ALTHOUGH popular in other markets around the world, notably the United States, Subaru remains something of a niche brand with car buyers in the United Kingdom.
The Japanese 4x4 specialist boasts a dedicated core of loyal followers here, but has struggled to attract new converts.
Bosses are hoping that will change with the recently-launched second generation of the XV, a compact crossover that boasts impressive off-road abilities and offers improved on-road manners too.
Although the casual observer may be hard-pressed to distinguish the latest model from its predecessor, the latest XV is all-new from the ground up.
Closer inspection reveals a re-worked grille and headlight arrangement, new rear light clusters which extend into the tailgate, a more prominent rear spoiler and the old aerial has been replaced by a more fashionable shark-fin appendage.
Less obvious to the naked eye will be the fact that the windscreen angle has been increased and the rear section of the roofline lowered. Alongside the other changes, this gives the new XV a more dynamic profile.
It's also wider and longer than the car it replaces, creating a roomier cabin and adding a nominal five litres of extra luggage capacity, with a wider boot opening for easier loading.
More significant updates have taken place beneath the skin, however, with the XV being the second model in the UK to be built around the new Subaru global platform - a reworking of the body and chassis featuring more rigid, lightweight construction designed to improve safety and handling.
And the new XV does, indeed, feel much more nimble and agile on the road, with impressive levels of grip, little body roll in corners and direct, responsive steering.
Nevertheless, it is still the off-road prowess which will appeal directly to the target market of families and folk with active, outdoor lifestyles.
Subaru's symmetrical all-wheel drive system has been a brand staple for more than four decades, is renowned for it's go-anywhere capabilities and is now paired in the XV with the same X-Mode technology that features in the larger Forester and Outback SUVs.
X-Mode provides extra assurance, adjusting engine, transmission, all-wheel drive system and brakes to help negotiate more extreme driving conditions. Additionally, it comes with hill descent control, enabling the driver to maintain a constant speed when travelling downhill.
Throw 22 centimetres of ground clearance into the mix and it would be a pretty determined buyer who found any terrain or conditions that the XV would not be able to cope with.
Power comes from a choice of 1.6 and 2.0-litre normally-aspirated petrol engines, in Subaru's traditional Boxer configuration, paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
The lack of turbocharging means neither power pack is particularly pacy, with the 2.0-litre taking more than ten seconds to hit 62mph. It is much quieter and refined than Subaru engines of old, though, thanks to improved sound deadening measures, and proves responsive enough around town and smooth at cruising speed.
The CVT gearbox has also improved hugely and the excessively loud revving that formerly accompanied any sharp acceleration now only rears its head if you floor the gas pedal, which is not really in keeping with the relaxed style of this motor.
As with many such gearboxes these days, there's a manual mode should the driver feel the need to intervene, with 2.0-litre models getting steering-wheel mounted flappy paddles.
Equipment upgrades over the previous model include a bigger, eight-inch touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, LED headlights, high-beam assist and Subaru's impressive EyeSight driver assistance technology.
This uses dual cameras to scan the road ahead for potential hazards up to 110 metres away and uses the information for cruise control, automatic emergency braking and lane keep assist among other things.
Range-topping SE Premium cars also get navigation, powered driver's seat, leather upholstery and a sunroof.