People who want something fashionable, but don’t need to make a fashion statement. People who want something tough and rugged, but don’t need to tackle the Rubicon Trail. So the smarter styling inside and out will go down as well as the Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive system and the X-Mode off road technology. It’s all been very carefully thought out.
You know right from the off with the Forester that you’re getting the real thing. A tough, capable set of wheels that’ll keep you mobile in conditions that would see most style-conscious SUVs starting to struggle. All of the engines on offer are 2. 0-litre flat-four ‘boxer’-style powerplants, mounted low down to improve handling agility and 4WD roadholding. Plus all are mated to Subaru’s renowned Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system that, in contrast to cheaper ‘on-demand’ set-ups, sees power constantly channelled to each wheel. As a result, you get a much greater feeling of grip and security on surfaces like muddy tracks or light sand.
Forester drivers get a choice of three mainstream powerplants, with petrol people served by either a 150PS normally aspirated petrol unit or the 240PS 2. 0-litre turbo petrol engine used in the performance-orientated XT flagship model. Most drivers though, choose the 147PS 2. 0-litre diesel variant. With 350Nm of torque, it tows more easily (there’s a decently capable 2,000kg limit) and delivers reasonable levels of efficiency, with 49. 6mpg on the combined cycle and 148g/km of CO2.
So what kind of car is this? A different one certainly from the Forester we first saw back in 1997. The alterations are pretty subtle, you have to say, you’d really have to be a brand loyalist, a previous owner or a Subaru sales person to spot them. We’re told that the hexagonal central grille has been updated, but a more obvious change lies with the lower corner bumper segments, embellished with ‘L-shaped’ chrome trim. A more significant improvement though, lies with the addition of the wrap-around headlamps, they still retain Subaru’s signature ‘hawk-eye’ shape but now they’re able to turn with the bends and dip themselves at night.
A key change for the facelifted MK4 model is the addition of a factory-fit ‘STARLINK’ touchscreen infotainment system. The 7. 0-inch display allows front seat occupants to control the Forester’s various infotainment functions using the same functionality as a smartphone, swiping and pinching actions enabling you to, for example, zoom in on the map displays of the optional navigation set-up.
If you’re considering this car as a replacement for your pre-2012 third generation Forester, you’ll find that there’s much more space in the back thanks to the MK4 model’s extra 25mm of wheelbase length.
Out back, there’s a 505-litre luggage bay – that’s 125-litres more than you get in Subaru’s XV crossover model but 54-litres less than you’d have in the brand’s Outback estate.
Subaru, you sense, has come full circle, originally established as an SUV brand and today uncompromisingly proud of it. The company’s earliest models were sold alongside farm machinery and beneath the plush polish you get in this modern Forester, a bit of that same rugged appeal still remains, creating in this car a much tougher, more solid-feeling product than you’ll find in compact 4x4 competitors.
Yet crucially, it’s now one you could at last consider as a realistic alternative to more compromised competitors. A Forester is fashionable without being trendy, and built to last while never feeling utilitarian. The changes made to the improved fourth generation version really help here, the smarter cabin and improved driving dynamics creating a more palatable roadgoing experience.
In short, there are now fewer reasons not to like it – which is good because it’s difficult not to warm to the Subaru’s refreshingly honest ethos. It’s a vehicle in which four wheel drive is fundamental, rather than simply an optional extra and as a result, one of the best cars in its class to buy if you really plan on using it to its full potential.
True, the result still may not be as smoothly cultured as less capable rivals, but when conditions worsen, you won’t care about that. And you’ll probably be glad that you chose one.