From £33,7708
New SUV is a distinctive alternative to mainstream opposition, with off-road credibility that few soft-roaders can match

What is it?

When Subaru launched the original Forester in 1997, it was a quirky crossover pioneer. More than two decades later, the North American market has come to the Japanese brand, and the fifth-generation Subaru Forester plunges head-first into the hard-fought and fast-growing 'compact' SUV segment.

The new car becomes the latest model to move to the Subaru Global Platform that broke cover with the 2017 Subaru Impreza. Subaru says that the stiffer architecture brings advantages in terms of steering precision, ride comfort, occupant safety and boot space.

The classic recipe of boxer engine and permanent four-wheel drive is retained. Also returning, in updated form, is Subaru’s Eyesight driver assistance system, while an infrared distraction mitigation technology called Driver Focus is brand-new.

The new Forester will replace the current model in the UK around the end of this year. The US and Canada get a new direct-injection 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine mated to an upgraded CVT gearbox, but while the latter is expected to feature in UK cars, it’s not yet known what engine will be offered.

What's it like?

The new car’s chunky looks are distinctly Forester and major on practical considerations rather than wannabe-coupé style, and that translates to a spacious interior.

An extra 30mm of wheelbase improves rear leg room, while at 1003 litres with the seats up, the boot all but matches the larger Subaru Outback’s, and it has what's claimed to be the widest (1300mm) opening of any tailgate in the class.

There are no surprises in the major controls, but you’ll be glad that you only have to set up the switchable Driver Focus system once.

At a Canadian launch event, we drove the new Forester extensively on paved and unpaved winding roads, rocky forest tracks and smooth major routes. That a manufacturer is willing to submit a new model to demanding roads is usually a sign of confidence in the product, and overall, Subaru’s high hopes for the newcomer are well founded.

There is a little road noise from the 18in rims and 225/55 tyres, but the Forester is otherwise quiet at a cruise, with good isolation from both the powertrain and the outside world.

It rides well, too, with a nice comfort-and-handling trade-off to the damping that makes surprisingly smooth work of lumpy shoulders on winding country roads. The ride is less convincing over harder edges, but we’d have to try it in the UK on summer tyres, rather than the Canadian-spec all-season rubber, to make a proper judgement.

Back to top

For a high-riding SUV, the Forester corners pretty flatly; indeed, Subaru claims it rolls 50% less than the outgoing model. Fluid, accurate steering adds to the driving experience, although, in line with many modern electrical systems, there’s not much feel.

Brake pedal feel is good, however, and the Forester stops impressively quickly and straightly when asked.

The new engine is smooth and torquey enough in a slightly old-school, naturally aspirated way. The seven-stepped CVT – which has 10% greater ratio coverage than its predecessor – and accompanying paddle shifters are some compensation to drivers missing the now-discontinued manual gearbox option.

Less successful is the Sport Sharp (S#) mode on the Forester Sport. This is designed to add a little excitement to a trim level that targets younger buyers, but we struggled to notice the promised more aggressive throttle mapping compared with the regular Sport mode.

Should I buy one?

The Forester’s fuel economy numbers are class-leading in North America. That’s unlikely to be the case in the UK, whatever the engine, but this car's real strengths lie elsewhere.

A climb up rutted, rocky forest tracks to the 2180m (7200ft) summit of British Columbia’s Apex ski resort showed why the Forester remains a little different to SUV alternatives from more mainstream brands. It's hard to imagine taking a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4 up the same route.

Back to top

A deep snow/mud X-Mode setting – one of two on higher-trim cars – also dug us out of some serious mud on the way down the mountain, even without all-terrain tyres.

For all of the new Forester’s on-road refinement, it still has off-road credibility that soft-roader competition struggles to match. So, for customers who value no-nonsense practicality and versatility, it will be worth a closer look.

Subaru Forester specification

Tested Osoyoos, Canada Price £30,000 (est) On sale Late 2018 Engine four-cylinder, 2498cc, petrol Power 182bhp at 5800rpm Torque 176lb ft at 4400rpm Gearbox CVT, all-wheel drive Kerb weight 1610kg Top speed na 0-62mph 9.3sec Fuel economy 34mpg CO2 na Rivals Jeep Cherokee, Mazda CX-5Toyota RAV4

Join the debate

Comments
18
Add a comment…
smallford11 20 January 2019

A great car

OK so it is not very handsome or particularly quick but all of its other qualities more than make up for it. The problem is that you have to live with one of these cars and experience just how it copes with situations to realise just how good it is. I have had 3 along with 2 Kugas, a BMW, several peugeots and a volvo and the Forester is head and shoulders above all of them in all aspects that matter.

DaveMc 19 October 2018

UK Model Engines

Why, oh why , when the rest of the world get a 2.5 engine does the UK have to have a 2.0?  Please can we get the 2.5 for the 2019 release?

I have the 2.0D which provides adaquate torque for towing unlike the putrid 2.0 petrol engine.  The XT has the torque but is rather thirsty!  Now that Subaru has pulled the plug on the diesel engine can we get a decent petrol engine with some torque?

scrap 28 September 2018

All the comments so far are

All the comments so far are way too superficial. Yes the styling is pretty awful and it’s a shame Subaru didn’t keep more of the style of the B4 Legacy.

But the cars themselves are anything but superficial. In the real world, for people who depend on their cars in sometimes adverse weather and tricky terrain, Subaru rocks. They have a deep sense of integrity that’s more important than good looks.

North America loves them.

Jeremy 29 September 2018

@ scrap

Isn't that what I said? Good cars ruined by the styling. And just because North America loves them? ... well, just look who they voted in as President!

Zeddy 29 September 2018

North America

What's Trudeau done to you?

NoPasaran 29 September 2018

Leave DT out of it. He comes

Leave DT out of it. He comes from business, he actually DID something, unlike a lot of the "career" politicians before him, who, in best case, sat in some uni and "solved" invented "problems".

Einarbb 29 September 2018

To tell you the truth

NoPasaran wrote:

Leave DT out of it. He comes from business, he actually DID something, unlike a lot of the "career" politicians before him, who, in best case, sat in some uni and "solved" invented "problems".

I'd actually have preferred it - if he'd proven, all words no action president. It's his actions that are my gripe against him - not his words.

xxxx 1 October 2018

Nepotism is alive and well

NoPasaran wrote:

Leave DT out of it. He comes from business, ...

Actually he came from Pierre Trudeau, the former Prime Minister, the name alone must be worth 5% of the vote

NoPasaran 29 September 2018

scrap wrote:

scrap wrote:

All the comments so far are way too superficial. Yes the styling is pretty awful and it’s a shame Subaru didn’t keep more of the style of the B4 Legacy.

But the cars themselves are anything but superficial. In the real world, for people who depend on their cars in sometimes adverse weather and tricky terrain, Subaru rocks. They have a deep sense of integrity that’s more important than good looks.

North America loves them.

The Forester is great. I tested one in XT form (2L turbo), it's not fancy inside or outside but it works the way it is supposed to work. It wore its qualities on its sleeve, with dignity. And people bought it because of that.

Now they went and blinged it up. What for? It never needed this chav exterior, it is supposed to be conservative and even old-fashioned outside, it's an honest workhorse. Now it looks absolutely tacky. Japanese cannot do style, they should leave it to Italians and British.

Einarbb 29 September 2018

True

NoPasaran wrote:

scrap wrote:

All the comments so far are way too superficial. Yes the styling is pretty awful and it’s a shame Subaru didn’t keep more of the style of the B4 Legacy.

But the cars themselves are anything but superficial. In the real world, for people who depend on their cars in sometimes adverse weather and tricky terrain, Subaru rocks. They have a deep sense of integrity that’s more important than good looks.

North America loves them.

The Forester is great. I tested one in XT form (2L turbo), it's not fancy inside or outside but it works the way it is supposed to work. It wore its qualities on its sleeve, with dignity. And people bought it because of that.

Now they went and blinged it up. What for? It never needed this chav exterior, it is supposed to be conservative and even old-fashioned outside, it's an honest workhorse. Now it looks absolutely tacky. Japanese cannot do style, they should leave it to Italians and British.

Japanese used to buy styling from especially Italian styling houses - in the 70's there were some darned pretty Japanese cars - with Japanese reliability but Italian styling.