ON THE ROAD
THE Forester is noticeable larger inside, the cargo bay and rearseat leg squeeze that plagued previous models is solved and back-seat passengers are even treated to reclining seats.
The swooping dash lines that are spreading across the Subaru range smarten up the cabin, but we question the wear-and-tear resistance of some trim choices. And will young families appreciate the vodka-bar-blue ambient lighting?
There is good visibility, particularly to the rear, a rarity with most vehicles in this class. And, with reach joining the tilt adjustment on the steering column, it’s now easier to find a comfortable driving position.
The versatile centre con- sole in the auto versions can be switched around for a range of storage needs. They happily take large drink bottles, though normal-sized ones tended to rattle in the caddy.
Though the turbo (as expected) spat out plenty of energy for the job with a flat torque delivery across the range, the natural breather was no slouch either when hitched to the five-speed manual transmission.
Smaller wing mirrors mean less wind rush, though one of the test cars developed an irritating whistle in the passenger-side mirror.
There is also less wind noise from the redesigned roof rails around the A-pillars and full-frame doors, making for a quieter cabin overall.
Despite being larger and heavier, the Forester is a good drive.
It doesn’t behave exactly like a sedan, but it is not as sluggish as true bush-biased four-wheel drives.
The engines and transmissions are mounted slightly lower, providing a better centre of gravity, and what you get is signature Subaru grip and balance.
It was interesting to see how the various models coped with gravel-road driving because electronic stability control often intervened in the auto XT but was triggered only twice in the manual XS. That’s something Subaru says is down to the differences in suspension bushing and tyres.
We did not encounter any terrain that begged for the low-range manual gears, but the previous model was always capable on a beach fishing track and the like.
And, honestly, most Foresters will be urban dwellers.
Growing on us: the Forester X (above) is bigger and has an improved cargo bay (below).