Never is it pleasurable to open road-test proceedings on a gloomy note, but this week’s subject arrives with its maker flailing for relevancy.
Subaru’s UK market share was just over a tenth of a per cent in 2016, and somehow that fell last year. Consider that the reason you see so few of these star-spangled Japanese cars is that no single model can drag itself into four-figure sales, although business in the brand’s homeland and the USA is much more healthy.
Here, though, it seems the only way is up.
Identifying a route is the difficulty, and so at a time when the WRX STi, with its rally-soaked heritage, faces a shaky future – one that doesn’t involve UK sales at all – perhaps it’s time to reassess what the definitive Subaru of today actually is. It is a car that almost certainly features a hatchback because, aside from the two-seater BRZ, whose shape was engineered by Toyota for the purposes of the near-identical GT86, every car Subaru now builds does.
Does it have four-wheel drive? Of course it does. Subaru’s Symmetrical All Wheel Drive (SAWD) system first saw action as an optional extra on the Leone Wagon of 1972 – a pioneering development in the world of affordable road cars – and is part of the brand’s genetic code. As to whether it should enjoy a raised ride height, you could argue it either way, but, given current tastes, it wouldn’t do any harm.
The XV, introduced in 2012 and considerably but discreetly altered for 2018, ticks those boxes. The previous incarnation was criticised by some of this parish for a lack of perceived interior quality and a ride that mirrored a little too diligently the tough, utilitarian persona the model exudes.
However, if this incarnation were to remedy those caveats, it’s a persona Subaru can turn to its advantage because, if there’s something in short supply among the current crossover set, it’s authenticity. After all, few people really aspire to own a crossover, but a dependable, comfortable hatch with genuine off-road ability? To a certain type of person, such a device would hold no small appeal.
Time to find out, then, if Subaru’s mojo-finding mission is at least on the right track.