Edward Stephens takes the rough with the smooth in the Subaru XV.
While more and more manufacturers are choosing to launch five-seater family vehicles with “on demand” four-wheel-drive for when the going gets tough it’s not easy to find one that ticks all the right boxes.
Many are Jack of all trades but master of none.
They are not as comfortable to drive as your regular family hatchback and at the same time their off-road ability is questionable.
That’s not a criticism that you can make of Subaru’s XV, one of the most important vehicles to come from the Japanese car maker in decades.
When you first view the macho-looking XV it appears like an out and out off-roader which would be happier tearing across fields or up to its axles in mud.
So it was unexpected to find that it genuinely is an enjoyable car to drive on the highway.
Not only is it smooth with none of the choppy feel of a 4x4 but it’s also a sporty performance car which is rewarding to drive.
With a 2.0-litre, 147bhp diesel engine under the bonnet this car is far quicker and more responsive than its appearance would suggest, hitting 62 miles per hour from rest in just 9.3 seconds on its way to a top speed of 120 mph.
It’s certainly more like driving a sporting hatchback than a 4x4, with firm suspension, good road holding and a surprisingly comfortable ride.
Add to all that it’s off-road ability and it’s easy to see just why it’s proving to be a very popular buy.
And because, under normal circumstances, the XV operates in front-wheel-drive only you get all the benefits of a very economical car.
With careful driving I managed to easily achieve more than 51 miles per gallon over a variety of both town and motorway driving.
Subaru has always been known for its flat four, petrol-fuelled boxer engine so when the company made the decision to introduce a diesel engine it decided to stick to what it knew best and introduced a diesel flat four. And judging from both the pulling power and economy of my test car it was an inspired move.
When the car was first introduced I had the opportunity to drive one over the sort of rugged terrain that buyers would be unlikely to subject their own vehicle to, so I know it can handle the rough stuff.
Steep rocky gradients, dramatic mud-covered slopes and axle deep bogs all proved to be no obstacle for the XV thanks to its efficient four-wheel-drive system and plenty of ground clearance.
And so you can see exactly what’s going on the higher spec models even have a Multi-Function Display screen which shows when any wheel is loosing grip and the electronic stability programme is taking over. It also shows which way the front wheels are facing at any given time – a real boon when trying to drive through deeply rutted ground.
It’s not designed to be a Range Rover-style heavy duty off-roader but it’s capable of tackling far more rugged terrain than most people would ever come across.
When not in off-road mode the display screen shows you everything you want to know in one take. Time, temperature, instant mpg, average mpg etc. With most cars you have to scroll up and down the screen to reach each individual statistic.
On a practical note the boot space is big enough to easily swallow up a family of five’s annual holiday luggage needs and at the same time the cabin offers sensible head and leg room in both the front and rear seats.
My Lux Premium spec model came packed with everything you could wish for, including full leather upholstery, heated front seats, rear view camera, satellite navigation, sun roof and keyless entry to name just a few.
If you’re in the market for something a little different and the XV Lux Premium is in your price bracket check it out. I guarantee you will be very tempted.
Subaru XV 2.0D SE Lux Premium
Mechanical: 1998cc, 147bhp, 4 cyl diesel engine driving all wheels via 6spd manual gearbox
Max speed: 120 mph
0-62mph: 9.3 secs
Combined mpg: 56.5
CO2 emissions: 146 g/km
Warranty: 5 years/100,000 miles