What is it? The Subaru XV is a new compact SUV that's designed to compete with big-selling models such as the Nissan Qashqai and VW Tiguan.
Three engines will be available when the XV is launched in March: a 113bhp 1.6-litre petrol, a 148bhp 2.0-litre petrol and a 145bhp 2.0-litre diesel.
All versions will have four-wheel drive as standard. That's good for all-weather traction, but not so good for CO2 emissions; even the diesel model emits 146g/km. The cleanest Qashqai, by contrast, manages to creep under the 120g/km mark.
What’s it like to drive? We tried the 2.0-litre diesel, which is expected to be the biggest seller in the UK. It pulls strongly and smoothly from low revs, and while there’s a fair bit of diesel clatter when you work it hard, performance is more than adequate.
Unlike other diesels, the XV has a horizontally opposed engine in which the cylinders lie flat in two opposing pairs, which gives it a particularly low centre of gravity. That's something you really notice, because the XV doesn’t lean anywhere near as much as a Qashqai.
The XV’s firm suspension also helps it stay composed through the bends and on undulating roads, but it doesn’t do a lot for ride comfort at lower speeds. Bumps, potholes and expansion joints all send jolts through your backside, which isn’t something you want or expect from a family car.
What’s it like inside? Compact SUVs are designed to suit small families, so the fact that the XV has more rear legroom than its rivals is very handy. It even makes up for the less-than-impressive rear headroom, because it allows those in the back to slide their bums forward a bit.
Most compact SUVs have a trick or two up their sleeves. The Peugeot 3008, for example, has a split tailgate and a height-adjustable boot floor, while the Skoda Yeti has sliding rear seats.
The XV’s party piece is a boot floor that can be lifted up and hooked on the lip of the boot to create a makeshift ramp for hauling out large suitcases. Trouble is, it’s so fiddly to set up that you’ll never bother using it. The boot is also disappointingly small.
Interior quality is rather mixed. While parts of the dashboard are a match for a Tiguan's, the centre console and the glovebox lid feel disappointingly hard and cheap. The impression of quality isn’t helped by the bland cabin design, or the fact the interior is almost exclusively grey in colour.
Still, the fact the XV boasts the highest ever NCAP rating for child crash protection will be more important to many buyers.
Should I buy one? It’s difficult to make a case for the XV unless early price indications turn out to be wide of the mark. Cars such as the excellent new Nissan Qashqai 1.6 dCi offer as much – more in some areas – for less than £20,000.
Alternatively, if you're prepared to spend a little more, there are some fine premium alternatives to choose from, including the new Audi Q3 (priced from £24,560).
What Car? says…
Our reviews are based on hard data and thorough testing in the real world.
Up to the minute news from around the globe