Andrew Chesterton road tests and reviews the new Subaru XV with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

There must be a darkened and soundproofed room somewhere in the automotive world where the industry's designers get together and swap notes on their upcoming vehicles. It's the only way to explain how so many cars in a segment end up looking so damn similar.

But Subaru must have skipped a meeting. The Japanese brand's XV SUV is a shining light of individuality in a small SUV segment in which the running design theme is as cute as a sweetened-condensed button. But the XV isn't cute. In fact, it's by far the most rugged and capable looking vehicle in its segment.

Launched in Australia in 2012 and then given a light overhaul in 2015 and 2016, the XV is nearing the end of its shelf life. In fact, a new model underpinned by a fresh platform is scheduled for a mid-2017 launch in Australia. Still, the current XV remains a success for Subaru, with the brand's smallest SUV model still shifting in excess of 600 units per month, even as it nears the end of its life cycle.

The XV is available in entry level 2.0i, mid-spec 2.0i-L and top-of-the-tree 2.0i-S varieties, with just the one engine shared across the three trim levels. As a result, even entry-level shoppers won't feel hard done by, but your extra spend will net you more and better standard kit in the more expensive models.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The three-tier XV range kicks off with the entry-level (but still handsomely equipped) 2.0i, with pricing from $26,740 with a manual transmission and $29,240 if you opt for the CVT automatic transmission. Deeper pockets will allow you to climb up the range, with the mid-spec 2.0i-L kicking off from $30,240 (manual) and $32,740 (automatic). The top of range XV 2.0i-S will set you back $33,040 for the manual option, jumping $2,500 in price to $35,540 for the automatic. The above are straight off the Subaru price list (RRP), but you can and should negotiate hard for a drive away price, with how much wriggle room you've got to negotiate likely to vary from dealer to dealer.

The fact that there's just the one engine available makes identifying the differences across the XV range a little easier.

As an added bonus, Subaru does not charge extra for metallic paint - something of a rarity in the new car game. So you can pick any of the 10 fairly adventurous colours available, including Crystal White, Dark Blue, Hyper Blue, Ice Silver, Tangerine Orange, Venetian Red, Quartz Blue, Desert Khaki (a kind of beige), Dark Grey or Crystal Black, with the cost included in the cost. There is no yellow, green or purple on the palette, though.

The fact that there's just the one engine available makes identifying the differences across the XV range a little easier. The 2.0i is your entry point to Subaru XV models, and while, by comparison, its far from the cheapest way to get into a small SUV, it's fairly comprehensively equipped for your money. Expect 17-inch alloys, climate control air conditioning, and a 4.3-inch driver info display screen that lives in the middle of the dash. You'll also find cloth seats and a 6.2-inch touchscreen that controls everything from the radio to your bluetooth controls, paired with four speakers. You do miss out on standard GPS sat nav at this level.

Step up to the mid-point in the range, and your touchscreen grows to 7.0-inches and pairs with a six-speaker sound system. Privacy glass now adorns the windows above the rear door and rear windscreen, and your climate control is now dual-zone.

Outside, halogen DRLs appear, along with an electric sunroof, while a digital screen in the driver's binnacle also makes an appearance. The 2.0i-L also pairs with your iPhone or Android device to access certain applications (like Pandora). Cruise control also arrives, but there's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto on offer.

Finally, the top of the range 2.0i-S model adds proximity unlocking with push-button start, leather seats that are heated in the front, and rain-sensing wipers, along with sports pedals.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The XV range is a welcome respite from the all-too-cutesy world of small SUVs, with its wagon-ish body shape, high-riding stance and plastic body cladding all lending the little Subaru a more adventurous design than its competition.

The exterior design is a little aggressive, with two fog lights protruding from their casings and a 3D-style Subaru badge popping out of the bodywork.

The good news is that, no matter your budget, the XV looks largely the same from the outside, with its 17-inch alloys, standard roof rails and pop-out styling all present and accounted for from even the entry-level model. Its exterior dimensions (4450mm length, 1780 width and 1615mm height with roof rails) house a fairly versatile interior space, too.

Outside, the exterior design is a little aggressive, with two fog lights protruding from their casings and a 3D-style Subaru badge popping out of the bodywork. As our interior photos reveal, the design theme inside, if not quite sporty, looks hardy and adventurous. The dash is simple and easy to understated, and there's a sense of quality to the switch gear, while the soft-feel dash is home only to what you need, including a recessed touchscreen with integrated buttons.

How practical is the space inside?

Subaru has included plenty of storage space options to maximise the XV's practicality.

For a start, boot space is a (not life-changing) 310 litres with all seats upright, but the 60/40 split rear row allows you to change up the storage/passenger combinations as required. Drop the rear seat entirely, and your luggage capacity climbs to 742 litres. The boot is also home to small but important niceties like shopping hooks, as well as three tether points. There are also two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat in the back.

Elsewhere, both front seat riders share two cupholders (exposed in both the entry- and mid-level vehicles, but hidden behind a neat sliding cover in the top-spec car), while USB and 12-volt power outlets abound.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

With just the one engine size across the XV range, paired with your choice of six-speed manual transmission or CVT automatic transmission, the specifications make light reading. The 2.0-litre ‘boxer' petrol unit - there's no diesel or LPG options offered - is good for 110kW (or 147 horsepower) at 6200rpm and 196Nm from 4200rpm. The engine sends its power to all four wheels via Subaru's all-wheel-drive system (a kind of light-duties version of a traditional 4x4).

Those engine specs are enough to push the XV from 0-100km/h in a fairly lethargic 10.7 seconds (10.5 in manual guise).

The XV's official weight ranges from 1385kg to 1450kg and its fuel tank capacity is 60 litres, with a motor that sips 91RON fuel. Towing capacity is a braked 1400kg, while the factory tow ball rating is 140kg. The XV is also equipped with a longer-wearing timing chain instead of a timing belt.

A note on oil consumption. The XV requires 0W-20 synthetic oil type, but there have been international reports of oil capacity issues, with older model XVs (called the Crosstrek in other markets) burning through oil at above normal rates. In fact, a customer class action was lodged in the USA over this very issue, with 2012-2013 models impacted. Subaru Australia says the issue never surfaced in Australia, and never appeared in Australian-delivered product. There have also been scattered international reports of mild clutch and transmission issues with older vehicles, including erratic idling and stuttering when cold.

How much fuel does it consume?

The Subaru XV's 2.0-litre engine's fuel consumption is a claimed/combined 7.0 litres per hundred kilometres with CVT-equipped models, though economy climbs to 7.3 litres per hundred kilometres with a manual transmission. If milage is your measurement, however, the numbers are 29mpg (CVT) and 26mpg (manual).

We returned 11.2L/100km after a week of mostly urban driving in an auto-equipped test vehicle.

What's it like to drive?

The risk with having just the one set of engine and gearbox offerings across an entire range of vehicles is that it really needs to be an exceptional combination. And unfortunately, it's not faultless in the XV range.

It's not that the engine is underpowered - 110kW and 196Nm is unlikely to set the world on fire, but should be ample for a mostly city car. It's more that the engine feeds its power through a noisy and cumbersome continuously variable transmission (CVT) in a way that never feels like you're squeezing the most performance out of it. Things would improve with a manual transmission, but there is simply no appetite for a third pedal in Australia.

It's comfortable, feels well put together and its in-car technology is ample and easy to use.

The result is fairly sluggish acceleration and a 0-100km/h sprint of 10.7secs, though that improves ever so slightly to 10.5secs with the manual gearbox. The top-tier Mazda CX-3, for example, squeezes less power and torque from its 2.0-litre engine, and yet claims a 100km/h sprint time under nine seconds.

With no adjustable drive modes to cycle through, steering the XV is a fairly simple affair. Keep it within the CBD, and the XV happily cruises along with ease. But if you ask too much of it you'll uncover a noticeable lack of power and a gearbox that's far too noisy and intrusive. That said, if your daily commute consists of 60km/h cruising, the XV ticks plenty of boxes. It's comfortable, feels well put together and its in-car technology is ample and easy to use.

The ride (MacPherson front suspension, double wishbone rear suspension) is definitely tuned to the firm side, but it helps create a connected feeling with the road below, and the XV sits flat and confidently through corners.

So, a speed demon this ain't, but the XV has another ace up its sleeve, and that's genuine off-road capability thanks to its as-standard all-wheel drive right across the range, along with its 220mm of ground clearance. Don't get me wrong, the XV's off-road review won't include summiting Mount Kosciuszko in the middle of an icy winter, but it does open up a world of gravel tracks, grassy paths and mild water crossings with a wading depth that's better than others in its class.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The XV range gets the maximum five star ANCAP safety rating thanks to its seven airbags (dual front, dual front side, curtain and driver knee), along with other standard safety features including a reversing camera (instead of parking sensors). There are two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat in the back.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

The XV range falls under Subaru's three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, and requires a trip to the service centre every six months or 12,500kms. It's also covered by the brand's capped-price servicing scheme, with service costs capped for the first three years or 75,000kms. Current pricing pegs maintenance costs at $2,245 for the first six services.

Every XV is equipped with a spare tyre and owner's manual as part of its standard features kit, and, like most Subarus, fairs well in terms of resale value. The car's reliability rating was two out of a possible five stars on the US-based J.D Power's 2016 Vehicle Dependability Study.

For common problems, faults and issues, see the engine-transmission sub-heading.