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

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, updated in the 2016 mid-life refresh, 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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