Subaru - Forester (2008 on)By admin • Oct 30th, 2008 • Category: Car Reviews
Pro: Spacious interior, capable off road
Con: Wallowy ride, bland cabin, only one engine choice
Subaru’s answer to the Toyota RAV-4 and Nissan X-Trail, the Forester, is an off roader in the old-school mould. Rivals may be more refined and comfortable, but the Forester is incredibly capable on tough terrain and makes an ideal choice if you regularly tackle muddy fields. The old car built up a strong following, especially among those living in the country, so Subaru’s decision to ditch the estate bodystyle and turn it into a more conventional 4×4 may surprise some. The benefits are a spacious interior and good size boot, but on tarmac it feels dated to drive with overly soft suspension and lifeless steering.
There’s currently only one engine available - a 2.0-litre petrol that has been carried over from the old model. Although torque has risen, power has actually decreased to 150bhp. It manages 0-60mph in 12.3 seconds, but on the move it feels sluggish - especially at low speeds. It’s not very free-revving either and you really need to work the unit hard to get any meaningful performance out of it - unfortunately at high revs it gets very noisy. The optional four-speed automatic gearbox is best avoided. The standard five-speed is better thanks to its slick action, but you’ll find yourself constantly changing gear to keep a decent pace. September 2008 saw the introduction of useful diesel option. The 147bhp 2.0-litre engine is punchy, economical and shares some of its characteristics with the 2.0-litre petrol. As well as being economical - 44mpg is possible - it feels quicker than its 10 second 0-62mph suggests.
With self-levelling suspension and more ground clearance than most rivals, the Forester is surprisingly capable off road and will happily tackle rutted tracks and muddy slopes. Manual cars come with a dual range gearbox for when the going gets particularly tricky. Unfortunately despite its low centre of gravity it’s not as good on road. While traction is excellent, thanks to the four-wheel drive system, and grip levels are high, the overly light steering lacks feel and combined with excessive body roll makes tackling corners an experience that doesn’t inspire confidence. Stopping power is good but under heavy braking the Forester does have a tendency to move around a fair amount.
Entry-level cars come with fabric seats while XS models get leather, however both are very comfortable, even if they do lack side support. The ride is good - on a smooth and level surface, however uneven roads cause it to pitch and wallow excessively which can leave passengers feeling ill. It’s better on the motorway but still never quite settles down and there’s constant movement in the cabin. At motorway speeds there’s noticeable wind and road noise
The light steering makes parking and tight manoeuvres a doddle while the vast expanse of glass and thin windscreen pillars mean visibility is good. Rear passenger space is excellent with bags of leg and headroom and up front there’s decent stowage with good door pockets and a large central cubby. The wide boot opening makes loading wide objects easy as does the absence of a boot lip, but it’s a shame there are no underfloor storage areas.
Along with driver and passenger airbags the Forester also gets curtain and side airbags as standard while electronic brakeforce distribution is also included. This balances the braking force between front and rear wheels according to road conditions to compensate for any load shifting when stopping. A new shock absorbing plate has been fitted at the front to reduce pedestrian leg injuries.
The Forester has a strong reputation among rural buyers thanks to its dependability and the new model should continue this trend. It’s not quite as rugged on the outside but is just as well built. Some of the interior materials may seem a little cheap, especially compared to more upmarket rivals, but they are hardwearing nonetheless.
Buying and selling
Buying new - You’re likely to be able to negotiate a decent discount at any Subaru dealer, especially as most buyers will be waiting for the arrival of the more economical 2.0-litre diesel engine. The XS model is more expensive but comes better equipped with alloy wheels and leather seats.
Buying used - It won’t be a common car on the private market, so your best bet is to find an approved used example direct from a dealer. You’ll pay a bit extra for the privilege but the Subaru Proven programme gives you peace of mind in the form of a 12 month unlimited mileage warranty and breakdown recovery. If you’re looking for a diesel - which is the most desirable engine - bear in mind that it wasn’t launched in April 2008 at the same time as the 2.0-litre petrol. The diesel only became available in September 2008.
Selling - The demand for polluting, petrol-powered 4×4s is shrinking and so you could struggle to get top price. The better equipped XS models are the most sought after and while the Forester is robust, a full service history is essential.
Prices start quite high, even for the 2.0X manual and although it comes well equipped it’s not great value. Opt for the better equipped 2.0XS with an automatic gearbox and the price tag rises accordingly. There’s currently no diesel option so the Forester will be expensive to run for high mileage drivers while insurance and servicing won’t be cheap either.
It’s no surprise the Forester is a fairly polluting model with a 2.0-litre petrol engine and four-wheel drive. The engine has been tweaked and as a result both emissions and economy have improved. But at 198g/km CO2 for the manual and 199g/km for the automatic it’s not particularly green while an average fuel economy of 33.6mpg (for both the manual and auto) means it is far from frugal. A diesel engine is on the way which should have lower emissions and better economy.