Subaru Forester first driveThe fourth generation Subaru Forester, five door, five seater, SUV with all wheel drive entered the UK’s new car market in May and its loyal customers will be pleased to know that although it looks more modern, curvaceous and smarter, nothing much has changed its practicality.

It’s more fuel efficient, offers more interior space BUT most importantly for its customers it remains that family-friendly, tough, reliable and long lasting 4x4 ideal for country users, on or off road.

 

Prices have increased slightly starting from £24,995 and rising to £30,995 but Subaru claims the improvements, revised and new engines and higher specification, far outweigh the price-hike. There are six trim levels for buyers to choose from, all with a generous level of standard equipment: XE and XE Premium is available on all naturally-aspirated petrol models; X, XC and XC Premium on all diesel models; and XT, the highest specification, is standard on new 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol version. All Foresters have a peace-of-mind five-year, 100,000 mile warranty, plus a 12-year anti-corrosion guarantee.

 

Forester buyers have three 2.0-litre horizontally opposed, four-cylinder aluminium engines to choose from; a 147bhp naturally-aspirated petrol engine, a 145bhp turbocharged diesel unit as well as a new sporty 2.0-litre direct injection turbocharged petrol unit which produces 237bhp.

 

The latest Forester is available with the choice of either a new six-speed manual transmission – available on 2.0i and 2.0D models – or an upgraded version of Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT automatic, available as an option on models with the 147bhp petrol engines and standard on versions with the new 237bhp direct injection turbo petrol engine.

 

ASubaru Forester first driveSubaru Forester first drivell models keep Subaru’s standard and popular symmetrical 4x4 drive system but the all-terrain capability is further enhanced with the introduction of X-Mode on Lineartronic CVT models which includes Hill Descent Control which makes traction more controlled when used in conjunction with an auto gearbox. Unfortunately manual transmission models have no such technology such as a 4x4 lock button for tough off-roading or on-road ice and snow. Instead there is a centre differential with a viscous coupling which adjusts the distribution of drive whenever a wheel slips. In normal road conditions the drive-torque is 50/50 front/rear.

 

Changes have also been made to the vehicle’s construction and suspension system with improved chassis and body rigidity. The vehicle’s fully-independent suspension with front and rear anti-roll bars has been upgraded to improve steering response, traction and ride comfort.

 

Now the boxy shaped Forester has never been ahead of the competition in the fashion-stakes, function over fashion has always been its mandate and that is its strength – you know what you are going to get and you know it will do the job. This time around the Forester is however more curvaceous, less upright in its design but there is no rising waistline or sloping coupe roofline to reduce the window size as with so many new SUVs and crossovers. Being thoroughly practical vehicles, there is no shortage of Foresters being used as farming family transport in my part of the UK, them and Land Rover Freelanders and of course caravan towers love them.

 

The latest Forester offers a high and commanding driving position, generous interior space and cargo capacity, light and airy with ease of entry and exit for adults and children. The high ground clearance and 4WD provide the all-terrain capabilities that Forester is rightly renowned for.

 

At 4,595mm in length the new Forester has grown in other directions by small amounts; 2mm taller, 15mm wider and 35mm longer with a 25mm longer wheelbase. The great visibility, because of the large windows and slim pillars, is immediately noticeable over other SUV/crossovers. The rear seat legroom is very good and the command position seating comfortable and supportive. The Forester scores highly for its practicality, ‘function over fashion’, and that is a priority for many people. True the interior is a bit plain and the plastics do not have that expensive ‘soft-feel’ about them but no doubt like the rest of the car they will be durable.

 

My new Subaru Forester test model was the 2.0D XC priced at £26,995, likely to be the most popular model in the range. Standard equipment for all models includes air conditioning, electric windows and mirrors, alloy wheels, fog lights, a comprehensive air-bag system, trailer stability control, sound system, on-board computer, Bluetooth and 60/40 split folding rear seats which when folded down usefully give a flat load floor. And under that floor is a spare wheel. The XC spec additions include 17-inch alloys, auto levelling HID headlights, power operated sunroof, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, rear vision camera, cruise control, leather trim for the steering wheel and gear lever and uprated sound system. The big omission is front and rear parking sensors, not expensive items really so I can see no point in not having them as standard in a large vehicle of this type. Yes there is a rear view camera but the screen is so small and recessed into the fascia that it is difficult to see.

 

Subaru Forester first driveSubaru Forester first driveSubaru Forester first driveIn addition to the excellent visibility and roomy interior offered by the new Forester the other main area of praise goes to ride comfort, A combination of the fully independent suspension, sensible 17-inch wheels without low profile tyres, and supportive seats gave a very compliant ride and the suspension more or less shrugged off potholes with ease, a rare occurrence these days. Road holding was composed, flat and level, with little cornering bodyroll due in part to the low centre of gravity offered by the ‘flat four’ engine. With permanent four wheel drive cornering grip was consistent.

 

The 2.0-litre, horizontally opposed, flat-four aluminium direct injection turbodiesel engine delivers 145bhp and 258lbs ft of torque from 1,600rpm. This flat-four’ design is a DNA item of Subaru but apart from ease of packaging in the bodyshell I’m not sure it has many other advantages over modern four cylinder high torque turbodiesel units. It is certainly fuel efficient returning 46.2mpg for my test driving using motorways, country A/B roads and some stop/start urban travel. That figure did impress me as the EU Combined Cycle official figure is 49.6mpg so in real-life the Forester delivers almost what it says on the label. The CO2 emissions of 156g/km means there is a hefty VED road tax charge of £175 and company car drivers will pay 26% in tax.

 

The engine sounds a bit harsh on start-up from cold. Although the official figure says this engine delivers its maximum torque from 1,600rpm it really is only above 2,000rpm that the engine becomes responsive. I found myself having to change down to a lower gear to get the vehicle going and too many times I found fourth was the happiest gear ratio on winding country roads instead of fifth or even sixth. A high final drive gear ratio used for fuel efficiency would seem to dull this low-down response and just getting the revs right for pulling away from standstill was sometimes an issue as well. The gearlever has a long throw to it so gearchanges are never that fast or slick. Top speed is an unremarkable 118mph, but who travels at that speed anyway? The zero to 62mph acceleration time of 10.2 seconds is about par for the course.

 

The new Subaru Forester is a big improvement in most areas and where matters function over fashion in terms of reliability, durability, comfort, space and trustworthy 4x4 traction on and off road it will be a loyal and trustworthy motoring friend for many people but running costs could be considered to be expensive.

 

MILESTONES: Subaru Forester 2.0D XC 5-Door, 5-Seater 4x4 SUV. Price: £26,995. Engine/transmission: 2.0-litre, horizontally opposed ‘flat-four, aluminium , turbodiesel, 145bhp, 258lb ft of torque from 1,600rpm, 6-speed manual, permanent all wheel drive. Performance: 118mph, 0-62mph 10.2 seconds, 49.6mpg (46.2mpg on test), CO2 156g/km, VED road tax £175, BIK company car tax 26%. Insurance group: 25E. Warranty: 5-years/100,000 miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,595, H 1,735mm, W 1,795mm, boot/load space 505 to 1,192-litres, braked towing weight 2,000kg. For: Sensible styling, roomy, light and airy interior with good visibility, comfortable ride, 4x4 traction so good on and off road, good fuel economy potential, good for towing. Against: Plain interior finishes and controls, engine lacks low down response, high-ish tax/servicing running costs, no parking sensors.Miles Better News Agency

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