• Rugged XV works off road but not well enough on it to earn broad appeal
  • A rear-view parking camera is standard in SE trim. Useful as there are no parking sensors included as standard on the base model
  • The hawk-eye-style headlights have become a recognisable part of Subaru’s current design DNA
  • The XV gets silver and black 17-inch alloy wheels as standard, even on base models
  • Subaru’s huge cubbyhole remains front and centre, but the join in the plastic console is emblematic of poor attention to detail
  • Despite its SUV-like vantage point, the measuring tape revealed that the XV has 40mm less front headroom than a Hyundai i30
  • There’s certainly no problem getting in or out of the XV’s rear seats, although the Qashqai is roomier
  • Full marks for the XV’s heater controls, which are pleasingly simple to use and large enough to operate while wearing gloves
  • Those expecting a big boot from the XV’s taller body will be disappointed; 380 litres of space is standard in the C-segment
  • A Nissan Qashqai has 190mm of ground clearance, but the XV has 220mm – more than a Land Rover Freelander
  • Our 2.0-litre diesel test car clocked the standing quarter mile in 16.8sec at 81.9mph
  • Subaru’s perfectly square 145bhp ‘EE’ boxer diesel is expected to account for 65 per cent of XV sales in the UK
  • Subaru claims that the XV has the lowest centre of gravity in the segment
  • The Subaru XV's profile is hatch-like but it rides like an off-roader
  • Handy on a muddy track, but too rough around the edges to score highly

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.

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