THANKFULLY, just before coronavirus struck, I had arranged a few days away with a friend in Scotland which, as I live in Devon, is a bit of a trek.
Fortunately, I took Subaru's XV e-Boxer with me and it performed heroically, covering more than 1,300 miles in snow, gale force wind and driving rain.
The trip started in Plymouth with a quick run up the M5 and M4 to Pershore, Worcestershire, to pick up my pal. The following morning, we left for York to explore and for an overnight stop before heading north of the border.
This we did by crossing the dales and fells - via the now infamous Barnard Castle - before joining the M6, and driving up through Glasgow and past Loch Lomond to Tarbet, where we branched left onto the A83. This took us through Argyll Forest Park, a snow-covered Rest and Be Thankful, and down the shores of Lock Fyne to Tarbert. A stunning drive and handled with aplomb by the XV.
Built with 220mm of ground clearance, permanent all-wheel drive as standard and X-Mode to tackle the most extreme weather and road conditions, the XV was definitely the right car for the trip.
Since last year, Subaru's popular compact crossover has been available with a new powertrain, the e-Boxer, which combines a 2.0-litre direct injection horizontally opposed petrol engine with an electric motor. A lithium-ion battery unit is mounted within the boot floor and allows for pure-electric driving at speeds of up to 25mph - handy around town. The motor is placed near the vehicle's centre of gravity and the battery positioned above the rear axle, which plants the car on the road and aids handling.
It officially returns just 35.7mpg - nowhere near best in class - and on our trip managed just under 31mpg.
The XV is also very well equipped with keyless entry and a push button start, LED headlights with high beam assist, rear privacy glass and 18-inch alloy wheels as standard across the range.There's also an easy to use intuitive eight-inch multifunction colour touchscreen via which you can access Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, DAB radio and Bluetooth.
Dual zone air conditioning, a useful reversing camera and heated seats are also standard and the SE Premium adds leather seats, an eight-way power adjustable driver seat - making it very easy to find a great driving position - satellite navigation and sunroof.
One niggle is that it's not the most practical car in its class. Though there's plenty of space for front and rear passengers, the boot is only capable of holding 345-litres.
Another is the Japanese company's insistence on sticking with its CVT gearbox. It works fine cruising on the motorway but need a quick burst of speed for overtaking or tackling a steep hill and you get a huge flare in revs and engine noise which doesn't match the car's forward progress.
That said, the XV's ride and handling balance is well-judged, the steering feels precise and body roll is ably controlled. The suspension set up soaks ups bump on the road well too. It's no Jaguar XE but it does everything you need it to do with a composed, fuss-free demeanour.
The XV e-Boxer was awarded the maximum five-star Euro NCAP rating and comes with a suite of driver-assist and safety features as standard. These include Subaru's acclaimed EyeSight driver assist technology which uses two stereo cameras mounted either side of the rear-view mirror. It monitors for hazards up to 110 metres ahead and controls adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane departure warning and lane keep assist.