SUBARU builds a mild hybrid version of the XV, but you can’t buy it here. Instead you get a choice of 1.6 or 2.0 petrol power.

We tested the 2.0-litre version and came away very impressed.

The XV is a spin-off from the Impreza platform, with boosted ground clearance, a modest boost in ride height and added underbody protection.

From behind the wheel the XV feels more like a slightly elevated estate car than a full blown SUV.

Despite having more than 4in more ground clearance than an Impreza, it lacks the tall-boy driving position you get in other crossovers, but the chassis is more confidence-inspiring than your average crossover because it’s lower to the ground and doesn’t keel over on overly-soft suspension. In fact, it can be driven surprisingly quickly – certainly quicker than a Qashqai and the like – over challenging cross-country B-roads without ever getting into a flap.

The downside is an in-town ride that’s occasionally troubled by potholes and bumps, but generally the XV drives and handles in a very composed fashion.

Like nearly all Subarus the XV hits the road with permanent four-wheel drive, a feature that makes it a contender for most useful crossover if you live in the sticks where bad weather and muddy roads are daily hazards.

There’s a bit more noise in the cabin than you’d expect of a family saloon but the engine is smooth. Even the continuously variable transmission plays nicely, avoiding the incessant whine that usually accompanies any attempt at acceleration with a CVT until the very top of the engine’s operating range, when it defaults to the usual food-mixer-on-maximum mode.

Interestingly, your choice of gearbox also governs the type of four-wheel drive. With the manual, XV models come with a viscous-coupling all-wheel-drive system with locking centre differential, while CVT alternatives use an electronically-managed continuously-variable transfer-clutch system. Whichever you choose, the XV will have more off-road prowess than most crossovers.

The CVT is also more fuel efficient and makes a mighty contribution to the XV’s excellent running costs.

The interior is fundamentally the same as on the Impreza – much improved. Subaru has stuck with an analogue instrument pack but the colour LCD screen between the clocks can be configured to display your speed as well as other useful info.

The cabin has some gloss black and silver trim to enliven the otherwise fairly drab interior and there’s orange stitching on the leather steering wheel/gearshift.

The switchgear does the job without fuss or drama. The Germans do a better job of making the touch points more tactile, but the Subaru’s stalks and switches feel as though they're built to last.

The seats are very comfortable and forward visibility is excellent, with slim A-pillars and a large glass house.

The XV was recently declared the safest familiar car by the official European crash testing agency NCAP. The Subaru steals a march on its rivals thanks to its Eyesight package which scans the road ahead like a second pairs of eyes. Twin cameras look for trouble and activate the XV’s safety systems as required. Combine that with adaptive cruise control, lane deviation, blind spot monitoring and rear vehicle detection and you can see how the XV is a very safe place to be.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto allow you to connect a smartphone to the audio system for podcasts and audio streams. Voice recognition means you don’t have to take your hands from the wheel to answer a call.

The LED steering responsive headlamps track the road as you corner and keyless entry/push button start make short working of getting going.

Subaru says the XV can tow up to 1,500lbs whereas many competing fashion wagons couldn’t tow the skin off a cold rice pudding. Thanks to proper AWD it’s also very capable of light off-roading.

Hill descent control modulates the car’s speed on tricky inclines and the CVT can lock its clutches in a similar manner to a locking diff, while the permanent four-wheel drive set-up can divert up to 50 per cent of torque to the rear wheels if it detects wheel slip at the front. Snow and mud won’t pose any problems, making the XV an excellent vehicle for farmers or anyone who lives in the country.

Subarus of old haven’t been noted for their parsimony, but on a long run the XV could stretch a gallon of unleaded nearly 50 miles and my mpg rarely dropped below 40mpg even in town. Over nearly 1,000 miles of testing I averaged 45.6mpg, an excellent result that comfortably beats the Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi I had on test recently.

If the XV had a Nissan badge on its nose it would be a bestseller. As it is, Subarus are bought by a small, but fiercely loyal, bunch of free thinkers who value their reliability and permanent four-wheel drive. Make no mistake, the XV is Subaru’s best crossover yet and a vehicle that deserves a place on any buyer’s shortlist.