Although it may be a little late to market with the XV, Subaru 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 if it could replicate the market success of Nissan’s niche-defining Qashqai, it is launching 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 car maker 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. Now that it has, though, Subaru UK is convinced that the XV will really sell. This is forecast to be the brand’s most popular model by the middle of next year.
But does the idea of an extra-rugged, all-paw hatchback on stilts make sense in the real world? Has Subaru hit on a vehicle concept with enough mass-market appeal here? Or is this another of the bit-part players that we’ve grown used to from the Japanese brand over the years?