It looks good and will go forever, but it's an unsexy and pricey date
Strange old times. The half of Europe that isn't broke is buying compact urban SUVs at a phenomenal rate. Families, couples, young ones, mature couples -- they all want something a bit like the Nissan Qashqai, the 'crossover' that everyone knows.
A family saloon? You must be joking. No, the mix and mettle of SUV, estate and family car is far more appetising. They reckon if their surge in popularity continues, they will be selling 20 million of them a year by 2020.
Subaru is coming late to the show -- though it has had larger versions of 'crossovers' for years.
Its compact XV looks really well, is tidy, neat and composed -- but that's not enough any more. They have to look 'sexy' or have something different.
In this case, the XV brings all-wheel-drive as standard. That helps set it apart and gives you a lot of constant grip and assuredness. It is a big deal for those who really need it (bad, slippery roads in winter) but the vast majority don't. They want two-wheel drive -- what they call 4x2.
That's because they drive on tarmac all the time and don't need extra traction (except in the snow -- but that's another story).
The other big difference with the XV is the Boxer diesel engine, which is designed in a very different way than your conventional power source.
It works really well. One of its benefits is a smooth-running motor. Subarus are always pitched on a good tight chassis, which makes for decent driving and a nice bit of pizzazz in the handling.
The steering was a bit woolly, and there was a hint of body roll on faster corners. I have to say, though, it handled really well on -- and slightly off -- road.
I didn't much take to the cabin, I'm afraid. It's roomy, fine and dandy with good hard-wearing materials, but there was far too much grey plastic on the dash and it took from the overall interior. That is despite a big effort to make it modern and comfortable.
It struck me, even with a nice central display, as being a bit behind the best of the rivals in terms of décor and general ambience. And, by golly, is that important?
The XV excels on the technology but lacks the finesse of looking after the comfort features others capitalise on. Few can hold a candle to the capabilities that underpin it with all-wheel-drive -- and I set a lot of store by that.
It was so easy to drive and, as it doesn't have what they call a large footprint, a joy to park and manoeuvre around the tight spots in city driving.
The price is against it too: being in the mid-€30,000s is a lot, even for those who have the cash, or can get it.
But I will say this: few other cars I've driven have as much stuff crammed into them, in a low-key sort of way. That, no doubt, racks up the euro -- but it makes you feel good.
I've no doubt this will go forever. It is built to last. It will also give you an edge in the winter. But it could have been a real winner -- especially for those who love the marque and what it brings to the motoring table -- with a few more touches.
It's a motor that is easy to like, but is up against ferociously competitive -- and less expensive -- rivals.