The trusty Subaru Forester has always been a great car with a great following in North America, Australia and its home nation of Japan but it has always struggled to capture the hearts of us Brits. Will this rejuvenated model do the job and will its new self-charging hybrid powertrain be enough to win over the already over-crowded mid-sized SUV segment?
Back when I drove the last generation Forester with its standard and naturally aspirated engine, it did feel underpowered, dated and a tad poor with regards to interior finish. However, the new model not only boasts Subaru’s new self-charging hybrid petrol/electric powertrain but it also now uses Subaru’s new Global Platform which adds leg room and increases body strength and the interior has been brought right up to the twenty first century (almost). I, for one, think the exterior improvements are subtle but also effective. The new rear looks much smarter and the front looks cleaner, crisper and just better. I also love this colour.
Inside you can immediately know you’re in a Subaru as you are met with their button-heavy steering wheel and the huge “iSight” camera system in the windscreen but all in all, the new dash layout looks good. There’s less of a Dairy Milk plastic tray feel and even the new infotainment system actually looks more integrated and less bought from Halfords and wedged in… It all works well too. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto make everything so much simpler now when it comes to connecting your phone to the car and there’s plenty of nifty little storage cubbies for your phone no matter the size, even my huge iPhone 11 Pro Max found a home out of the way.
So, cosmetic changes seem to be all positive, but is the new e-Boxer powertrain enough to get you out of your Toyota or Mazda? Maybe… the setup is a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol boxer engine coupled with a small lithium-ion battery and an electric motor which together produce around 164bhp and 193 lb-ft which is a slight improvement over the previous petrol engine. This is all sent through a Lineartronic gearbox which isn’t the worst one I’ve used, but they are still nothing to write home about. The concern here is that even though the emissions are recorded to be good for a car of this size at 154g/km, the fuel economy is still in the 30s and the lineartronic ‘box still makes the drive feel a little underpowered and sluggish. However, the overall drive of the Forester is great. It’s smooth and it soaks up the bumps in the road very well with little wind noise at higher speed. It also comes with Subaru’s standard permanent all-wheel-drive which has been admired and loved for many years.
Like the previous Forester, the e-Boxer uses X-drive which adjusts various parts of the car’s drive by altering throttle response and braking on steep climbs and also has hill descent control for those steep declines where it manages the brakes for the driver keeping the car at a steady 12mph all the way down. On top of this, the new Forester has Subaru’s “EyeSight” safety system on board making it as safe on the road as it is off the beaten track. The EyeSight system uses a series of cameras in the windscreen that read the road ahead and if they see something you don’t, can apply pre-collision braking and alter the throttle response to reduce the chance of an accident. The EyeSight system also includes speed-adaptive cruise control, lane sway and departure warning and lane keep assist.
The big question here is will anyone buy the Forester over the competition…
I have banged on for a long time about how Subarus are possibly the most underrated and under-appreciated cars in the UK – I have now driven just about every car they have offered over the past 5 or so years and every time I am left stunned that more people don’t buy them. Crossovers and small to mid-sized SUV sales are on the constant rise here in the UK, and yet Subarus sales are always overshadowed by the likes of Toyota, Mazda, Seat and Ford etc… and in reality, none of these cars are really any better. What’s even more surprising is that the Forester was one of the first in the modern SUV/Crossover market – it’s been with us for nearly 24 years! It set the path for all these cars to follow down and yet it has found itself dragging at the back.
The new e-Boxer self-charging hybrid Forester should be the kick up the backside needed to get more people in these ultra-reliable, ultra-capable and ultra-solid cars – but I fear it may be too little too late. the hybrid drivetrain brings very little to the table regarding fuel economy and green credentials, but it does provide more torque and a more linear power delivery and it also seems to help out off-road but even I must admit it does feel a bit pointless. A solid diesel engine would cover all these bases, provide better economy and more grunt… Having said all that, I do genuinely think it’s a great car – it’s incredibly comfortable, well made and reliable and if you were to take the leap of faith and buy one, you would not be disappointed.