I spent much of last Thursday driving the new Subaru XV. I trekked across the Midlands from Rockingham circuit to Stratford and then back to central London.

I have to admit, I have a soft spot for the Subaru formula. Back in 1997 I had an Impreza Turbo saloon as a long-termer, which was followed a year later by the first Forester model.

I drove both cars the length and breadth of the country and was a big fan of the permanent four-wheel drive and the long-striding chassis tuning. (The ‘97 Impreza was still quite compliant and gently-boosted road rocket: much less hardcore than later versions). I revelled in the all-wheel performance and Subaru’s insistence on being intelligently different.

It wasn’t just the flat-four engines and proper permanent four-wheel drive and other quirks like frameless doors, it was the company’s whole approach. The Forester concept was years ahead of its time and, although it took some time, the diesel boxer engine is a triumph of alternative thinking. It remains smoother and more refined than most conventional in-line oil burners, all of which have been honed over a decade and a half.