Without lavishing a disproportionate amount of time, money and resources on fettling the XV, Subaru was always going to leave this car’s dynamic manners open to compromise.
And although the car feels rugged enough to hustle down forest tracks and across grassy expanses for decades to come, there’s no escaping the fact that, on the road, it’s not a match for the classiest crossovers.
Not that Subaru’s traditional customer base will mind. The brand hasn’t always embraced its agricultural fans, but its latest effort seems particularly well geared to the ‘problem in the lower field’ set.
There’s a healthy amount of ground clearance (220mm – which is more than a Land Rover Freelander, while a Nissan Qashqai only gets 150mm) and the default 50/50 torque split is hardy enough to deal with the kind of ground that would be likely to foil a school-run 4x4.
That said, the XV lacks lockable individual axle diffs, a transfer box or hill descent control. If you disable the traction control, though, by turning off the VDC system you can maintain momentum by creating some wheelspin on very slippery surfaces.
Subaru's four-wheel-drive system shuffles power quickly and effectively, and for all but the most demanding off-road use, the XV copes well.
The fact that the Subaru doesn’t supply the rolling comfort of its plusher peers is no surprise – its character is far too rufty-tufty for that – but even hardier bottoms will find its ride wilfully inconsistent.
Thanks to the engineers’ efforts underneath, the XV isn’t affected by lackadaisical roll at low speeds but vertical body control becomes quite approximate at high speeds. Meanwhile, the rolling chassis has a tendency to register minor imperfections in the road with the diligence of a Braille student.
Whereas those occasional intrusions are a reminder of the car’s fibrous contact with the road, the electronic power steering is an altogether less fluent interpreter. At best, it transmits a gluey impression of tyre loading. At worst, especially on small adjustments around the straight-ahead, it feels overly light and woolly.