Subaru engineers a

better off-roader

Subaru XV, front action 2
Subaru XV, side action
Subaru XV, front action
Subaru XV, dashboard
Subaru XV, dash detail
Subaru XV, boot 1
Subaru XV, rear seat
Subaru XV, front seats
Subaru XV, engine

LOTS of car makers barely mention the oily bits when they proudly introduce the latest model, concentrating instead on the newly flowing lines or vibrant colour choices.

Well, Subaru does all that too - but only after giving you a technical teach in worthy of a first year degree course in automotive engineering.

Or nearly; with enough diagrams and charts to have you hoping to remember your tumble generation valve from your lateral bending stiffness.

No, me neither, until a dip into the Subaru info file shows we're talking here about the engine and body, the first making the fuel mix better in the cylinders and the increased latter producing a stiffer body that's safer, quieter and better riding.

Both feature on the new Subaru XV, a thorough makeover of an SUV launched in 2012 and facelifted four years later but only taking a fifth of the modest 2,665 total Subarus sales in the UK last year. The company wants to become the fastest growing car brand in Europe in 2018 and hopes the latest XV will do its bit to make that happen.

If buyers put their head before their heart that ought not to be an impossible target, if the heart rules there are an awful lot of handsome competition out there in the mid-size SUV market - think Mazda CX-3 and Toyota CH-R for starters.

Let's go head first into the new XV, where Subaru continues to make much of its long term mechanical features, with a flat four engine and all-wheel drive contributing a lower centre of gravity for better roadholding and slippery road stability respectively.

The choice of 2.0-litre 154bhp or new 112bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine (the old diesel is ditched) comes with a CVT automatic transmission and permanent all-wheel drive, all wrapped in a body a little longer and wider than before and a lot stiffer too.

It looks a lot like the old car but with shapelier curves and a touch more off-road aggression around the plastic wheelarch extensions. Inside, there is a very obvious lift in quality of trim and much clearer instruments and graphics.

Keeping things simple, the XV comes with the two engine choices and just two trim levels, with prices starting at £24,995 for the 1.6 SE and adding £2,000 for SE Premium trim.

Choose the bigger 2.0 litre engine and the prices are £26,495 and £28,495, with the latter top spec likely to be the biggest seller by some way.

Choose the simple SE model and you won't feel shortchanged, with standard kit stretching from adaptive cruise control and pre-collision braking to hill descent control and an eight inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The plusher SE Premium adds satellite navigation, leather seats, power adjustment for the driver and a sunroof.

There remains enough room in the rear seat for a couple of adults not to fall out on a long journey and the already decently sized boot gains a tiny bit more packing space.

The 2.0 litre engine does an adequate, if unspectacular job of propelling the newcomer at any sane road speed and with notably more refinement than before. It showed an acceptable 36mpg after an undemanding drive on British roads.

Pushed to its limit, the 2.0 will hit 121mph, reach 62mph in 10.4 seconds and recorded 40.9mpg and 155g/km in the official tests - all unexceptional figures.

The smaller 1.6 has to work harder, with an indifferent 13.9 seconds to 62mph and 109mph top speed, for modest efficiency gains, showing 44.1mpg and 145g/km.

Off road, and on standard tyres, the XV was properly impressive, tackling a track more than ankle deep in freshly minted winter mud. As on the road, some subtle adjustments to the suspension meant a calmer than expected ride.

So, Subaru's depth of engineering prowess shines through again. Job done?

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