Subaru’s first hybrid may not single-handedly save the environment, but Forester fans will love the familiarity – and it won’t scare the pheasants, either. By Ben Samuelson.
There has always been something appealingly honest about the Subaru Forester. While the rest of the motor industry has rushed into the sort-of-SUV market like a pack of ill-trained spaniels, frightening the pheasants with cars that are basically five-door hatchbacks with a few off-roader bits stuck on for good measure, the Subaru Forester has done the exact opposite, pootling on as an off-roader dressed up as a family estate car.
The Subaru Forester – truly classless
It has always resolutely eschewed fashion, being usefully slab-sided but heroically unstylish. No one would ever give it a second glance, but that is one of this car’s great virtues. It isn’t trying to look sporty, or glamorous, or even especially nice, so it could never be accused of trying too hard. This is why Subarus, and Foresters in particular, used to be found outside the homes of everyone from binmen to baronets, eloquent testament to the power of a product that is truly classless. I ought to add that its rather inelegant flat waistline means that it has plenty of depth of glass in the rear windows, which is in dramatic contrast to the nausea-inducing firing slits found in the back of something like an Evoque.
As the pound-yen exchange rate has turned against the importers of cars like this, and its competition has hotted up, so Subaru’s sales in the UK have fallen. Yet all over the country, Foresters have quietly carried on rattling up and down farm tracks, pottering into town and doing the school run, only being replaced when they finally become too expensive to keep on the road, which tends to take a long time with Scoobys because of how beautifully they’re screwed together.
Subaru’s first hybrid
This leaves us with the new Forester, which looks very much like the old Forester but has a lot of brand-spanks bits underneath. Crucially, the platform is new, so it’s got 30mm more legroom in the back and is usefully stiffer. From a headline in a brochure point of view, it is also Subaru’s first hybrid. But, to be honest, the extra legroom in the back is rather more useful…
This isn’t one of those plug-in hybrids that will do 30 miles on a charge and save you a fortune on company car tax; the Forester does about a mile on what its engine generates, and isn’t much more economical than its conventionally powered competition. Its emissions figure is on the wrong side of every tax break, so you’ll never buy one as a company car either.
However, it maintains all the fine qualities that have endeared its predecessors to generations of Schöffel-wearers up and down the land.
Other than the Foresters’ aforementioned uncomplicated looks, fine visibility and superb build quality, it rides nicely and is best in class for getting out of the steeper, wetter corners of point-to-point car parks. It has plenty of space inside and the Premium version I drove has plenty of bells and whistles, too, including one of the better-resolved radar cruise control/lanekeeping set-ups I’ve ever used.
The new Forester isn’t quick, doesn’t handle entertainingly and isn’t pretty inside or out. Its slightly half-arsed hybrid kit even loses it a few points for degrading the feeling of bloody-minded honesty about the thing.
But if you’ve always liked Foresters, your old one is finally giving up the ghost and you find yourself on the Subaru stand at a Game Fair after a couple of glasses at lunchtime, you’re going to buy one and be very pleased with it for the next 10 years.
And there are much, much, worse car-buying decisions to make than that…
Specifications Subaru Forester e Boxer XE Premium
- Price: £39,335
- Top Speed: 117mph
- 0-62 mph: 11.8 seconds
- Fuel consumption: 34.7mpg
- CO2e emissions: 185g/km
At the time of writing, we have just a few days left to wait before the INEOS Grenadier is unveiled, probably the second most eagerly anticipated new car of 2020 after the Land Rover I reviewed last month. The Grenadier is the brainchild of chemicals billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe, and has been designed to be the spiritual successor of the old Defender. It is said to be every bit as rugged and rumours are that it will be priced between £30,000 and £45,000, available in long wheelbase, short wheelbase and pick-up versions when deliveries start from its Welsh factory next year.