Subaru Forester

You could never accuse Subaru of rushing into things. Although the recent launch of the Tribeca SUV might have come as a surprise, it shouldn't be forgotten that the company has been selling the Forester for eight years here in the UK, effortlessly merging the appeal of an estate with the ability of a 4x4.

There's nothing more frustrating than being stuck behind a 4x4 that never leaves the tar-mac. The Subaru Forester aims to provide an SUV's off-road abilities in an estate shape, and it has never been more capable, with improved suspension and more powerful engines. How- ever, the new face is unlikely to impress image-conscious customers.

You could never accuse Subaru of rushing into things. Although the recent launch of the Tribeca SUV might have come as a surprise, it shouldn't be forgotten that the company has been selling the Forester for eight years here in the UK, effortlessly merging the appeal of an estate with the ability of a 4x4.

Subaru has just given the car a fresh lease of life, and the facelifted version is driven here for the first time in European trim. In Issue 865, we were impressed by the STi version of the current model, but has the drama of that machine been carried through to the revamped range?

It is immediately clear Subaru has instructed its design department to give all of its vehicles a new corporate face. So the marque's grille not only appears on the Tribeca, but is also a prominent feature of the revised Impreza - due next spring - and gives the facelifted Forester a distinctive look.

The rear takes a less drastic approach, with clear light clusters and fresh bumper styling. Another neat touch is the incorporation of the indicator repeaters into the front wing mirrors.

Few changes have been made to the ageing interior, but the superb build quality remains. As with its predecessor, the facelifted Forester comes with a choice of naturally aspirated 2.0-litre or turbocharged 2.5 flat-four engines, but both are more powerful.

The base model now produces 156bhp - a 21 per cent increase - while the range-topper is boosted by 19bhp to a healthy 227bhp. On the road, the 2.0-litre variant immediately sounds distinctive. The trouble is that, even with its extra horsepower, it feels sluggish. And as soon as you push the Forester hard, the fuel gauge begins to tell a worrying tale. This entry-level version is claimed to deliver 30.4mpg in the combined cycle, and there is no diesel alternative.

All variants have the latest version of Subaru's all-wheel-drive system. This will not help economy, but it does give the Forester as much mud-plugging ability as most buyers will ever need, and also provides a taste of the Impreza's dynamic abilities. A revised front suspension set-up makes turn-in sharper when cornering without detracting from the comfortable ride quality.

The Forester is a unique vehicle, but we are simply not sure SUV buyers are willing to compromise when it comes to ride height, looks or economy.

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