From £22,200
Bigger and more refined than its boxy predecessor, but where's the character gone?

Our Verdict

Subaru Forester

The Subaru Forester avoids the glam detailing of most other soft-roaders and sticks to traditional 4x4 spec

10 January 2008

What is it?

This is the new, third-generation version of one of Subaru’s cult favourites, the Forester. While the old model was an engagingly boxy and quirky 4WD wagon, the new one is a much more mainstream soft-roader – bigger and more conventional looking – to run against the likes of the new Mitsubishi Outlander and Honda CR-V.

The Mk3 Forester is 75mm longer, 45mm wider and not inconsiderable 85mm taller than its predecessor, while the wheelbase stretches 90mm. Underneath, it sticks with Subaru’s trademark symmetrical all-wheel drive, while borrowing its platform and strut/multi-link suspension straight from the controversial new Impreza as it effectively moves up a class.

In Japan, the naturally aspirated and turbo 2.0-litre flat fours are basically improved versions of the old car’s engines. Meantime, the big news for Europe will be the fitting to the Forester of Subaru’s new 2.0-litre turbodiesel, which will be with us “within a year”.

What’s it like?

Different, in a word. The new Forester is a car current owners would barely recognise, the new design ploughing a safe, middle-of-the-road furrow. Cabin space enters a new league, especially in the back, as does luggage room, which is now vast.

In Japanese spec, the new Forester is surprisingly soft to drive, with plenty of body roll through bends (very un-Forester-like) which takes some getting used to. Fortunately, Subaru will do a different set-up for the UK with stiffer front suspension and self-levelling rear dampers to make the Forester point and react much better.

The 146bhp 2.0-litre normally aspirated version is smooth and refined but not terribly fast. But it does get electrically assisted power steering to give sharper on-centre feel than the XT Turbo, which uses a conventional hydraulic system.

The turbo, packing 227bhp, is much quicker and more satisfying to drive, also getting the Impreza’s SI-Drive to vary throttle settings. There’s good low-down torque and strong, progressive boost from 3000rpm and like the atmo model it cruises brilliantly.

Transmissions are five-speed manual or four-speed auto, which are smooth and effective but rather old-school. Braking is strong and progressive, imparting real confidence, and the Forester also comes with an impressive, well damped, high-quality ride.

Inside, the new Forester gets exactly the same ‘wave’ dashboard as the Impreza – and also the same hard plastics and cheap-looking trim. Some might question if this is an ‘improvement,’ but seating is big and comfortable and the driving position is first rate.

Should I buy one?

Hard to say, right now. The Forester has long been a unique vehicle. Now, bigger and more normal looking, it’s not as characterful as it was, but it’s roomier, safer and kinder to the environment. Maybe the market for it will also be bigger.

At the same time, by moving it up a class, Subaru has surely brought the Forester closer to the attention of the UK’s anti-SUV lobby (the first two generations slipped below the radar). In Japanese spec the Forester isn’t that involving to drive, but it is comfortable, refined and feels like it will do long distances without sweat.

For Brits, the coming Forester turbodiesel with more driver-intuitive chassis will be the one to go for. As things stand, we’d hang fire for that, or the next six-speed, high-power Forester STI which must surely be in the works.

Peter Nunn

Join the debate

Comments
2

15 January 2008

My first Subaru was Turbo Forester, which has proved to be a remarkable car with plenty of load space and excellent performance. However I read on a couple of other sites that due to European emmissions, the new Forester will not be offered in the Turbo version in the EU. Can you confirm this?

Cheers

Chris

15 January 2008

[quote chrisatspike]

My first Subaru was Turbo Forester, which has proved to be a remarkable car with plenty of load space and excellent performance. However I read on a couple of other sites that due to European emmissions, the new Forester will not be offered in the Turbo version in the EU. Can you confirm this?

Cheers

Chris

[/quote]

Can't see why the new Forester wouldn't be offered with the 2.5 turbo engine out of the new Impreza WRX like the current model. No doubt the anti global warming lobby will have something to say about it.

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Kia Stonic
    First Drive
    18 October 2017
    Handsome entrant into the bulging small crossover market has a strong engine and agile handling, but isn’t as comfortable or complete as rivals
  • Hyundai Kona
    First Drive
    18 October 2017
    Hyundai's funky-looking Kona crossover with a peppy three-cylinder engine makes all the right noises for the car to be a success in a crowded segment
  • Citroën C3 Aircross
    First Drive
    17 October 2017
    The Citroen C3 Aircross has got funky looks and a charming interior, but it's another small SUV, and another dynamic miss. Numb steering is just one thing keeping it from class best
  • Skoda-Karoq 2.0 TDI 4x4
    First Drive
    16 October 2017
    Diesel version of Skoda’s junior SUV is unobtrusive and undemanding, but we’d still go for the silkier petrol version of the Karoq
  • Audi Q7 e-tron
    First Drive
    16 October 2017
    Expensive and flawed but this understated diesel-electric Audi Q7 has a lot to offer