With the XV, Subaru has brought true all-wheel-drive credibility to the Nissan Qashqai segment by turning crossover convention upside down. The received wisdom is that customers here don’t really need four driven wheels.

They want a roomy cabin and a raised seating position, wrapped in a package with some of the visual presence and desirability of an SUV. The XV takes an entirely different approach: it’s for those who don’t want a car that looks like a larger SUV but who do have a need for the off-road capability that such a car might provide.

Nic Cackett

Road tester
There’s no spare wheel as standard, which could prove problematic for an off-roader

So the XV is aimed at people who will be happy with an enlarged but fairly typical five-door hatchback body style but are interested in the traction and ground clearance to tackle snow and mud, field and green lane without the slightest worry.

Sharing a platform, many components and a viscous coupling-based full-time four-wheel drive system with the Impreza hatchback, the XV has a longer wheelbase than the regular hatch as well as a more generous ride height. It also has narrower, lower sills and wider door openings for easier entry, and a lower boot floor for greater practicality.

Chunky bumpers and plastic extensions for the wheel arches and sills are the main external identifiers. Subaru has reinforced the Impreza’s underbody for the XV with off-road performance and better crash safety in mind, in particular adding stiffness to the body sides and at the base of the A-pillars. New diagonal cross-members under the floor add strength in the event of an offset rear-end collision.

At the same time, it has beefed up the Impreza’s MacPherson strut front and double wishbone rear suspension with stiffer mounts, high-response dampers and various new braces.

Rebound springs are fitted to counteract the body roll that a long-travel chassis unavoidably brings.

Top 5 Crossovers

  • Nissan Qashqai
    The Nissan Qashqai gets a new look and more functionality in an effort to attract a new generation of buyers

    Nissan Qashqai

    1
  • The Yeti is a crossover that's available with both two- and four-wheel drive

    Skoda Yeti

    2
  • CX-5's exterior has been shaped using Mazda's 'Kodo - soul of motion' design

    Mazda CX-5

    3
  • It looks like a 4x4 but it isn’t. So what’s the point of this crossover?

    Peugeot 3008

    4
  • Suzuki SX4 S-Cross
    The Suzuki's low price tag will make it appealing to many

    Suzuki SX4 S-Cross

    5

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Car review
    27 February 2015
    The second pure Mercedes-AMG model is a triumph of engineering and design, and should have rivals from Porsche and Audi worried
  • Tesla Model S P85D
    The P85D gets dual motors, for a 0-60mph time of just 3.2sec
    First Drive
    27 February 2015
    Dual motors and a power hike give Tesla's electric family car supercar acceleration - and the rest of the package is as strong as ever
  • Car review
    26 February 2015
    Flagship performance C-Class is more than ever a true rival for BMW's M3, and impresses with both its breadth of ability and its practicality
  • First Drive
    26 February 2015
    The new Renault Megane GT 220 is essentially a toned-down version of the hallowed Renaultsport 275, but does it have the required DNA?
  • First Drive
    20 February 2015
    Remember Mercedes' 6x6 monster off-roader? Well, this is the 4x4 version, and we've driven it.