Despite the fairly low ground clearance the Forester has one of the grippiest four-wheel drive systems on sale.
Subaru is one of the few companies to fit its cars with flat-four-cylinder engines, which have a lower centre of gravity than the units fitted to most other cars, providing better handling as a result. Buyers can choose from a 2.0-litre petrol, with or without a turbo, but most will be more interested in the more frugal 2.0-litre diesel.
The diesel model is the one to go for because it provides good mid-range grunt and is capable of just under 50mpg. It has nearly twice the torque of the similarly powerful petrol so it feels faster than the 10-second sprint from 0-62mph would suggest.
Avoid the CVT automatic and you should be fine
The first petrol option has 148hp, and Subaru claims fuel economy of around 43mpg, although it’s rather gutless and you need to work it hard if you’re towing a trailer. There’s a much more potent 237hp version with a turbocharger, capable of hitting 60mph in well under eight seconds from a standstill. It sounds great on paper, but the engine is slow to respond, only feels powerful at high revs and is incredibly thirsty when you’re in a hurry.
The Forester does without trick electronics like the ones in the Discovery Sport, but is a permanent system that will probably take you further than any of its more road-focused rivals.
Good as the Forester is in the rough stuff it’s almost as bad again on the open road. The steering is inaccurate, there’s lots of wind noise and a lot of body roll.
The manual gearchange in both the petrol and diesel models is imprecise, but the automatic gearbox is especially bad, feeling lazy and out-dated.
It’s not all bad, however, because the suspension performs adequately at smoothing out lumps and bumps. Around town, the light steering makes navigating fairly easy.
Those using a Forester for towing will be pleased to know that it can pull up to 2,000kg and Subaru’s Trailer Stability Control will help prevent weaving and instability.