THE muscular Forester has become Subaru's best-selling model in the UK and now the all-new fifth generation model has the added attraction of hybrid technology.
Called the Forester e-Boxer, this go-anywhere vehicle is new from the ground up with a strong contoured design, automatic LED headlights with daytime running lights, rear privacy glass, a sunroof, prominent wheel arches and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The interior is comfortable, spacious and packed with technology, including the likes of heated front and rear leather seats, powered front seats with memory settings, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone air conditioning, an infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, a CD player, DAB radio, navigation and an eight-inch colour touchscreen.
But the big change is the driving force behind this latest Forester with a new hybrid powertrain that combines a 2.0-litre 150ps petrol engine with an electric motor. A battery unit is neatly tucked away within the boot floor and this car can be driven in pure electric mode at speeds up to 25mph for about a mile at a time.
Costing Â£39,335, the Forester e-Boxer, which is slightly wider and longer than its conventional predecessor, also features an updated gearbox along with Subaru's all-wheel-drive system with the power split adjusting according to the driving conditions.
And the hybrid technology works automatically too switching between EV driving, electric motor assisted driving and petrol power only.
The five-door car can accelerate from 0-62mph in 11.8 seconds, tops out at 117mph and, according to latest WLTP figures, can deliver combined fuel economy of 34.7mpg with carbon emissions of 185g/km.
A permanent all-wheel drive system means the Forester e-Boxer can cope well with most off-road situations, but the X-Mode set-up can be introduced for added assistance if faced with more extreme conditions. The X-Mode takes control of the engine, transmission, Symmetrical AWD, brakes and other components to help navigate slippery surfaces, rough roads and hill climbs.
And this X-Mode has also been upgraded on the latest model and now has two settings called SNOW/DIRT for the likes of gravel tracks along with DEEP SNOW/MUD to combat surfaces where the tyres may get buried such as heavy snow.
When it comes to performance, the Forester e-Boxer is comfortable cruising on motorways or powering through the country lanes.
The acceleration is sharp enough and the road holding is confident through tight bends. Steering wheel-mounted paddles are there for added driver engagement and all controls, dials and readouts are well positioned for ease of use.
The all-round visibility is excellent and the noise and vibration levels have been improved thanks to a 40 per cent increase in body strength. This body and chassis redesign also means better performance and improved safety in the event of a collision.
And on the matter of safety, the Forester e-Boxer is packed to bursting with features and driver aids to help protect occupants, pedestrians and also help prevent accidents occurring in the first instance.
Systems include rear vehicle detection, blind spot monitoring, lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert. There is reverse automatic braking that uses sensors in the rear bumper to detect obstructions behind the car and the driver is alerted to the danger. If the warnings are ignored, the vehicle will automatically brake for you.
New for the Forester e-Boxer is a driver monitoring system that uses facial recognition technology to detect if the driver's gaze has wandered from the road ahead or if they are starting to nod off. And be warned - this system can even mute the audio to ensure full attention is given to the warning sounds.
All this safety technology is impressive, but I did find deactivating some features such as the lane keep assist and lane change assist a little overcomplicated with some functions accessed via the touchscreen, others by the steering wheel controls or a panel of switches by the driver's right knee. There were even some overhead controls which really threw me for a while.
But that minor grip aside, this new Forester was an impressive all-rounder and makes for a very practical choice with ample space for five adults to travel in comfort. The boot has a capacity that ranges from 520 to 1,779 litres with the 60:40 one-touch folding rear seats dropped flat. And it can also tow a trailer or caravan weighing up to 1.87 tonnes.