GONE SOFT It was highly appropriate that Subaru chose southern Ireland to showcase the new Forester. Sitting out on the western edge of Europe towards America, Ireland perfectly symbolises the new direction Subaru is taking with its rugged ‘farmer’s friend’ of a country-orientated car. The Forester has changed. Although still very much a niche model, it has become a bit more mainstream, and not entirely for the better. From a firm-riding estate car, it has morphed into a softerriding SUV. It has, in essence, been Americanised. Subaru is convinced that the changes will widen its appeal, and will certainly help in the aim of wooing customers in the US, but admirers of the old-style Forester may feel it has lost something in translation.
The big improvement is that it is now available for the first time with a diesel engine. It is the latest Subaru, after the Legacy and Outback, to be offered with the excellent two-litre horizontallyopposed ‘Boxer’ diesel. Eight out of 10 new Foresters are now expected to be diesels. The flat architecture of the Boxer means that it sits lower in the engine bay, which helps keep down the car’s centre of gravity despite a taller body. Much of the extra height has gone into taller roof-rails, which are a visual improvement as well as a practical one. The roof itself is now ridged for added strength. As well as being taller, the car is also a little longer, and the stretched dimensions give a welcome roomier feel inside.
But there’s a downside. Compared with the old Forester, this new one feels softer and wallows more on corners. It’s a taller car and you can feel it. Driven with enthusiasm on meandering Irish roads, its leaning gait into bends unsettled some passengers. The ride leaves something to be desired. That’s more so with the higher-spec XC and XSn versions than the entry-level X. This budget version sits on 16 x 6.5 inch alloy wheels, rather than the dearer models’ 17 x 7 inch alloys. The smaller wheels and tyres seem to suit the car better, keeping the ride and handling a little calmer. The price difference between top and bottom versions is around £5,000, but the base version is the best to drive.
The engine suits the car well, but it deserves a better quality gearchange. The new six-speed manual gearbox is a bit notchy, not quite smooth enough through the gears. This is a good car for towing. It’s a 4×4 – or “full-time symmetrical allwheel- drive” – with Subaru’s Vehicle Dynamics Control and self-levelling rear suspension. The towing capacity is a commendable 2,000kg.
RIVALS: FORD KUGA TITANIUM 2.0i 16V TDCi, HONDA CR-V 2.2 i-CTDi EX, TOYOTA RAV4 XT5 2.2 D-4D
- Engine: 1998cc, 4 cylinder turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 6-speed manual
- Max Power: 144bhp at 3,600rpm
- Max Torque: 258lb ft at 1,800rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 2,000kg
- Combined Consumption: 44.1mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 170g/km (E)
- 0-62mph: 10.0secs
- Max speed: 115mph
- Insurance Group: 10