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On-test: Subaru goes better than it looks

Insights

Subaru’s latest version of the Forester has received a few nips and tucks to freshen its overall design, in a bid to maintain its appeal. To find out what the latest version is like, Geoff Ashcroft takes to the wheel.

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If you can get past the latest Forester’s looks, its Boxer diesel engine continues to reward.
If you can get past the latest Forester’s looks, its Boxer diesel engine continues to reward.

Just about the only aspect which has not been changed is the price along with Subaru’s proven symmetrical all-wheel drive system and Boxer diesel - criteria which have helped to make the ‘Scooby’ a farming favourite.

 

This XC Premium version, with its Lineartronic gearbox, costs a shade under £31,000.

 

Yet we cannot help feel the Japanese maker is losing its way in the stying department, despite the Forester being Subaru’s best selling model in the UK. Which is a shame, given the firm’s history of delivering desirable models such as the rally-bred Impreza and the smooth-looking Legacy estate.

Despite the interior getting better materials, the Forester packs too much of a utilitarian feel.

As the Forester has evolved over three generations, it has gradually become more and more gawky, and much less attractive. Though it has gained more tech, better build quality and now offers more refinement.

 

Its exterior changes do not help its cause. A reshaped front bumper with chrome trim is meant to emphasise the car’s low centre of gravity, wide stance and stability. But it just adds to the awkward looks.

 

Inside the car, there are new soft-touch materials, piano black inlays and metallic trim, which seems a bit like putting scent on a pig - it cannot hide what lurks underneath.

 

It might score highly with reliability and dependability, but the interior still lacks appeal and feels low-rent.

 

The Boxer diesel still remains an impressive performer. And despite only 147hp on paper, it feels much more when driving. The Lineartronic continuously variable transmission is a little quirky, with an inconsistent blend of revs and acceleration tending to blur the senses.

Practicality is good, load area is generous and there’s plenty of headroom for adults sitting on the back seats.

If you use the steering wheel’s paddles and run the ‘box in manual-mode, it behaves much more like a conventional torque-converter automatic. It is much more user-friendly thanks to seven pre-determined shift points for the gearbox. But given the choice, we would go for the manual six-speeder every time.

 

Though the all-terrain capability of the all-wheel-drive with Lineartronic CVT gets a boost with X-Mode. This control system brings Hill Descent Control to the Forester driver, and is a big improvement over the outgoing model.

 

There are additional sound-proofing measures too, including thicker glass on all doors in a bid to cut down on wind noise. Better door seals are fitted too, plus sound-proofing around the dashboard.

 

You do get lots of kit as standard with the Forester, but there are now far better choices out there, at this particular price.

Need to know

  • Model: Subaru Forester 2.0D XC Premium
  • Price: £30,995 (£30,995 as tested)
  • Engine: 2.0-litre, turbo diesel, 147hp @ 3,600rpm, 350Nm @ 1,600-2,400rpm
  • Transmission: Lineartronic CVT, with four-wheel drive
  • Performance: 9.9sec 0-62mph, 117mph, 46.3mpg combined, 158g/km
  • Towing capacity: 2,000kgs
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