Review of the month: Subaru Forester
PUBLISHED: 08:30 14 March 2015 | UPDATED: 08:30 14 March 2015
Subaru's crossover-cum-SUV delivers impressive off-road ability and durability married to everyday practicality and down-to-earth style
Subaru could argue that it created the crossover sector 10 years earlier than a ground-breaking Nissan Qashqai when in 1997 it launched the original Forester. While the newcomer stuck rigidly to Subaru principles (horizontally-opposed engine and all-wheel drive), it was more high riding estate car than serious off-roader.
For some buyers this was a big plus since the Forester’s low-slung engine and consequent lower centre of gravity made it less prone to heeling on bends. It was also an impressive 4x4 holdall for those who just wanted practicality and extra grip.
That it didn’t take the market by storm like the Qashqai a decade later is probably more due to Subaru being unable then to offer a diesel option. But now the Forester has that capability in the form of a punchy, economical flat-four diesel produced in-house by Subaru, one of the Japanese marque’s bravest ever commercial decisions.
The 2.0-litre 148PS (147bhp) engine has been tweaked for the 2015 model year to improve refinement and economy, returning 46.3mpg on the combined cycle, although CO2 emissions are only so-so at 158g/km, road tax bands F and G, incurring £140 and £175 a year depending on model.
It is a delight, however, with its own smooth and distinctive soundtrack and while Subaru also offers a 2.0-litre petrol engine of similar power, performance and price, its 10mpg economy penalty hardly makes a strong alternative case.
Now in its fourth generation, the Forester is still practical yet sharper looking than before, although it won’t win any contests for styling. As ever with Subaru, there is the feeling that much thought has gone into engineering and arrangement; it is the most German of Japanese brands.
The driving position is excellent, with a good high-up view out, aided by lots of glass and little intrusion from the pillars, while boot space is above average for the sector. The interior remains typical Subaru, erring towards durability and ergonomics rather than flair.
The old straight-laced estate body may have been ditched in favour of a more contemporary off-roader/crossover look, but you still get the feeling that this car will deliver the appropriate genuinely rugged performance when the snow is all around.
There is decent ground clearance and it may be that the Forester has sacrificed some on-road sharpness in order to cope better with rougher conditions. It hugs the bends well enough, but a light steering and pliant suspension to cope with bumpy surfaces and easy manoeuvring in tight situations mean it can’t be a poor man’s Range Rover Sport for hard road driving.
But rural-based buyers would rather have that than the less rugged appeal of the Qashqai or soft-roaders like the Toyota RAV4. This is not a car for people who like to chop and change; driving the Forester is a long-term commitment designed for mutual benefit.
Price from: £28,995
Model featured: 2.0D XC Premium
Power: 147bhp and 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds
Engine: 1,998cc flat four diesel
Fuel consumption: 46.3mpg combined cycle
Road tax: £200 (£285 in year one)
Best rival: VW Tiguan