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Subaru XV 2.0D SE

Click to view picture galleryWith 220mm (a serious 8.7 inches)
  of ground clearance and sharply-
  hewn tough-but-tasty looks, Subaru
  latest 4x4 crossover
the XV
is clearly not afraid of a walk on the
  wild side...

BUT DESPITE THE UNDERSTATEDLY BRUTAL body sculpting, it's no manga-monster off-roader AWOL from the set of The Dark Knight Rises. No Sir, this latest compact crossover from Japan's all-wheel drive specialists could easily pass muster as a fashionably high-ridin' hatchback.

Propelled by an all-aluminium, horizontally-opposed, flat-four ('boxer' configuration) 2.0-litre turbodiesel, it promises 41.5mpg around the houses and a frugal 50.4mpg overall. Alternative petrol engines are a 1.6 and a 2.0-litre, although thanks to its beefy torque it's the diesel powerplant that's most likely to have its box ticked.

The diesel's no sluggard either, thanks not so much to its power (144bhp) but to the 258lb ft of torque it churns out at a usable 1,600-2,400rpm and which makes it a player both on and off-road.

“The XV’s oil-burning
boxer engine is
unintrusive ‘in the cruise’
and its 0-62mph
acceleration time of 9.3
seconds will keep you
in the game
Okay, so the boxer engine can be identified as an oil-burner at tickover and under hard acceleration. No big deal because most of the time, especially when 'in the cruise', it's unruffled and unintrusive. The good news is that, along with its un-diesel-like willingness to rev, it delivers plenty of gutsy pulling power, particularly in the important mid-range.

Certainly on-road its 0-62mph acceleration time of 9.3 seconds will keep you in the game, and the six-speed manual gearshift action, although a tad notchy, will keep you in the right gear.

So who's buying the XV? Thanks to climate change (yes, it's really happening, even if the reasons for it are still not understood) and ever-worsening and increasingly unpredictable weather all year round, all-wheel drive has become a 'must have' for the majority of UK motorists —
and no longer just an accoutrement for those who fancy they lead an 'active' lifestyle.

Fact is, many drivers now want full-time 4x4 as much as they don't want to give up their comfortable, roomy, well-specced hatchbacks. Which is exactly where the XV fits in…

Climbing aboard through the XV's wide door openings is no problem and once inside you sit fairly high in supportive seats. The driving position is fine (with height and reach adjustment of the wheel, and height adjustment of the seat) and, thanks to slim A-pillars, visibility forward and to the sides is very good —
accurately placing the XV on the road is a no-brainer. When not in use the rear three headrests sit low, further improving the view rearwards when driving forwards.

Personal space around each front seat is generous with loads of head, shoulder and leg room. Travelling in the back, three is an easily manageable number. As in the front, those seated in the rear enjoy lots of leg and knee room, as well as plenty of room for their feet; even near-six-footers have an inch of air between the top of their heads and the roof.

The cabin ambience is rescued from its black theme by the glasshouse's large, long windows. The dash is interesting, with everything sited just where you'd expect to find it, including the SatNav screen — and that's ideally placed top dead centre of the fascia.

“One rather nice touch is
the multifunction
display’s ability to
remind you about
forthcoming birthdays,
anniversaries, etc,
as well as showing the
vehicle’s lifetime
fuel consumption
Remote controls for audio, cruise and phone are mounted on the leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel, while the AirCon controls are easy and non-distracting to operate on the move.

An unexpected but personal touch is the multifunction display's ability to remind you about forthcoming birthdays, anniversaries, etc, as well as showing the vehicle's lifetime fuel consumption.

The XV's dual-zone A/C is generous when dishing out the air you've dialled up, and will keep you cool in the summer and, along with the heated front seats, cosy in the winter. When there's snow and ice about drivers will also be glad of the wiperblade de-icers built into the base of the windscreen.

The multifunction driver's trip computer is easy to read and if you prefer to sip your Starbucks Skinny Mocha Grande sitting in the car then you'll rave abour the XV's XXL-size twin cupholders. Fit and finish is thorough and there's an air of durability about the cabin that bodes well for owners planning to keep their XV longer than the average three years.

If you are planning on a long-term relationship with your XV you'll be reassured by Subaru UK's new three-year aftercare package: 'Subaru ETCo'. Short for 'Everything Taken Care of', it's included in the price of every new Subaru.

And it's the most comprehensive aftercare package currently on offer to UK motorists, offering as it does a host of benefits worth over £7,000. Subaru ETCo comprises 11 different elements including minor dent and scratch repairs, alloy wheel repairs, monthly wash, annual valet, lost keys replacement, service collection and delivery, annual wheel alignment check, first MOT cover, accident management service, insurance excess cover contribution and winter wheel and tyre storage.

The benefits can also be passed on to subsequent owners of the vehicle to enhance residual values. And note that Subaru ETCo is offered in addition to Subaru's normal three-year (60,000-mile) manufacturer's warranty.

The XV's equipment tally includes all the essentials such as dual-zone AirCon, two-stage heated front seats, rear-view camera, electric windows (the driver gets one-shot auto operation), Bluetooth, iPod and USB connections, CD music system, heated door mirrors with on-demand powerfold, cruise control, rear privacy glass, roof rails, roof spoiler, 60:40 split/folding rear seats, windscreen wiper de-icer, daytime running lights, tyre repair kit, HID headlamps with washers, front fog lamps and stand-out 17-inch gloss black alloys with machined faces.

“Grip there is a-plenty
courtesy of Subaru’s
symmetrical all-wheel
drive set-up,
and with body roll well
controlled, the XV feels
nicely planted
Safety kit is equally fulsome: a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, Vehicle Dynamics Control (Subaru's version of ESP), Hill-Start Assist, whiplash reducing-front seats, front, side, curtain and knee airbags, front passenger airbag auto-enable, and height-adjustable front seatbelts.

Not forgetting the full-time all-wheel drive system that operates totally automatically with no driver involvement required. The default torque split is set at 50:50 front:rear and
whenever a front or rear wheel loses any grip, the torque distribution is automatically adjusted to maintain maximum traction.

With the rear seats in use you can pack in 380 litres of luggage; fold the seatbacks forward and, if you stack it to the roof, there's 1,270 litres for cargo. The thigh-height loadbay floor is easily loaded and there's also a 15-litre under-floor storage compartment. The luggage roller blind cartridge is easy to remove and there are roof rails to provide extra carrying capability should you need it.

The XV's looks imply a confidence for tackling hardcore forest trails equally as well as making good time over metalled roads. The electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is well-suited to the XV's dual role; it turns in sharply enough and is more than up to some press-on driving.

Grip there is a-plenty courtesy of Subaru's symmetrical all-wheel drive set-up, and with body roll well controlled, the XV feels nicely planted in spite of its off-road-optimised ride height —
and is enjoyable to drive. It rides pretty well too; just a tad on the firm side but not to the detriment of comfort. The brakes are fine (discs at each corner) and perform their duties smoothly and efficiently.

With its polished 'can do' appearance, all-wheel drive authenticity and trustworthy off-road manners, the XV sports the right credentials for tackling all kinds of weather with impunity. Add in 42mpg (many owners should be able to close the gap between our test result and the official 50.4mpg combined figure) and a liveable cabin with five seats and five doors, and it won't just be dyed-in-the-wool Subaru fans who will be driving this new XV.

Subaru XV 2.0D SE | £26,295
Maximum speed: 120mph | 0-62mph: 9.3 seconds | Overall Test MPG: 41.7mpg
Power: 144bhp | Torque: 258lb ft | CO2 146g/km