A big hat, an immense afro and a Barbie-esque neck. These are the only ways you’re going to feel cramped with the Forester’s headroom. And that’s if you have all three together. It’s like driving along in quiet convertible with low grey cloud.
Talking of low grey cloud: Subaru sort of lost the opportunity in the UK with the Forester because they didn’t have a diesel model quickly enough. Over there diesels are much more popular given the price of petrol is actually about as much as the price of boutique bottled water. Over here they’re not as popular, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t take a look at the Forester.
It comes with a two-litre, 108kW, 350Nm turbo diesel motor. It’s a bit noisy and coarse-sounding under acceleration, but it does pull quite well, getting you to a hundred in just under 10 seconds and, for a car with the headroom of the Royal Albert Hall, returns reasonable fuel economy (6.3 litres/100km combined is what they quote, and 7.4 was what I achieved). With its 64-litre tank you won’t need to visit the service station that often.
The power is supplied to the wheels through symmetrical all-wheel drive – good for those towing or needing to get into some light off-roading. It’ll tow 1800kg on a braked trailer, and the ground clearance is 220mm. There’s X-Mode which is an off-road mode which changes the settings of the traction control, brakes and other components to give the best performance when climbing or descending steep inclines, driving on slippery surfaces and navigating rough roads.
Between the AWD and the motor is a continuously variable gearbox which you can control using paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.
The driving experience is a mixed bag. Visibility is excellent. It’s the kind of visibility the lookout boy on the Titanic wished he’d had. The seats have plenty of comfort and the driving position itself is easy to adjust to a position that suits you. The problems are that the steering wheel is a horrible, thin plastic number, the brakes lack feel and the dual zone climate control never got truly warm on any journey I took.
Fairly minor, but all valid points.
The handling is as you would expect for a tall four-wheel drive like the Forester: it’s benign when it’s smooth and flowing, but if the corners are tight then you feel the lean. It rides on 225/60R17 tyres and there’s grip there, but it’s not comfortable to explore the extremes of that grip.
It is good to explore the extremes of the cargo area, which is more than adequate. With the rear seats down there’s almost 1500 litres of space. With the seats up there’s 422 litres. To put it in comparison, a Corolla has around 280 litres.
Rear legroom and headroom is excellent. Three passengers can fit in the back. The middle passenger has a seatbelt which comes from the roof rather than the top of the seat.
The Forester achieved a 5-star ANCAP occupant crash test rating, and comes with electronic stability control, anti-lock braking system, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, traction control and TCS limited slip device.
The hill start assist holds the car for up to 1.5 seconds and works in forward and reverse – very useful for reversing on slopes – and there’s a rear-view camera. There are seven airbags – the usual six down the sides and in the dashboard/steering wheel, plus a driver’s knee bag.
You can connect your phone via Bluetooth, including for audio streaming. If you want to plug it in via USB, the plug itself is in a bit of an awkward place in the central binnacle – you’d want to leave a cable in there all the time to save yourself the hassle.
Exterior styling has come a long way since the first Forester. I parked this next to one of the old ones with its now-faded two-tone plastic skirts and its hideous front end. It’s bigger but somehow looks leaner. It’s not a car that stands out, though; you’ll be fairly anonymous as the colour palette is a mixture of subtle silvers, plus a red and blue.
The Forester diesel is going to be a family favourite. It’s rugged, has heaps of space, good levels of safety and good fuel economy. Plus, you can wear whatever hat you want inside it.
- Brake feel
- Heater performance
- Steering wheel feel
Words and photos: Darren Cottingham