When the history of the crossover is written, the Subaru Forester will most likely be one of a half-dozen cars to claim a close proximity to its genesis.

The original model, introduced as a concept in 1995, was based on an Impreza's chassis. Intended to snare American buyers keen on rugged outdoor pursuits, it was promoted under the catchy slogan of 'SUV tough, car easy'.

Deputy road test editor
The 1995 Streega concept previewed the first Forester

All-wheel drive, boxer engines and the use of turbos were all in place from the start and continued through two more generations, launched in 2002 and 2008. One look at the latest version of the Subaru Forester makes it clear that the slow transition from utilitarian, estate-bodied workhorse to soft-roader clone is finally complete.

Its predecessor had already grown far taller than any Forester before it. Now, Subaru has polished off the job with the chunkier, even bigger, SUV-shaped successor that we’re testing here. 

Ambitions have similarly been supersized for the new arrival. The Japanese manufacturer expects this Forester quickly to become its most popular model, capitalising on a healthy segment to overhaul the 170,000 global sales racked up by the previous version.

To do this, especially in such a crowded marketplace, Subaru must ensure that buyers can still see the Forester for the trees and value its distinguishing features accordingly.

The brand will feel that – with improved practicality, better efficiency, typically high ground clearance and a standard symmetrical four-wheel drive system in place – such a differentiation has been achieved. It’s time to find out if that’s actually the case.