Road Test: Subaru Forester 2.0D XC
The Forester has been part of Subaru’s line-up since 1997 – a natural fit for a company that specialises in four-wheel drive and arguably ahead of the curve as an early C-segment crossover based on the Impreza.
That’s a coming together of segments which has, in Japan, resulted in some amusing STI versions in the past. But this newest version, which launched last year, is leaving showrooms with slightly more sensible powertrain choices.
The range comprises two 2.0-litre horizontally opposed Boxer engines, a petrol and diesel, with 150 or 147bhp respectively. On paper, at least, these offer similar fuel economy, while CO2 emissions of 150g/km for the most efficient diesel are matched by the petrol, provided it has the continuously variable transmission. Very much a head over heart choice, though.
All models use Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, which means power is shared equally across all four corners at all times. It’s been a selling point for Subaru, but the segment has moved on a little in recent years and a low-power, front-wheel drive version would be useful for bringing CO2 emissions down to crossover norms. It may not be pitching for Nissan Qashqai-rivalling sales figures, but even its closest rival, the Mitsubishi ASX, has two and four-wheel drive versions in the range.
In XC trim the Forester emits 156g/km CO2 and is said to return mpg on the combined cycle without the aid of stop and start technology. This doesn’t hurt it too much – average economy settles between 40 and 45mpg on motorway journeys, which isn’t bad for a four-wheel drive crossover, and the engine is pleasingly quiet and smooth in its power delivery.
Interior aesthetics have long been a problem for Subaru, but the new Forester has moved forward rapidly since its predecessor. European buyers like soft-touch plastics, and these are now found on most areas of the doors and dashboard which are commonly touched. But even the hardest plastics don’t feel cheap, despite looking a little dated compared to others in the segment, and Subaru’s five-year warranty speaks volumes for its belief in its build quality.
Infotainment is a little lacking, though. The Forester uses an aftermarket Pioneer system which can be incredibly fiddly to use, but it does work with the steering wheel controls. Data about fuel economy, a graphic showing how much traction each wheel has, and the feed from the reversing camera are displayed in a secondary binnacle on top of the dashboard.
Further back, the rear seats offer plentiful legroom and the squared-off back-end offers ample space for tall passengers too. The rear bench folds flush with the boot floor, making this ideal for hauling bulky loads. With only one engine, and it’s a powerful one, there’s no shortage of power for towing either.
The Forester a great car for working hard, for making light work of bad weather, heavy loads and site visits while retaining car-like road manners. But with anonymous styling and no headline-chasing CO2 figure to speak of, a lack of visibility in the UK is its biggest enemy.
Subaru was an early entrant into what is now a very popular segment, and it’s stayed true to the original Forester with this latest incarnation. The trouble is, the segment itself has moved into highly efficient, design-focused two-wheel drive crossovers, and this hasn’t moved with it. This is a brilliant workhorse, but it’s a choice strictly for those who need that extra traction.