A practical tow car, but costly to buy and fuel.
- Electric motor provides a handy boost when pulling away
- Enjoyable to drive
- Excellent rear legroom
- Half-hearted hybrid
- Too much road noise on motorways
- No spare wheel
As before, the Subaru Forester is an SUV with just a hint of estate car in its DNA.
The car is provided with a sophisticated four-wheel-drive system, so the Subaru can handle rough and slippery surfaces as well as smooth Tarmac.
However, the big change is the switch to a hybrid powertrain, which allows the vehicle to run on electric power along for short periods.
On hilly roads the engine has to work hard, but the Forester feels surefooted and has no trouble in damp conditions
In this specification, the Forester has a kerbweight of 1687kg. That means the 85% match figure is 1434kg, well within the 1870kg legal towing limit.
For our test, we matched the car to a Coachman 545 Acadia Platinum Edition with a MiRO of 1445kg.
The electric motor provides a handy boost when pulling away, which helps to make up for the 2.0-litre petrol engine’s modest 145lb ft of torque. But as speed builds, the Forester does begin to feel rather short of punch.
The Subaru pulls up to 60mph, but the driver needs to be patient and put up with a lot of noise from under the bonnet. Once up to speed, the Lineartronic gearbox does a reasonable job of making the most of the available performance.
Stability is good in most conditions, but you do notice some tugging at the back of the car when passing high-sided vehicles. Strong crosswinds also pull car and caravan off line a little, but not enough to cause palms to sweat.
On hilly country roads the engine has to work hard, but the Forester feels surefooted and has no trouble putting its power to the road in damp conditions.
In addition, it handles hill starts well. The electronic parking brake held car and caravan secure and released smoothly when the driver applied the throttle. The Forester towed up the 1-in-10 slope with no sign of strain, but without any urgency.
Low-speed manoeuvring is easy. The gearbox allows the car to creep smoothly, the all-round visibility is good, and the reversing camera is a big plus if you ever need to hitch up on your own.
The Subaru Forester is easy to live with in everyday driving. Without the weight of a caravan to pull, the engine’s indifferent low-down torque is less apparent, although the e-Boxer is a curious kind of hybrid. It will run on electric power alone at speeds of up to 25mph, but only for short distances.
Although the car will edge forward in stop-start traffic on electric power, we did find it rarely moved for more than a few yards before the petrol engine started up.
Although this does make it a rather half-hearted hybrid, we enjoyed driving the Subaru. The ride is comfortable unless the road surface really cuts up rough, and the car corners neatly despite its high ride-height and generous ground clearance. The steering is light enough for easy parking, and direct and accurate.
On the motorway, the Subaru suffers from too much road noise. Accelerate into a gap in traffic and the engine can be noisy, too. Rural roads are where the Forester clearly feels more at home, and it’s happy to be taken off Tarmac, as well. There’s a hill descent control system, and ‘snow/dirt’ and ‘deep snow/mud’ settings for the car’s 4×4 system.
The new Forester is wider and longer than its predecessor, and Subaru has put the greater size to good use.
There’s plenty of head- and legroom in the front of the car, even with the standard-fit sunroof. The dashboard seems solidly screwed together and made to last.
Rear-seat space is excellent, with really generous legroom and only a small hump for the transmission tunnel. Air vents between the front seats should keep those passengers sitting in the back of the car at a comfortable temperature.
Luggage room is another strength, with a healthy 520 litres with the seats upright. If you need more space, it’s easy to fold the back seats down using levers either side of the tailgate.
With the seats lowered, there’s just a slight slope to the floor, and you get a total capacity of 1779 litres.
The only black mark of note is that the car comes with a puncture repair kit rather than a spare wheel, which seems rather at odds with the go-anywhere, practical ethos of the Forester.
At £38,995, the Forester is costly. A Škoda Karoq 2.0 TSI 4×4 DSG offers similar space and a more powerful engine for £7000 less.
On the plus side, however, the Forester XE Premium is extremely well equipped, with leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats, dual-zone climate control, DAB radio and self-levelling suspension.
Despite being a hybrid, fuel economy is very poor. Official figures suggest 34.7mpg should be achievable in regular driving. We could only manage 19.7mpg while towing. Retained values are predicted to be strong, but not strong enough to compensate fully for the high purchase price.
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|Engine Size||1995 cc|
|85% KW||1498 kg|
|Towball Limit||75 kg|
|Maximum Towing Limit||1870 kg|
|Torque||145 lb ft|
|Offical MPG||34.7 mpg|
|Towing MPG||19.7 mpg|