The Forester 4x4 SUV or crossover is the solid and reliable warhorse of the Subaru brand and its most popular model with around a 1,000 sales a year in the UK.
The model has a strong following with loyal customers but doesn't attract new customers coming to this sector which is bursting with new models like the Audi Q3, Range Rover Evoque, BMW X1, Volkswagen Tiguan or indeed the top selling model - the Nissan Qashqai.
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The Forester is an upright, boxy, five-door, five seater, roomy estate that sits high of the ground and four wheel drive. Now it has received significant engine upgrades and a few styling tweaks to freshen it up.
There is an all new 2.0-litre four cylinder horizontal opposed 'Boxer' petrol engine and a revised 2.0-litre diesel unit with the same Boxer configuration.
Seventy-five per cent of UK Forester customers choose a diesel model but its big loss with this engine is no automatic transmission option and no high and low ratio transfer box, both features which can be found with the new petrol engine.
Neither units offer the now commonplace stop/start fuel and CO2 saving functions. This is out-of-step with the industry and strange as the new units have been changed to improve fuel use and to lower CO2 levels and running costs.
The Boxer diesel Forester range comprises of three models with their own specific trim levels - the 2.0D X is £23,070, the 2.0D XC costs £25,070 and the 2.0D XS NavPlus starts at £29,070 (all prices on-the-road).
Customers who prefer petrol power have a choice of two models - the Forester 2.0X and 2.0XS, costing £21,370 and £25,370 (OTR), respectively, in manual form. Automatic transmission versions come at a £1,000 premium.
The new and third generation 2.0-litre Boxer, all aluminium petrol engine with multi-point fuel injection, offers 150PS of power and 198Nm of torque at 4,200rpm.
Internal design changes include a longer stroke, revised inlet manifold, new valve operation and a chain cam drive for durability.
Over the previous 2.0-litre petrol unit the CO2 emissions have dropped to 173g/km and the Combined Cycle fuel economy has improved from 32.8mpg to 37.7mpg. During my brief test drive this unit returned 34.2mpg.
That means a drop of two road tax groups but it will still cost £265 for the first year and £190 for each year after that. Top speed is 115mph and zero to 62mph takes 10.7 seconds.
Drive and performance
Drive to all four wheels, via centre differential and limited slip rear differential, is through a five speed manual gear, a four speed torque converter option is available, and this Forester has the useful high or low ratio transfer box for off road work or towing.
It is a real shame the auto option and the transfer box are not available for diesel models, the ones that most customers buy. Both petrol and diesel models have a maximum braked towing capacity of 2,000kg.
The 2.0-litre Boxer horizontally opposed four cylinder turbodiesel unit has received minor revisions for the new model year including improved exhaust gas recirculation to clean up the CO2 emissions.
The changes have resulted in CO2 going down from 167 to 158g/km reducing road tax to £165 a year.
Fuel consumption improves from 44.8mpg to 47.1mpg in the Combined Cycle. Top speed is 115mph and zero to 62mph takes 10.3 seconds.
Again the diesel model has drive to all four wheels but via a six-speed manual gearbox and as I've said there is no transfer box for low ratios. My test drive resulted in a 43.8mpg on this version.
Style and practicality
Overall with the new grille and other styling tweaks the latest Foresters are freshened up and the new or revised engines go some way to keeping the vehicle competitive in regard to sales.
The vehicle is roomy, well equipped, the ride comfort is really very good and the body-roll for a tall vehicle acceptable because of its low centre of gravity thanks to the 'flat', horizontally opposed engine design.
Although I didn't try the latest models off-road, I have in the past, and for relatively light work, hunting, shooting, fishing country pursuits or parking a caravan in a grass field on a family holiday, it is an accomplished vehicle.
I did however drive both latest versions on soaking wet roads with lots of slippery leaves and this is where the Subaru 4x4 systems provides sure-footed performance.
There is the usual high level of standard equipment including self-levelling rear suspension, alloy wheels, cruise control, climate control air-con, radio/CD player and electrically operated windows and door mirrors.
It is roomy for five people with 450-litres of load space with all three rear seats in use and when they're folded flat, luggage space goes up to 1,610-litres.
Being a boxy shape makes it a very versatile people or load carrier and its towing capability is a big reason that the Forester is popular, in a niche way, with customers who put function over fashion as far as their transport is concerned.
Subaru Forester 2.0D XS NavPlus 5-Door Manual
£29,070. (Diesels are best selling models and the 2.0D X diesel version at £23,070 makes more financial sense).
Revised 2.0-litre, horizontally opposed Boxer turbodiesel, 147PS (145bhp), 350Nm (258lb ft) of torque from 1,600rpm, 6-speed manual, all wheel drive.
115mph, 0-62mph 10.3 seconds, 47.1mpg, (43.8mpg on test), CO2 158g/km, VED road tax £165, BIK company car tax 24%.
L 4,560mm, H 1,700mm, W 1,780mm, boot/load space 450 to 1,610-litres, braked towing weight 2,000kg.
New cleaner and fuel frugal engines, well equipped, comfortable ride, durable, good for country living.
Dated styling, newer SUVs are more accomplished on-road, no auto gearbox option and high/low ratio transfer box for the diesel models, no CO2 lowering stop/start function for any versions.