IN a day and age when four out of five new cars emerging on the market seem to be compact SUVs auto makers have to come up with something a little bit special or a unique selling point to grab the attention.
And Subaru may have just done that with the launch of its latest XV model.
Like many other crossover cars, it looks stylish, sporty and modern in its design and just like its closest competitors the XV is packed with all the latest infotainment and connectivity capabilities, but there are two areas where the Subaru car appears to excel.
Firstly, is its off-road performance. Admittedly lots of smaller SUVs boast AWD technology and would be more than happy scampering across a gravel track or slippery grass to find the perfect picnic location.
But the Subaru XV has the X factor - literally. That's because the car comes fitted with a feature called X-Mode which works alongside the Hill Descent Control to offer ‘proper' off-roading ability.
The feature is standard on all XV models (it was previously seen only on Subaru's Forester and Outback) and it gives the car an edge over its rivals.
When faced with more challenging and extreme conditions, the X-Mode button can be pressed and it takes control of the engine, transmission, symmetrical AWD and brakes, along with other components which enables the car to traverse tricky terrain.
We put the system to the test in wet, boggy conditions and it was most accomplished as it climbed muddy banks, navigated slippery surfaces and gently eased itself down steep drops with the Hill Decent Control in charge of the speed and braking.
It's also worth mentioning that the car completed all the tasks while fitted with standard road tyres.
The second aspect that should help the XV attract attention is its excellent safety systems. The car was awarded the maximum five stars when tested by Euro NCAP and boasts some excellent technology - once again standard across the range.
As well as more traditional safety features, the Subaru XV is fitted with a raft of driver assist technologies called Eyesight, which basically act as a second pair of eyes for the driver. Cameras are mounted either side of the rearview mirror and they monitor the road ahead up to 110 metres for any potential hazards.
Eyesight is formed of six different technologies. They are Adaptive Cruise Control which helps the car keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front; Pre-Collision Braking whereby the driver is alerted to a potential collision via a visual and audible warning. If the driver ignores the warning then the car will automatically take evasive action by applying the brakes.
Next up is the Pre-Collision Throttle Management - this is a clever feature that would be handy in a car park. If the car is parked facing an obstacle and the driver accidentally selects drive instead of reverse, the car offers a visual and audible warning and will even cut out the engine if necessary.
There is Lane Sway and Departure Warning whereby alerts are given if the car sways or leaves its lane without indicating. A Lane Keep Assist function will offer gentle steering correction to keep the car within the white lines at speeds of 40mph or above.
And finally, the Eyesight adds Lead Vehicle Start Alert which prompts the driver if the car ahead has started moving - this would probably come into play in traffic jams with lots of stop start driving.
Thanks to this Eyesight technology accidents can be either avoided or the severity significantly reduced and that's a vital factor when weighing up all the options for a new family car.
The five-door Subaru XV is priced from £24,995 to £28,495 and comes in a choice of two trim levels called SE and SE Premium. There is a choice of two petrol powertrains - a 1.6-litre 114ps or 2.0-litre 156ps - both with CVT automatic gearboxes.
We tried the range-topping XV in SE Premium powered by the 2.0-litre engine both on and off road and it was most accomplished. It could reach 62mph from a standing start in 10.4 seconds, maxed out at 120mph and could deliver combined fuel economy of 40.9mpg with carbon emissions of 155g/km.
It was comfortable, spacious and the road-holding was confident and assured. Subaru has worked hard to improve the cars stability, ride and handling and that was apparent when we drove both the old and new XV models on an airfield testing the car's dynamics as they weaved at pace through a slalom course laid out with traffic cones.
The newer version was certainly more grounded with next to no body sway and the road-holding was excellent.
On the road, comfort levels for all occupants is good with ample space for adults to travel in the back. The wealth of on-board technology is easy to access and all modern connectivity options are available via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The boot volume has also been increased slightly to 385 litres, a capacity that can be increased further with the split-folding rear seats dropped flat.
If I were to be ultra-picky then I would have liked a little more zip from the 2.0-litre engine, but that was my only slight gripe with an otherwise accomplished and stylish car.
Hopefully, Subaru can shrug off its ‘oh they make rally cars don't they?' image and will become a real contender for sales in the fastest growing sector in the UK.