We were concerned about the Subaru Forester's economy last time, but has it made up for it through the winter?
My house has seen a long period of renovation, refurbishment and general chaos. Walls, ceilings, floors, windows, decor, furniture... you name it, my husband and I have knocked it down, rebuilt it and restored it. It's been hell - and it's not over yet!
All this graft produces plenty of waste, meaning routine trips to the dump. And what better vehicle to use than the Forester, which often travels to the local tip in convoy with our 1956 Chevrolet pick-up? You may think the classic American truck - which could tactfully be described as looking slightly 'used' - should be left at the junkyard, too. But it is reliable, supremely practical and a perfect companion to the Subaru. The Chevy carries all the unwieldy, dirty items, while we load the Forester's generous boot with stuff that's smaller and cleaner but also surplus to requirements.
So BPO5 AZN has proved its worth as a workhorse, but how is it coping with day-to-day driving demands? Well, it's certainly well equipped to deal with winter conditions. The 4x4 system is a boon on slippery roads, while headlamp washers, heated mirrors and wiper de-icers mean I don't have to hang around outside on frosty mornings.
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Instead, I can stay snug in the cabin with its heated seats and powerful defroster, waiting for these various bits of standard-fit kit to do their job. The Forester hasn't given me much trouble, but there is a very occasional glitch: three times, when attempting to start the car, the engine has taken up to a minute to catch. If it happens again, I'll get a dealer to take a look at it.
Other irritations include the lack of an audible warning that the headlamps are left on, so I often drive around the next day with glaring lights. Mind you, at this dismal time of year, that's no bad thing. The power-steering pump emits a dreadful groaning noise when on full lock, which makes for less than tuneful manoeuvring, and a tiny 'ding' has mysteriously - and annoyingly - appeared in the nearside rear wing.
On the open road, I still can't get used to the hesitant automatic transmission. The box is so reluctant to kick down that making a dash for a space in traffic can actually feel dangerous. A small consolation, however, is that at 26.3mpg, economy has improved since our last report. Still, practicality, rather than performance, is what this car is all about - and it's something for which I am thankful every time I head to the local dump.
Second opinion I was pleasantly surprised when I got behind the wheel of the Forester. While I was expecting it to be really stodgy, it's actually smooth to drive. It's roomy inside, too, and the leather seats add to the comfort. But I'm used to smaller cars in town, and the Subaru is not very practical for squeezing into parking spaces. Eileen Pegden, deputy art editor