What is it?
An updated version of the third-generation Subaru Forester, with a new 2.0-litre diesel engine at its heart. Subaru makes bold claims for it’s new powerplant, which is linked to a six-speed manual gearbox. Officially it returns 7.2 per cent better fuel economy (up to an official 47.9mpg), lower emissions (155g/km), increased torque (258lb ft, accessible from 600 to 2400rpm, 200rpm lower than before) and improved refinement.
Improvements are put down to the adoption of a new common-rail fuel-injection system, a more efficient turbo-charging system, new camshaft timing, an improved cooling system, the use of lighter connecting rods and the use of a smaller alternator.
Other changes are minor to the point of being of little relevance, but for the eagle-eyed there’s a new chrome finish on the grille, more compact wing mirrors, a new instrument binnacle and a new design of steering wheel.
The model we’re testing here is the top-of-the-range 2.0D XS NavPlus, which starts at a hearty £29,070. More on that later, but that price does buy a car laden with kit, including sat-nav, reversing camera, CD player, leather seats, an electric driver’s seat and keyless entry.
What’s it like?
On our first run in the UK in the car, the engine proved smooth, reasonably relaxed and delivered decent acceleration through the gears – although the spacing spreads out from third onwards. That means you have to rev hard to get beyond town speeds, and can find yourself changing down to join a motorway or overtake. A 0-62mph time of 10.3sec isn’t going to set anyone’s pants on fire, but nor does it feel slow in a car of this size.
It delivers on the refinement promise, too, the boxer engine never raising beyond a gentle burble that’s appealing in its own right so long as you keep the revs below 3000rpm. With the decent six-speed gearbox, that’s fairly easy to do even while pushing on along the motorway. Road noise is more of an issue, although it doesn’t intrude enough to make conversation hard. Wind noise is extremely minor.
Beyond that, the Forester is much the same as before. The steering remains a touch vague, offering very little feel, and the soft suspension means there’s plenty of lean and roll in the corners while offering the compensation of soaking up the harshest bumps.
The interior may be improved a fraction, but leather aside it remains home to a plethora of hard plastic and functional but uninspiring controls. Still, it’s practical and hard-wearing and, even if the controls aren’t intuitive to learn, there’s few enough of them that you soon get there.
Should I buy one?
If you’re looking for a decent-sized, reasonably rugged car then it could justifiably be on your shortlist. However, you’d have to think long and hard about buying it in this spec – a similarly specced Hyundai ix35 would come in around £5000 cheaper and you’re only around 15 per cent off the price of an equivalent Land Rover Freelander TD4.
If you’re determined to buy one, then, haggle hard, and ask yourself how much you really need the leather seats, sat-nav and other accoutrements because lower spec models definitely look better value.