Subaru Forester practical and capable country car

SUBARU FORESTER.

SUBARU FORESTER.

SUBARU is very much a niche player here with just four models in its line‐up: ‘XV’; ‘Forester’, ‘Outback’ and ‘Levorg’. It sold over 600,000 cars in the USA last year but SMMT figures show its 2016 UK total was 3,612. This was a decent 4.5 per cent increase on 2015’s 3,455 and twice better than a (slowing) general market growth of 2.25 per cent, writes Huw Thomas. The target however is around 8,000 with a three‐point pitch based on 4×4 capability, safety and longevity. The marque it says slots in below (an increasingly up‐market) Land Rover for those who want a credible All‐Wheel‐Drive vehicle at a price range of £17,500 to £32,000. Longevity, to an extent, has been a rod for the company’s back ‐ 99.3 per cent of Subarus in the UK, apparently, are still on the road at 10+ years’ old. The Forester is Subaru’s best‐selling car here. It was introduced in 1997 and the current series was revised last year. Work on chassis dynamics has led to improved front and rear suspension together with a sharper steering response. More powerful headlamps now have a degree of steering‐related turn to help light up corners. Bodywork has been “refreshed” front and rear, cabin fit and finish improved while heated rear seats/steering wheel become available. Line‐up: ‘XE’; ‘XE Premium’; ‘XT Turbo’; ‘XC’; ‘XC Premium’ and asking prices range from £26,180 to £32,180. Engine line‐up as before: 2.0 petrol 150ps; 2.0 petrol turbocharged 241ps; 2.0 turbo‐Diesel 147ps. These are all 4 cylinder horizontally opposed (‘flat four’ or ‘boxer’) units. (Porsche is the only other manufacturer to persevere with engines like these.) Subaru’s flat four is compact enough to be ahead of the front axle thus driving it and the one at the back directly without any re‐routing. Subaru calls it ‘Symmetrical All‐Wheel drive’. The system is live all the time and the default setting is 50‐50 front‐rear. So this is not a front‐wheel drive car with a clutch‐type activator at the back kicking in as slip is detected and ramping up rear drive as things worsen. Ground clearance is better than most of the type as are approach/departure angles despite a front overhang (dictated by a number of issues today not merely engine layout). There is no 50‐50 lock‐in or hill descent assist nor a specific “off‐road” setting adapting the car’s electronics. Trailer stability control is part of the package. The ‘Lineartronic’ (CVT) automatic on the other hand deploys much of these off‐road assets. But it costs between £1,240 ‐£1,760 extra ‐ standard on the 2.0 XT 241ps Turbo. Diesel 6‐speed manual is the obvious choice (a Boxer Diesel is unique to Subaru). A mere 3ps down on the 2.0 litre petrol, torque spread is much better and the slick 6 speed ‘box also well matched pulling strongly even in 5th & 6th. Forester asking prices bring it up against some stiff competition: larger Kia Sorento/ Hyundai Santa Fe or on‐road focused Ford Kuga, e.g. Then there’s the new VW Group crop of Tiguan, SEAT Ateca and Skoda Kodiaq. “Everyone” is in this field now but Subaru’s permanent, ‘intelligent’ 4×4 system gives it an edge. It is impressive off‐road even in manual, un‐electronically aided form ‐ and has a proper mechanical hand‐brake. This is a practical, capable “country Car” of considerable appeal. Facts & Figures: 2.0D 6sp man XC/XC Premium £28,440/£30,940;118mph; 0‐62 mph 9.9 secs; 49.6mpg (official combined); 41/42 on test (TripComputer best 47/49); CO2–148 g/km; Road Tax ‘F’/£145; Ins.Grp.25; Max Braked Towing Wgt 2,000kg. XC well‐equipped: electrically powered sunroof and tailgate, for example, standard.

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