Some have described the Subaru Forester as the original soft-roader. But the first version that arrived in the UK in 1997 was really more a utilitarian workhorse. In essence it was an Impreza with a larger estate body and raised ground clearance. Mk2 arrived in 2003, together with a raft of zippy turbocharged models (first and second generation), including some nutty STi versions that 
were sadly never officially imported into the UK.

When Subarus first arrived in the UK in 1977 there were no dealerships, so the first cars were sold alongside farm machinery. This, coupled with universal four-wheel drivetrains and the generally rugged nature of its products, soon led to Subaru’s reputation as a favourite of those who made their living from the land.

In more recent years, Subaru’s rallying exploits took its road cars to a much wider, more performance-oriented audience, but the new Forester is evidence that the old Subaru values of solid, no-nonsense engineering remain.

So while the longer, taller new Forester is closer than ever to the small SUV norm, it still sets itself apart from rivals such as the Honda CR-V or Ford Kuga. The Forester not only avoids the glam detailing that covers most other soft-roaders but also sticks to traditional 4x4 spec. The question is, will its plain-speaking ruggedness tempt buyers away from more glamorous SUVs? And does enough off-road estate DNA remain to keep owners of the current model happy?

Subaru still perseveres with a boxer-engined petrol model in X and XS trim, but it’s the boxer diesel that most buyers go for, in either X, XC or XS NavPlus.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Dallara Stradale
    The Stradale is the first road-legel car from Italian motorsport constructor Dallara
    First Drive
    16 March 2018
    The motorsport constructor's first road car is inspired by Lotus minimalism. Does it thrill on road and track?
  • Hyundai i30 N
    Standard spec is good so paint colour is our car’s only option
    First Drive
    16 March 2018
    What’s Hyundai’s first hot hatch and N-brand debutant really like? Let’s find out
  • Porsche Boxster GTS
    This is the new GTS version of the Porsche Boxster
    First Drive
    15 March 2018
    The 718-generation Boxster is our favourite roadster of the moment – so is this new GTS variant worth the extra outlay?
  • BMW 5 Series
    First Drive
    15 March 2018
    The BMW 5 Series is top of the mid-exec pack, but is there still room for a diesel saloon in everyday family life?
  • Audi A7 front
    First Drive
    14 March 2018
    The new Audi A7 Sportback looks the part, but how does the new Mercedes-Benz CLS rival cope on UK roads? We find out