New hybrid Subaru Forester fights to reclaim UK sales
Despite looking almost identical to its predecessor, Subaru hopes its heavily revised Forester will appeal to British buyers once more. But has enough been changed to turn the heads of Honda and Toyota loyalists?
Subaru’s Forester has long been a bit of an automotive anomaly. Over the pond, the boxy SUV has proven extremely popular with over 2.6 million sales chocked up in its 30-year model run. In the UK, however, you’ll need to move that decimal point several places to the left. Despite being adored by those who did buy it, the model failed to resonate with the wider public on account of the thirsty engines, lukewarm performance, and dated interior.
So, how is the new generation planning to shake things up? Cleary Subaru never thought styling was the issue; it’s essentially the same shape as before. Look closely enough and you will spot subtle revisions, though. The new hexagonal grille suggests Subaru’s designers might have studied Ford’s Explorer a little too closely, although bronze accents on the wheels and full-length taillights do help to differentiate it from the competition.
It's the same story on the inside. While many other manufacturers have moved to fully digital gauge clusters, Subaru continues to cling to an analogue setup — if it ain’t broke… and all that. Some concessions to modernity have been made: a new 11.6-inch portrait touchscreen benefits from wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while a wireless charging pad nestles below.
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Thankfully, the new model will still be a capable performer off-road. Subaru stalwarts will be happy about the inclusion of the brand’s famous symmetrical all-wheel drive system, and a commendable 221 mm of ground clearance will help to ensure you don’t catch the underbelly on rogue rocks or tree roots. For those looking to use their Forester as a rural workhorse (farmers, we’re looking at you) we’d suggest swapping the Subaru’s OE (as pictured) road-biased Bridgestone’s for a tyre with larger tread blocks — BFGoodrich’s All Terrain T/A KO2 offers sublime traction across snow, mud, and rocks.
Under the skin, US cars will get Subaru’s well-proven (or aging, depending on your opinion) 2.5-litre flat-four producing an ample, if unexciting, 180 bhp. British variants won’t get this engine, though, as the range kicks off with a mild hybrid 2.0-litre petrol — a full hybrid powertrain will be available in due course. The standard CVT gearbox is also likely to rattle a few cages (and eardrums) across the pond, but it’s yet unknown if UK cars will receive a more conventional torque-converter unit.
More positively, a 10% stiffer chassis should offer further improvements across the board, including a more refined and responsive driving experience. Plus, with the latest version of the award-winning EyeSight® Driver Assist Technology, Forester owners will be safer than ever.
With pricing likely to start north of the £40,000 mark, we have a sneaking suspicion the new Forester will appeal exclusively to the same clientele as the old one, but are we right? Let us know if this latest model has caught your eye.
Hero image credit: Subaru