I HAVE to confess I've always been a fan of the Subaru Forester through its many different incarnations.
There's something about its rugged, no-nonsense character that has enduring appeal.
It may not be the most svelte or fashionable SUV on the market but its four-wheel-drive capability and reputation for reliability carry it a long way.
The Forester has evolved considerably over the years and though the current model has moved on from the boxy and basic original and subsequent early versions it still has something of the utilitarian workhorse about it and therein lies its essential charm.
It doesn't have the curves of some of the more stylish SUVs out there but anything it may lack in this regard is more than made up for by its capability and practicality.
The Forester is a great family vehicle with oodles of space throughout and a generously-sized 505-litre boot, expanding to 1,592 litres with the rear seats folded down.
I imagine it's the sort of car that's near the top of the list for anyone who's a countryside dweller and really needs a four-wheel drive vehicle that can take all sorts of road conditions, whatever the season, in its stride.
Also, it's a vehicle that can cut it off road as and when required.
It's always a tough balancing act to be both a consummate and comfortable on and off-roader.
Land Rover have obviously done rather well on the back of delivering this tricky blend - but you do pay for the privilege.
Subaru do pretty much the same thing but at a more affordable price.
Symmetrical four-wheel drive is standard and brings the benefits of on-road reassurance and off-road ability - something many of the ‘lifestyle' SUVs and crossovers competing in an increasingly congested marketplace struggle to match.
The current Forester had a refresh last year with a redesigned grille, updated headlights and added chrome trim on the bumpers.
In addition new rear lights and alloy wheels were introduced and the latest version also benefits from better sound-proofing,
The Forester, like all Subarus, is characterised by solid build quality, though instrumentation and switchgear lag a little behind premium standards with a distinctly rugged and basic feel. Arguably one could say they do match the Forester's character.
The uprated model also has a new 7.0-inch touchscreen which is easy to use and well designed.
Generous equipment levels have make the Forester a tempting proposition and standard features across the range include heated seats, cruise control, air-conditioning and Bluetooth connectivity.
Step up to XC and XE models and you get climate control, a rear view camera, powered seats and xenon headlamps. Premium models have leather trim and sat-nav.
Engine-wise there's a choice of two petrol units and a diesel.
All are 2.0-litre flat-four powerplants, with the petrols there's a naturally-aspirated engine and a turbo-charged one.
All are decent performers to be fair and the turbo has a turn of pace that makes for a lot of fun, though the sensible choice for a whole host of reasons is the diesel.
It isn't the most refined engine but is wonderfully smooth and surprisingly potent.
To drive the Forester is generally fun and engaging, particularly for an SUV.
There's little body roll and thanks to its four-wheel drive it holds the road splendidly.
This model had the constantly variable transmission (CVT) Lineartronic transmission, which makes for a relaxing driving experience. The petrol turbo is only available with the Lineartronic transmission.
Automatic models also come with X Mode, which distributes torque evenly between all four wheels at low speeds.