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.

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Subaru range

Driven this week

  • Car review
    21 October 2016
    Can Seat’s first SUV impress, even with the heavy burden of expectation?
  • Car review
    21 October 2016
    The last hurrah for the current Aston Martin Vantage adds the track-ready GT8 to the range
  • Audi S5 Sportback
    First Drive
    20 October 2016
    New S5 Sportback is more spacious, better to drive and offers a calmer ride than before, but rivals offer greater involvement
  • Renault Clio RS 220 Trophy
    First Drive
    19 October 2016
    Mildly revised hot hatch is enjoyable on UK roads but continues to play second fiddle to the Ford Fiesta ST
  • 2016 Smart fortwo Brabus cabrio xclusive
    First Drive
    18 October 2016
    Mechanical upgrades make the Smart Fortwo Brabus cabrio better to drive, but it’s too pricey to recommend