latest and completely new
Forester, that first appeared on
UK roads back in April, is Subarus
third generation crossover SUV.
And something of a fairytale
A TRANSFORMATION THAT'S NOT QUITE UGLY DUCKLING TO SLEEK SWAN, because
the previous 'boxy' Forester wagon was never unattractive. But
the new one is definitely a bit of a head-turner, especially finished in the
gleaming white of our test car a 2.0 X with a five-speed manual
Now much more conventional soft roader-like in appearance, it's also bigger
110mm taller, 75mm longer and 45mm wider and closer in size to
the Nissan X-Trail, the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V. The new look is clean
and chiselled with standout visual clues that include multi-grooved wheel-arches,
a wide slatted chrome grille flanked by shapely headlamps, a kicked-up third
side window and bold tail lamp units that cut deeply into the rear wings. A
nice touch: chunky exterior door handles with deep recesses that help winter
glove-wearers get an easier grip!
Under the shapely new skin there have also been big changes being based
on the platform of the new Impreza, the Forester now has a new multi-link rear
suspension and fuel-saving electric power steering. In addition, Subaru's Vehicle
Dynamics Control, system and self-levelling rear suspension are both standard
fit items. Furthermore, there's enhanced fuel economy and driveability courtesy
of a new, improved 2.0-litre petrol 'boxer' engine which, together with the
transmission, has been 'dropped' by 10mm for a lower centre of gravity.
On-the-road prices start at £18,495 for the 2.0 X and £22,495 for the 2.0 XS
petrol models. Equipment levels, even for the entry-level 2.0 X, are pretty
comprehensive and include: symmetrical all-wheel drive, Subaru Vehicle Dynamics
Control, self-levelling rear suspension, fuel-saving electric power-steering,
front, side and curtain airbags (the passenger airbag is also dual-stage), anti-whiplash
front head restraints, front and rear electric windows (one-shot auto down only
on the driver's window), 60:40-split rear seats with reclining backrests, climate-control
air-conditioning, radio/CD player, front fog lamps, vehicle information display,
height-and-reach adjustable steering wheel, heated front seats, heated door
mirrors and cruise control.
There are even heated elements in the base of the windscreen to prevent the
wiper blades freezing to the glass. And while you are unlikely to spot it from
a casual glance, the 'X' model Forester rides on 16-inch steel wheels covered
with neat trims good news if you're venturing off road.
For the record, the higher-spec Forester 2.0 XS adds 16-inch alloys, leather
upholstery, a premium audio system featuring a six-stacker CD-player and seven
speakers, HID headlamps, sun-roof, electrically-powered driver's seat, engine
starter button and 'smart' entry.
The cabin itself is a much more pleasant place to be there's masses of
space in all directions, including loads of headroom. The uncluttered, 'swoopy'
fascia design adds to the feeling of space; the heated front seats upholstered
in two-tone fabric with an attractive slight 'metallic' sheen are big
and comfortable with non-intrusive side bolstering and there is lots (and we
really do mean lots) of room in the back as well a near six-footer can
stretch right out even with a similarly sized driver or front passenger ahead
of them. Wide opening doors make entry and exit from any seat particularly easy.
The Forester's deep glasshouse and large third rear side windows make for an
airy and pleasant rear cabin. There is a comfy centre rear armrest and well-placed
outer armrests on the rear doors. While three will fit, two adults travel in
genuine comfort. Also present are two Isofix-compatible child seat mountings
and there are also lots of useful, well-placed storage cubbies.
The chrome-ringed instruments under a single cowl are clear and easy to read
and the 'vehicle information display' provides essential information at a glance.
A thoughtful touch worth a mention is the illuminated ring around the ignition:
a simple feature, yes, but it does makes fitting the key in at night so much
easier. In the rear, legroom has grown by 95mm while the boxy boot is now 63
litres larger than before a commendable 450 litres with the rear seats
Fold them down (when released, they spring forwards and drop virtually flat
on their own; and no need to remove the headrests, either) and you'll have a
genuine workhorse with 1,660 litres of space at your disposal. You also get
four pop-out bag hooks and sturdy tie-down points. The full size (hooray!) spare
and toolkit is stored under the boot floor and where you'll find some
more stowage room for oddments.
As already mentioned, the rear suspension features self-levelling which means
you can transport heavy items of cargo while maintaining a constant ground clearance
now a substantial 215mm and without degrading the Forester's civilised
Under the bonnet, the new 148bhp 2.0-litre normally aspirated four-cam 'boxer'
engine sounds good; and it's smooth and refined in use. It has a lower CO2 rating
198g/km and delivers improved fuel economy: officially 25.9, 40.4
and 33.6mpg respectively for the urban, extra-urban and combined cycles. Our
test average during a full week's driving on all sorts of roads, including quite
a lot of town work, came out at a respectable 31.4mpg. Top speed is 114mph and
the 0-60mph 'sprint' takes 10.6 seconds although on the road it actually feels
somewhat keener than the paper figures.
Driving the new Forester is absolutely no hardship. For a start you're sitting
comfortable and higher up than most other road users holding a three-spoke wheel
with a thick-ish rim that is pleasant to grip. And it also offers a good range
of both height and reach adjustment. Cruise control buttons are sited conveniently
close to hand on the right spoke. The good view out is made even better by the
driver's eye-line now being 30mm higher than in the superseded model. The driving
position is bang to rights making the Forester easy to place on the road
and the controls are smooth to operate. A clean gear-change action makes
being in the right gear at the right time an easy task.
And while there's now greater ground clearance, the all-wheel drive system which
has made the Subaru brand famous sees to it that the handling is not compromised.
The Forester's full-time AWD system splits power 50:50 front-to-rear. However,
the moment slip is detected the centre differential instantly distributes torque
to the axle with the most grip.
Also ensuring consistent stability is Subaru's Vehicle Dynamics Control system.
This uses sophisticated sensors to detect side-to-side and front-to-rear slip
plus sudden steering movements. It controls understeer/oversteer and potential
loss of control by braking individual wheels and cutting engine revs.
As with previous Forester models, a proper dual-range (low and high) transfer
'box is standard on manual cars. Effectively providing ten forward ratios, dual
range is easily selected by depressing the clutch and raising the small lever
next to the gear-shift an operation that can also be effected on the
move. Low-ratio advantages include extra control through enhanced engine braking
in slippery conditions. Apart from off-road, this comes into its own, for example,
while driving down a snow-covered urban street, hauling a boat out of the water
up a slipway or drivng on sand. And, of course, the full-time four-wheel drive
ensures plenty of grip on wet tarmac, too.
The Forester's road manners are acceptably good. While it's no Cooper S, it
is surprisingly wieldy: the inherent balance of its Impreza-sourced chassis
is backed up with well-damped body control and a smooth ride that copes easily
with urban bumps (and cruises motorways brilliantly) and provides reassuring
traction. Braking is progressive and the brakes reassuringly powerful (backed
up with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and ABS), and while the new fuel-saving,
electrically-assisted power steering could do with a bit more 'feel', it doesn't
hamper a tidy press-on driving style.
A safe 4x4 family car/workhorse that's 'fit for purpose' and won't break the
bank, the latest Forester is a competent all-rounder that handles well, rides
even better and will provide driving enjoyment for the keen driver with 'responsibilities'.
Not surprisingly, we were genuinely reluctant to hand it back after a week behind
the wheel. MotorBar
Subaru Forester 2.0 X | £18,495
Maximum speed: 114mph | 0-60mph: 10.6 seconds
Overall test MPG: 31.4mpg | Power: 148bhp | Torque: 145lb ft
CO2 198g/km | VED Band F £210 | Insurance group 9