AT a glance the latest Subaru XV looks much like a host of other crossovers - tall, quite trendy with a bit of body armour around the edges and chunky enough to proclaim that it can venture at least a little way into the undergrowth.
In reality the current version of the 2012 design is a fully fledged off-roader with proper full-time four-wheel-drive, hill-descent and all the credentials to kick mud in the face of all those faux soft-roaders that adorn the supermarket car park.
Built on Subaru's new global platform, it is 70% stiffer than the old model which benefits noise and vibration suppression as well as improving handling.
With a tiny share of the SUV market in UK , the Japanese firm has remained faithful to the flat four ‘boxer' engine and the latest offering comes here with just the single option of a 2.0-litre petrol which puts out 154bhp coupled to a an automatic CVT gearbox.
While the engine is quieter than most diesels, it lacks the sort of torque you associate with SUVs and the continuously variable transmission tends to drain the power despite it being ‘stepped' into seven ratios. 62mph comes up in around 10 seconds which puts it towards the back of the pack.
Fortunately the system does not rev excessively or ‘hunt' in the way some CVT gearboxes are prone to.
Inevitably, the 2.0-litre petrol unit is thirstier than a similarly sized diesel. My average was 34mpg, while the official combined figure is 40.9mpg.
With accurate and nicely weighted steering, the XV is composed and settled over rutted roads and poor surfaces and can be confidently hustled around bends without much commotion or body roll. There's plenty of grip and no shortage of agility.
The cabin is smarter and more stylish now with dark leather upholstery and contrasting orange stitching and dashes of carbonfibre effect here and there. There's an overall impression of toughness and longevity about the switchgear which is appropriate to the brand.
The interior is well finished with some nice touches such as the perforated steel pedals, wide door pockets and leather trimmed steering wheel. I particularly liked the small on-board computer read-out on a small screen above the large touchscreen.
An eight inch touchscreen incorporating sat nav is standard in the Premium version tested as are heated front seats, DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Also included in the spec is Subaru's EyeSight safety system which detects pedestrians or moving objects in front and is said to have been responsible for a 40% cut in collisions of Subarus in Japan.
Seats front and rear are well shaped and comfortable enough, although rear legroom isn't over-generous. Boot space at 385 litres is less roomy than many of the direct rivals and the luggage platform is relatively high for loading heavy items.