Subaru Forester SUV (2008-2012)
"Tough, practical and good off-road, the Subaru Forester is a capable crossover vehicle that blends the appeal of four-wheel drive with responsive handling and a compact hatchback body."
- Bulletproof reliability
- Very spacious interior and big boot
- Good equipment levels
- Petrol engine lets the side down
- Rivals are better on the road
- Design is dull
It's not the best looking 4x4 ever made, nor is it the most desirable, but the Subaru Forester is certainly one of the most useful. Not only is it extremely adept off-road, but there's also lots of space inside, so it's supremely practical. The choice of engines is limited and the looks aren't particularly attractive, but that shouldn't matter if you just want a competent 4x4 with excellent reliability.
MPG, running costs & CO2
It's worth avoiding the 2.0-litre petrol version, as it offers only 33.6mpg and emits 198g/km, so road tax will cost £235 per year. The 2.0-litre diesel is far better with 44.1mpg and 170g/km, so road tax costs £180 a year. Insurance is acceptable - it ranges from group 17 to 24.
Engines, drive & performance
There are only two engines available - a 2.0-litre petrol unit with 148bhp and a 145bhp 2.0-litre diesel. The former lacks low range performance and needs working quite hard to get the big Subaru moving, but the latter is an excellent all-rounder. Unlike most diesel engines, which often run out of steam at high revs, the Forester keeps on going and pulls very well higher up the rev range. The high driving position and lots of glass make the Forester easy to drive and see out of. The only let down is the gearchange, which isn't precise enough - the stick sits at a funny angle, so it's often easy to end up in the wrong gear.
Interior & comfort
The diesel engine emits a bit of a clatter initially, and it's noisy at high speeds, but apart from that it's very smooth. The petrol engine makes a bit of a racket too, as it needs to be driven quite hard to get anything out of it. The Subaru has a comfortable suspension set-up and it copes with rough roads and bumps well, but the trade-off is a bouncy ride - it pitches and wallows over uneven surfaces.
Practicality & boot space
Both front and rear seat passengers have huge amounts of space and the boot is equally big - it offers 450 litres with the rear seats in place, but fold them down and you've got a whopping 1,660 litres. Large door pockets and a big central storage area are useful and the wide boot opening makes loading easy.
Reliability & safety
Every Forester comes with twin front, side and curtain airbags and brake force distribution. Stability control is also standard and anti-whiplash headrests help to protect the driver and passengers in the event of a shunt. The Forester did not appear in 2010's Driver Power or JD Power surveys, but Subaru has long held a reputation for bulletproof reliability, so you can buy with confidence. The interior doesn't exude the classy quality of other rivals, but there's no denying that it's well put together and hard wearing.
Price, value for money & options
Prices are reasonably competitive, though the Forester could do with being slightly cheaper to appeal to more buyers. It's saved by the generous equipment levels though, which include cruise and climate control, electric windows and mirrors and heated seats. Top spec NavPlus editions are lavishly equipped with leather upholstery, satnav and electrically adjustable seats.