Wednesday, 6 June 2012 9:09 AM
A ‘forester’ as defined by The Concise Oxford English Dictionary is “a person in charge of a forest or skilled in forestry”.
Quite an apt name then for an estate car that considers itself a serious offroader. It should appeal to those who like the outdoors and there’s enough room in the boot for wood, too.
Estate cars are useful workhorses but raise the ride height and fit four wheel drive and they become invaluable. Consequently the Forester appeals to farmers and those who work on the land. In fact a farmer friend who lives near me has a Forester that he uses to transport animals to the vets as well as dropping the children off at school and doing the weekly shop (the latter, presumably after a thorough clean).
Over the course of the test this permanent ‘synchronised’ all-wheel drive (AWD) vehicle returns 34.5mpg while the two-litre diesel engine is not as responsive as one might expect. To me, it feels much more competent crossing a muddy field than joining a busy roundabout because it seems to prefer slower speeds with few gear changes.
On the road it needs a week’s notice to prepare itself for a manoeuvre. This is a harsh statement but the fact remains that it is annoyingly lethargic and the gear changes result in a jolty ride. This is not down to a sloppy driving style either. But even if this charge could be levelled at the driver the gears do not change in a smooth fashion as they do in a Peugeot, for instance.
If considering overtaking on a B-road then second and third gears need to be worked hard for results. While I appreciate the advantages of all wheel drive in terms of control I personally prefer the option of being able to switch between two and four wheels as in a Mitsubishi L200, for example. This gives the driver control while also improving fuel efficiency.
The Forester’s boxy design, with hints of traditional 4x4s about it, looks purposeful, helped by the grille no doubt.
Inside, the dashboard curves into the doors. The handbrake is noticeably close to the driver’s seat to make room for the high and low ratio function – high for normal driving, low for off-roading where speeds shouldn’t exceed 40mph or so.
Pull the windscreen wiper stalk towards you and you would expect water to spray across the windscreen but it doesn’t – only the windscreen wipers move. If you want water you have to push the button on the end of the stalk. This seems a little strange.
The driver’s seat is electrically adjustable and both front seats are heated.
Parkers, the car experts, say: “Subaru’s answer to the Toyota RAV-4 and Nissan X-Trail, the Forester is an off roader in the old-school mould. Some alternatives 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. On tarmac it feels dated to drive with overly soft suspension and lifeless steering.”
Well suited to country folk, the Forester is at its best off-road.