The Subaru Forester is a car that I have yearned to own for some time and having explored its capabilities off-road for a day, I can now confirm, having driven one for a week on local roads, that the Forester is not perfect, but what it is, is fabulous!
Perfection is something that each and every one of us see’s as different -what is fabulous to me, may be perfect to the next person so in that regard i will say that in my opinion there is some room for improvement on the Forester, however with such improvements would come a premium price tag.
At a premium tag the charm and appeal of the Subaru Forester would be lost for me and as such i am more than happy for it to not be perfect and remain just fabulous!
The Forester has been around for almost two decades and is now in its fourth generation of models, proving bigger and better than ever before and a true force to be reckoned with when it comes to purposeful, practical cars without going to the size and expense of say Land Rover or Audi.
With pricing starting at just over £25k for a petrol and just shy of £27k for a diesel model in base trim, which in fairness is far from basic with lots of tech and spec as standard the Forester range creeps up to just less than £31k for the top model before options.
Pricing that is very competitive against direct size rivals such as the VW Tiguan, Toyota Rav4 or the Honda CR-V, however none of these offer the on-road agility combined with the off-road ability of the Subaru Forester.
Thus making the Subaru much more versatile and as such could easily be pitched against more focussed off-road vehicles such as a Land Rover Discovery Sport who’s pricing starts where the Forester’s pricing stops.
As such the Forester to me makes a lot of sense with the latest model looking fantastic, the 220mm ground clearance means there is ample room underneath for the majority of obstacles encountered and during my week with the model pictured I visited Ireland Off-road Experience within Clandeboye Estate.
The tracks within the Co. Down venue are a common place to find me testing the capabilities of off-road vehicles and the Forester was no exception. Area’s I imagined it would struggle, it did not and in area’s that a Discovery Sport got things a little tight the Forester was unstoppable.
Around the front of the Forester LED daytime running lights are accompanied with HID headlights with headlamp washers that pop up from the bumper to keep things as clear as possible whilst the bottom half of the bumper is angled in a way that aids off-road ability.
Durable black plastic runs the full length of the car along the bottom of the doors and around the lower rear bumper. Satin roof rails make for transport of hay bales, bikes, canoes and Christmas tree’s easy with the right accessory added.
A detachable tow bar is available which is something of a must-have accessory for many Forester owners as let’s face it, they will most certainly see a substantial trailer or horse box attached at some point and the Forester comes with a 2000kg towing limit which suits most people’s needs.
With towing in mind and the fact that most will be used for towing at some point, Subaru have fitted trailer stability control to the latest model to ensure that acceleration and braking is kept under control should a trailer get out of control.
A rather large boot space is on offer, one of the largest in the segment in fact with practical loading due to its near flat with the bumper design and with the 60:40 split rear seats folding flat offers as much room as any large estate car.
Inside the cabin of this model tested is better than expected with black leather covering the seats, door card inserts, door handles and parts of the dash. The steering wheel and gear knob are finished off in black leather also whilst the dash is typically Japanese, making it more durable than soft touch however with some gloss black inserts and satin chrome it would be very easy to live with.
ISOFIX as standard keeps children safe with suitable seating attached to the anchor points and child proof rear door locks add further safety for younger passengers whilst arm rests, cup holders and plenty of cubby holes offer some comfort along with the dual climate control and air conditioning.
Infotainment comes in abundance with Sat Nav, DAB Radio, Bluetooth, USB input, AUX input and CD playback along with Subaru’s STARLINK connectivity app which can all be viewed and controlled on the 7” touch screen built into the dash as well as via steering wheel controls.
A reverse camera on this model tested also displays what it sees on this screen whilst a smaller screen built into the top of the dash displays the cars stats and driving data along with X-Drive information.
Powered by Subaru’s 2.0L ‘boxer’ diesel unit and combined to the automatic gearbox, this Forester produces 145bhp with a hefty 258lb/ft of torque seeing it from 0-60mph in less than 10 seconds via its renowned symmetrical all-wheel-drive system.
This engine and ‘box combination is fantastic, it will never provide major thrills (that’s what the XT petrol model is for) but it is just a good solid and reliable blend that performs fantastically on-road as well as being capable of providing the minimal power required when off-road.
This boxer engine, in its nature keeps weight incredibly low and as such the Forester has an incredibly low centre of gravity which helps with its handling and keeping things stable on all surfaces and is unrivalled with a 5yr/100k mile warranty.
With a 60L fuel tank – during the course of the week I had this model – I used around 90L in total covering a serious amount of miles on incredibly mixed roads and my overall average was around 38mpg which isn’t as good as many competitors but nothing else handles as well on-road nor can go as far off-road so this is a small sacrifice for the boxer engine layout.
On-road comfort and pace was never in doubt and off-road I think I have said enough to sell one to myself. Annual road tax on the model tested comes in at an affordable £185/annum with petrol variants coming in a little dearer.
On Automatic models, ‘X-Drive’ assists when off-road, mostly with hill decent and it works a treat as we found out whilst other driver and safety aids include; brake assist, brake override, ABS with electronic brake distribution, cruise control, vehicle dynamics control and hill start assist.
The Subaru Forester is not some sort of stylised wannabe like many others, it is the real deal that means business no matter what the conditions or terrain. If you are in the market for a small SUV and the Subaru isn’t on your radar, then go and drive one as you may well be very surprised.
Words and Photos: Graham Curry
[images must not be used in any way without prior written consent of the photographer]
PS. Subaru UK – I have asked before but having this one for a week I will ask again – if you happen to have any Foresters that are surplus to requirements, send one my way…