
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross (AWD)1.5-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder112/2547.753741600$40,990
Honda HR-V Sport NT (FWD)1.8-litre 4-cylinder105/1726.95437800$40,990
Kia Niro EX HEV (FWD)1.8-litre 4-cylinder hybrid104/2653.854011300$39,990
Mazda CX-3 GSX (AWD)2.0-litre 4-cylinder110/1956.752641200$38,695
Suzuki Vitara Turbo (AWD)1.4-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder103/2206.253751200$37,990

Pros

  • Extra low/mid-range performance
  • All the safety gizmos
  • Nice Lagoon Blue Pearl colour

Cons

  • False economy
  • Parts-bin interior
  • Missing features compared to other XVs
  • Less range
  • No spare tyre
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Economy
7
Interior
6
Performance
7
Safety
9
Styling
7
Value
5
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