MOTORS REVIEW: Subaru Forester

By Tom Sharpe | 28/12/2017

MOTORS REVIEW: Subaru Forester

LIKE a McDonald’s the lunchtime after a big night out or a Hobnob with a cup of tea, sometimes car and situations come together as one to make a perfect fit.

That’s what I tried to tell myself when I opted for a pair of SsangYong Tivoli XLVs as holiday hire cars after being offered a choice which included a Ford C-Max or Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer on my Spanish break last week.

When it comes to selecting a hire car, the usual considerations go out of the window and there is something appealing about selecting something a little left-field.

Bizarrely my sister-in-law said she felt like a Kardashian rocking up to our villa in our mini-convoy of black SUVs and despite the rather gawkylooking rear ends — the only thing they did share with the Kardashian mob — our Korean runarounds served us well.

There are cars that seem to have been designed to slip quite seamlessly into every situation, however, not just as a holiday hack, and the Subaru Forester is one of those.

A classless utilitarian SUV, the Forester might lack the sleek design of modern rivals, but it has a unique appeal which allows it to look as much at home towing a trailer of hay through a rutted field as it might rocking up outside a society polo tournament.

It’s fair to say that the “go anywhere, do anything” reputation of the Forester has long won it fans among the country set.

Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheeldrive system, which combines the compact proportions of the Japanese brand’s Boxer engines to contribute to a low centre of gravity, is key to this.

But so has a straightforward design which is unapologetically functional.

The Forester 2.0D XC Premium Lineartronic tested here sits at 1,735mm high and 4,595mm long, making it taller than a Land Rover Discovery Sport and only a little shorter in length.

Unfortunately, a £32,495 price tag also puts it right in contention with the more dynamic and more widely desirable British rival.

It should go without saying that interior accommodation is not an issue in the Forester.

Deep flanks and that tall glass body communicate the scale of the accommodation on offer from the outside and so it proves when behind the wheel, or sitting behind the driver.

This is a cavernous vehicle. The boot is also a bale, Beagle or picnic basket-swallowing 505 litres, albeit well down on the Disco Sport’s 689.

Interior design has never been Subaru’s strong suit, though, and there is no way of selling the styling to a younger motorist, who will be immediately aware that it looks like a cabin of a different generation to its European rivals.

Leather seats are a tactile touch but the plastic surfaces elsewhere lack visual appeal, the dash being soft to the touch but with an appearance which suggests otherwise and aluminium effect inserts which lack the cool-to-thetouch appeal of the real thing.

A functional but less-than-slick touchscreen infotainment system serves up sat-nav, a reversing camera, Bluetooth connectivity and music streaming, but lacks the visual flair of the best out there.

Above this, a smaller screen delivers fuel economy and drivetrain information via a display that looks to have been lifted from an 1980s flight simulator.

Subaru have to be applauded for their safety technology.

The manufacturer has taken its approach to semi-autonomous driving aids as seriously as its drivetrain engineering with a dual camera-based adaptive cruise control and emergency braking system currently winning accolades from the broader motoring press.

Sadly, my test car did not come so equipped.

Where the Forester begins to shine a little brighter once more is in the way it drives.

I’ve long moaned about continuously variable transmissions and their ability to be noisy and lack responsiveness, but Subaru’s Lineartronic item is the best out there and works quietly and competently with the 145bhp Boxer diesel engine fitted here.

Press the accelerator and the Forester’s reaction is keen and progress remarkably refined.

I’d not expected the cabin to be so well sound insulated.

The tall SUV handles remarkably well, too, the engine’s compact dimensions and low position in the engine bay bestowing it with a fairly low centre of gravity.

Blessed with steering of a reassuring weight rarely experienced in a modern vehicle, the Forester feels uncomplicated and well sorted on the move.

With 258lb.ft. of torque on tap, Subaru claim the diesel-powered Forester will reach 62mph in 9.9 seconds on its way to a 117mph top speed — on a par with the more powerful Land Rover Discovery Sport at this price point.

CO2 emissions of 158g/km and 46.3 claimed fuel economy fall a little short of some rivals’ claims, but my indicated average of over 40mpg was not so disappointing.

Subaru has forged a reputation around building rugged, workmanlike vehicles which can withstand the rigours of a varied lifestyle, not just shortterm abuse at the hands of carefree holidaymakers.

There remains a sense that these are vehicles that will last and last — unfussy and honest.

For many, the lack of design frills will be a bridge too far but that almost adds to the appeal.

Subaru ownership? I suspect Kardashians need not apply… Far from frilling...but