Although it may be a little late to market with the Subaru XV, the manufacturer has been making crossovers since before they were fashionable. Its original, the Legacy Outback, came along in 1995 and proved to be a big commercial success for the company.

Now in its fourth generation, the Legacy has 220mm of ground clearance, exactly the same as the XV’s. The Impreza-based Forester, launched in 1997, is a closer relation of the XV, although its estate-only body style gives it more of a utilitarian flavour.

And so the Subaru XV is a crossover for people who don’t like crossovers. Although Subaru’s UK distributor, IM Group, would be delighted to replicate the market success of Nissan’s niche-defining Qashqai.

2016 Geneva Motorshow update: Next generation Subaru XV concept revealed

The XV, however, is a car that’s almost the mirror image of the Nissan: a proper compact off-roader with full-time four-wheel drive and some serious ground clearance, but one that looks like a fairly ordinary hatchback from the wheel arches up.

It’s remarkable that it has taken so long for a manufacturer so heavily invested in all-wheel drive to come up with a car like the XV when bigger and less outdoorsy brands considered it a no-brainer in the early part of the previous decade.

But does the idea of an extra-rugged, all-paw hatchback on stilts make sense in the real world? Is the Subaru XV a vehicle concept with enough mass-market appeal?

Or is this another of the bit-part players that we’ve grown used to from the Japanese brand over the years?

Top 5 Mid-size execs

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Subaru range

Driven this week

  • Citroën C4 Grand Picasso
    First Drive
    26 August 2016
    The Citroën Grand C4 Picasso gets tweaked styling, improved tech and new personalisation options to keep it ahead of rivals
  • Car review
    26 August 2016
    Wolfsburg celebrates the GTI’s 40th with its most extreme version yet
  • Kia Optima Sportwagon
    First Drive
    25 August 2016
    New Kia estate looks the part, has good space and handles tidily, but its engine's flexibility and refinement let it down
  •  Kia Optima PHEV
    First Drive
    25 August 2016
    Plug-in hybrid Optima is a practical, tax-efficient PHEV that undercuts rivals and fulfils its main remit well, but keen drivers need not apply
  • Lamborghini Huracán LP610-4 Spyder
    First Drive
    24 August 2016
    Awful driving position aside, drop-top Huracán handles UK roads well. It's more dynamically rounded than its rangemates, but lacks rivals' handling bite