Subaru XV

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Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder boxer diesel, turbocharged
Transmission: six-speed manual
Power: 147 PS at 3,700 rpm
Torque: 350 Nm between 1,600 and 2,400 rpm
Fuel consumption (combined cycle): 50.4 mpg
CO2 emissions: 146 g/km
Top speed: 120 mph
Acceleration (0-62 mph): 9.3 seconds
Price: Diesel from £24,295 (1.6 petrol from £21,295)

The XV is supposed to be a new type of car for Subaru, but is probably more accurately thought of as a reincarnation of one of the company’s old favourites. It’s a crossover, a category of vehicle that straddles the boundary between normal saloons and estates on the one hand and more serious off-road vehicles on the other. Since Subaru has been more or less unique in equipping the majority of its cars with all-wheel drive, it is well qualified to develop such products and the XV can be seen as a spiritual successor to the second-generation Forester produced by the company between 2003 and 2008, which was also based on the Impreza chassis and had a raised estate car body. The latest version of the Forester is a much more orthodox SUV-style vehicle and that left a gap in the Subaru range for a small-to-medium-sized crossover which the XV now fills.

Subaru’s distinctive “symmetrical” all-wheel drive technology lies at the heart of what the company is all about. It’s a notably “pure” layout and as well as providing the obvious advantages that all-wheel drive offers in terms of traction, the Subaru system has another key element; it is always paired with a “boxer” style engine, an unusual type used by only a few car manufacturers. One of those manufacturers is Porsche, which puts Subaru in very good company indeed. The advantage of a boxer engine is that it lowers a car’s centre of gravity, making it safer and more stable. Subaru’s commitment to the boxer layout is such that it went to the trouble and expense of developing a diesel boxer, even though it would have probably have been much easier to buy in a cheaper (non-boxer) engine from another manufacturer for the comparatively small number of diesels the company sells.

My test XV was fitted with that diesel engine, and it was interesting to be reminded of its distinctive qualities. It’s smoother and quieter than most other diesels but still puts out an agreeable growl under acceleration. It also makes the XV feel quite lively, providing an echo of the fondly remembered, although much faster, “Porsche-bashing” XT version of the old Forester. Some rival diesels of similar size have edged ahead in terms of official CO2 emissions and fuel consumption figures since the Subaru engine first appeared a few years ago, although, on the other hand, the XV diesel’s official combined cycle fuel consumption of 50.4 mpg can, if its trip computer is accurate, be matched in real world conditions (albeit with a gentle driving style), something that’s not achievable in many other cars. The advantages of the boxer/all-wheel drive combination also make themselves felt in the XV’s handling, which is supremely safe and secure; the downside of that safety and security is a slight absence of excitement.

The Impreza-style body means that the XV is also roomy and practical. The interior trim is attractive in an understated way, and if past experience is anything to go by, it should, like the rest of this Subaru, prove very hard wearing as well. One drawback – prices of Subarus have been creeping up over the last few years. That’s not really the company’s fault but an inevitable by-product of the strengthening Japanese yen - and unlike rivals such as Nissan, Toyota and Honda, Subaru doesn’t have any production sites in Europe that could help off-set the problem. The prices of the entry-level 1.6-litre petrol versions start at £21,295 but the most expensive diesels are almost £30,000, which is Range Rover Evoque territory.

Overall, though, the XV still has plenty to offer – especially for drivers who fancy something a bit different.

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