Model/Engine size: 2.0D X
Fuel economy combined: 44.8 mpg
The new Subaru Forester is now here in diesel form – and it instantly becomes the class-leader in terms of economy and emissions. Its 44.8mpg and CO2 emissions of 167 g/km in 2.0D X form is bettered only by its bigger brother, the Subaru Legacy Outback diesel – which is seen as a crossover rather than an ‘SUV’.
Even though it’s a larger car, the Outback can achieve better economy of 48.7mpg from the same engine, due its better aerodynamics. Which brings us straight to the fact that Subaru has changed the concept of the Forester, from an estate car with raised ride height and all-wheel drive, into more of a typical BMW X3 ‘SUV’ profile – ie. larger all round.
Subaru sees that this will make the new Forester more competitive in this sector – indeed it’s expected to outsell the Impreza – however it also means that it loses its niche as an estate car that can go off road, while at the same time driving better than most other cars on the road.
So has the new Forester lost its identity and its appeal? Well, the old petrol-only range, with the wild rally-bred performance of the turbo model, has been supplemented with the new boxer diesel engine. Just in case you’ve missed the reviews about this new engine, make no mistake – this is seen as one of the best diesel engines in the world. It’s quiet, smooth, refined and powerful – but most importantly it’s class-leading in terms of emissions and economy. However only the base 2.0DX model achieves 44.8mpg, thanks to its lack of features such as roof rails. The mid-range and top-of-the-range models still achieve 44.1mpg – not far behind, and this equals the current best in the soft-roader class, the Ford Kuga.
The new Forester actually handles very well, despite its extra size, although you can sense more upper body weight through the corners.
The horizontally-opposed diesel engine, which produces 150bhp in the Outback but only 147bhp in the Forester (because of reduced cooling air travelling through the bonnet air intake), is mated to a new 6 speed manual gearbox, which should theoretically be better than the 5 speed unit in the Outback, however the 5 speed box feels smoother.
The Forester also benefits from a relatively low insurance group of 11, which assists its very competitive running costs.
So should you choose a Forester over a Kuga? Most people will go for a Kuga, because it’s a Ford, and it certainly does look more stylish, especially in the interior department. However this is not the market that Subaru has traditionally been associated with. The Forester is more likely to appeal to people who want strong engineering, durability and reliability. Let’s say country dwellers are more likely to go for the Forester, while mums on the school run are more likely to plump for the Kuga. Which suggests that the Forester is more likely to be used for its intended purpose – a go-most-places workhorse.
Not that the new Forester is a bad car to look at. The styling has been modernised over the last version, which was not to everyone’s tastes, and the top of the range models look good sitting on their well designed alloy wheels. The interior, as with the rest of the car, could be described as function over form, with some justification.
So what about capability? Land Rovers may have the ultimate off-road perception, but the Subaru symmetrical, permanent all-wheel-drive layout, with its low centre-of-gravity boxer engine, has been proven on rallies worldwide – as well as on farms from Africa to New Zealand. So don’t underestimate the capability of the Forester in the rough stuff. And the ground clearance (now at 215mm), along with the approach and departure angles, have been improved over the old model.
Standard equipment includes all wheel drive with Subaru Vehicle Dynamics Control, self-levelling rear suspension, alloy wheels, cruise-control, climate-control air-conditioning, radio/CD player, height and reach steering wheel adjustment, leather-covered steering wheel, heated mirrors and windscreen wipers, front and rear electric windows, driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags plus vehicle information display. The Forester also has a 1000km range from a full tank of fuel – something that is very helpful if you hate having to stop at garages to refuel.
What a shame that Subaru launched the new Forester first in petrol format – an engine that is expected to account for no more than 20% of sales. It received average reviews and didn’t catch the imagination. It would be all too easy to overlook the same car with the diesel engine, however if you give the Forester a second chance in diesel guise, it will provide you with a vehicle that is good to drive, with a strong and economical engine, lots of space, and it’s likely to last forever.
Factor in that the three-model Forester range represents good value for money with prices starting at just a shade over £20,000, and this could just be the best 4×4 for credit-crunch times.
2.0D X: £20,295
2.0D XC: £22,495
2.0D XSn: £25,495
Photos show the 2.0D X base model in white, with the top of the range 2.0D XSn model in red.
Fuel economy extra urban: 48.7 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 39.2 mpg
CO2 emissions: 167 g/km
Green rating: VED band E – £170
Weight: 1540 Kg
Company car tax liability (2008/09): 24%
Price: £20,295 (From £17,995 to £25,495)
Insurance group: 9
Safety: NCAP TBC
Max speed: 116 mph
0-62mph: 10.4 seconds