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Subaru has long been criticized as being rather weak-kneed when it comes to styling. That's not entirely true. In recent years they have displayed some really attractive-to-stunning concepts. The last-generation Impreza concept was very attractive, as was the most recent Legacy concept. The WRX concept shown a couple of years ago was a visual knockout, and the same can be said for the most recent Impreza concepts—as well as this new XV (Crosstrek) concept. The problem has been much of the visual excitement of those concepts got lost in the translation from concept to production.

So we know that Subaru has great design talent; the concepts have proven that. The problem, as I see it, is those in a position to approve design for production don't seem to understand design. Now I'm sure it's a lot more complicated than just that. It involves marketing folks, engineers, as well as those suits that call the shots at FHI. Many of those in decision-making positions just don't seem to get it. However I do have to say that each succeeding generation of Subaru has got better looking. So slowly (very slowly) they are making progress. The problem is, the competition has gotten better too — much better. Hyundai, Kia, Honda and Mazda have been hitting it out of the park when it comes to styling; all the while Subaru has been hitting solid singles along with a few walks.

That said I do have a good feeling about this new XV concept. It really does look close to being production-ready. The proportions are right, there is nothing outrageous or impractical here. There are even small non-roll-down (visually distracting, but absolutely necessary) side windows, which I rarely if ever see on concepts. The proof will be in the pudding when the new Impreza debuts at the New York Auto Show later this month. Fingers crossed.

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