Plenty of choice and it’s all yours

Today’s SUVs are machines, originally all of them all-wheel drive, with extra ride height and some practicalities to design.

They’re not meant to go everywhere, but are more able than the family Holden which through the 1990s dropped lower and lower for aesthetics, aerodynamics and handling.

The problem was, not all Australian roads meet autostrada standards.

About that time there was an explosion of interest in four-wheel drives.

But many “gunnas” (gunna go to Fraser, gunna see The Centre) never got going and realised, while enjoying the high-riding four-wheel drive style, they would never use low range.

Others whinged about being unable to see around higher vehicles so moved on up in ride height.  Plus some, as affluent Baby Boomers became less lithe, liked the idea of easy access to a car’s seats. Slide right on in.

So now there’s this plethora of SUVs for a plethora of reasons.

Subaru was a pioneer here, back in the 1970s, and then later helping establish the current SUV segment with the mighty Forester, a handy dirt-tracking wagon. It’s still around, now complemented by Subaru’s XV, a cheerful and competent all-wheel drive of character.

This one has more friendly funk to its style without diluting any substance.

As with all Subarus (aside from rear-drive BRZ coupes) the second-generation XV is all-wheel drive. There’s no low range but there’s reasonable ground clearance plus a down-and-dirty X-Mode.

This X switch, to be used below 40km/h, steadies throttle responses and better controls traction across the drivetrain and the four wheels. Below 20km/h it also engages Hill Descent Control.

So, the compact XV is quite capable of handling rutted and mud-washed tracks or scrabbly hills. Yet the Subaru doesn’t have to get dirty to be enjoyed, for this updated version is a delightful touring companion from creek to coast.

There’s a useful 115kW of power, excellent ride comfort and all-wheel drive surety.

It offers easy access to a comfortable driving position with good ergonomics for all sizes. Controls and instruments are intuitive and good vision is complemented by rear view camera.

Top XV models also score Subaru’s Eye Sight, which includes Lane Assist, or Vision Assist which includes Rear Cross Traffic Alert (the latter, spotting cars as the XV is reversed, a handy option at a Westfield centre car park near you).

Best of all, there’s a CD player among the XV’s entertainment devices.

These are disappearing from many makes; sorry, some of us don’t want to download our 300-strong CD collection just so manufacturers can save a dollar under the pretext of being hip and happening.

So full credit to this Subaru XV from $27,990. It’s a thoroughly modern SUV with a touch of empathy for the needs of us older folks.