THE Subaru Forester has been a familiar sight on the roads for more than 20 years and over that period has been revised and improved several times, gradually transforming from a versatile four-wheel-drive estate to a smart family SUV which still retains formidable off-road ability.
It competes in a crowded SUV sector but has a distinct edge over main rivals with its impressive tough-terrain performance, able to tackle rough roads, mud, snow and ice with relative ease.
Forester comes in two versions and the entry level XE costs €34,746 (£30,000) and has features such as four-wheel-drive, automatic transmission, cruise control, rear camera and touch-screen infotainment centre.
The XE Premium Lineartronic which I recently tested costs €37,638 (£32,500) and adds other features including sunroof, heated leather seats, sat-nav, powered tailgate, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assistance and pre-collision braking.
It had a 2.0 litre 148 hp petrol engine which is quite refined and the power is delivered smoothly through the auto gearbox which also has paddle-shifters for those who wish to take manual control.Top speed is 193 kph(120 mph), the 0-100 kph 11.8 seconds and emissions 168 g/km. Average fuel economy is 11.4 kpl(32.2 mpg).
The latest Forester has had a design makeover which adds extra visual cachet and a more upmarket look to the exterior, while the cabin has benefitted from an upgrade which has given it a classier ambiance. Seating is very comfortable and supportive and there is plenty of adjustment of the steering wheel and the powered driver’s seat to get an ideal position. All-round visibility is very good, with the added advantage of a reversing camera.
Out and about, the Forester is surprising light and easy to drive and it corners with reassuring composure. The ride quality is on the firm side but still comfortable and on smooth roads where it is likely to spend most of its time, it is extremely car-like to drive and handle.
With good head and leg room, five adults can be easily accommodated, and there is ample boot space at 505 litres.The boot floor is flat to make loading easier and the rear seats fold to give van-like capacity for larger items.
The Forester is not the cheapest family-size SUV in the class but it is one of the most versatile and few can match its off-road capability and its tough build quality – backed by a five-year warranty.
Model tested was UK specification and equipment levels and prices may vary in other markets.
Model: Subaru Forester XE Premium Lineartronic
Engine: 2.0 litre petrol
Performance: 0-100 kph 11.8 seconds, top speed 193 kph(120 mph)
Economy: 11.4 kpl(32.2 mpg)
Emissions: 168 g/km