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Engine options, top speed, acceleration and refinement

The decision to relieve the Subaru XV of its diesel engine option, and to rely instead on a naturally aspirated petrol engine as the stronger of two combustive picks, has dramatically reduced the amount of accessible torque available in the car. And because that decision was taken at the same time as the one to limit the car’s transmission options to one – a CVT automatic of the sort that, experience teaches, absolutely relies on an engine with a hefty wad of torque in order to feel adequately responsive – a dramatic shift in performance character has been affected on the XV, and it isn’t a very welcome one.

Back in 2012, we road tested the original XV 2.0d and found it a likeably stout and workmanlike car with an engine that didn’t mind knuckling down, but the new version is one-dimensional. On the road, it’s regrettably slow – assessed both subjectively from the driver’s seat and objectively when you consider the relative performance of the other cars the money can buy.

Leave the CVT in ‘drive’ and it seems to meter out torque in strange 500rpm lumps as you seek a fine accelerator response. Even if you want to drive the XV gently, it’s not easy or rewarding to do.

It should not, for example, take a near-£30,000 car such as this more than ten seconds to hit 60mph, when a Volkswagen T-Roc of a similar price can do it in less than seven and a like-for-like diesel needs about eight-and-a-half.

But it’s the way the XV’s engine and gearbox combine on part-throttle that’s actually a much bigger problem than that disappointing outright performance level. Subaru’s CVT isn’t, mercifully, the kind to spin to stratospheric revs with every little dig for forward impetus, but somehow it still makes it as if you’re driving the XV through two inches of treacle all the time and it is perpetually sapping your momentum and blighting the car’s responsiveness.

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Choose Manual mode instead and you can conjure a slightly closer, more satisfactory sense of control over the car’s rate of acceleration and your own conservation of momentum, but it’s nothing like as good as a paddleshift manual mode on a torque-converter auto, let alone that of a twin-clutch transmission.

Does the CVT at least produce commendable fuel economy from that 2.0-litre engine? Not really, or at least, not by wider crossover class standards. On a disciplined 60-70mph motorway cruise, we couldn’t even get the XV to return 40mpg, while the unsympathetic pasting you’re obliged to give the accelerator in order to get the car moving along moderately briskly causes your economy return to sink perilously close to a number beginning with a ‘two’.