Subaru Forester 2.0D

XC

Subaru Forester, off-road
Subaru Forester, dynamic
Subaru Forester, driving
Subaru Forester, front
Subaru Forester, rear
Subaru Forester, interior

MENTION the name Subaru and the response will probably relate to the Impreza WRX world rally car and last summer's impressive British Touring Car Championship debut with the new Levorg sports tourer.

Motorsport success apart, what most motorists should associate with Subaru's longer history is rugged, practical four-wheel-drive family cars offering no-frills driving with an industry-leading reliability record.

Take the all-wheel-drive Forester for example. It arrived here back in 1977 as a genuine off-roader family estate car, long before such cars were dubbed Sports Utility Vehicles, is now in its fourth generation and still remains the marque's best selling model.

Recently given a fresh outside look along with a more refined interior and some welcome upgrade to its suspension, the Forester remains ageless in every respect. It's easy to see why real countryside motorists keep going back to buy one.

The Forester simply does the job when conditions underneath are treacherous with snow, ice, flooded roads and those living in remote areas can still trundle happily across rain-sodden fields and along deep, mud-rutted tracks.

It's a workhorse in every sense of the word and whilst its perhaps not quite as stylish looking or as luxuriously fitted out as more modern day rivals, time and time again it proves its worth to owners who know it will not let them down when the going gets really tough.

There's still a choice of either a 2.0-litre petrol or 2.0-litre diesel engines and along with five different trim levels Subaru has in recent times attempted to broaden buyer appeal but the Forester remains a serious contender for those drivers looking to have permanent four-wheel-drive and will genuinely use it off Tarmac roads.

The old Boxer direct injection turbo diesel engine remains, gratefully up graded making it far more refined, quieter and more responsive than ever before, and the 145bhp version understandably remains the best seller.

With this model there's a choice too of transmissions - either a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed CVT automatic - but it's the former that remains the preference in my book.

The big plus point for anyone driving a Forester is that it has permanent four-wheel-drive (4WD) so there's no need for the driver to start looking for and worrying which knob to turn or button to press to put the car in all-wheel-drive mode when the ground conditions deteriorate.

Unlike the original models there's not the fuel penalty to pay for having permanent 4WD - this latest Forester clocked up to 48.8mpg overall (road and off-road driving) exceeding the official 47.9mpg combined figure - and that doesn't happen often in cars these days.

The two other major driving improvements with the latest Forester is that it's generally a much quieter and more flexible diesel engine, still with good low-down torque, and it has far more road grip.

It also feels more stable, particularly when driving off-road, and the latest improvements to give the car a softer suspension clearly works.

As one would expect in today's market the Forester has more modern technology as standard such as limited slip differential, hill descent control plus what Subaru calls its Si Drive system which allows the driver to choose between different driving modes to alter engine and throttle response when driving on more difficult terrain.

The interior of those original Foresters were, shall we say, fairly frugal but this time around there are better leather seats giving good lumbar support, dashboard and surroundings furniture with a much softer but still practical material while better sound proofing makes riding in the cabin far more comfortable and relaxing.

Along with extra safety features - the Forester now has a five-star Euro NCAP crash safety ticket - and there's an infotainment with a seven-inch screen.

Yes, some the newer model rivals are a bit flashier when it comes to interior finishes but the key for buyers to remember here is that the Forester is a genuine, decently equipped, practical and much better kitted out family 4WD than ever before.

Standard kit now includes climate control, cruise control, heated front seats and most of the entertainment gizmos demanded today.

It's a five seater too and with decent luggage space - 505 litres with the rear seats in use, drop them down and it then expands to 1,592 litres - plus plenty of minor storage spaces for all those family travelling oddments.

The latest Subaru Forester is a competent performer on and off-road and while more fashionably and newer SUVs or big estate cars may be posher in some respects, this car does what it sets out to do.

FAST FACTS

Subaru Forester 2.0D XC

Price: £28,440

Mechanical: 145bhp, 1,998cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving four wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 118mph

0-62mph: 9.9 seconds

Combined MPG: 47.9

Insurance Group: 25

C02 emissions: 148g/km

Bik rating: 31%

Warranty: 3yrs/100,000 miles

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