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MOTORNET: Solid Citizen

Solid Citizen


SCOOP MOTORNET with Karl Ferguson
Images by Neil Mackenzie - onlinefotos.com/neil

With the on-going volatility of petrol prices, the tide appears to be turning against the large Sports Utility Vehicle, but we shouldn’t be too hasty in tarring all such vehicles with the same brush.


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People like SUVs. They like the feeling of safety and security; they like the imposing ride-height and they like the versatility. They don’t like some of the inherent risks or issues – lack of rear visibility, poor stability from an increased ride height and most of all, the cost of filling a large fuel tank after only a few hundred kilometres.

Enter then the soft-roader, the smaller, lighter and more nimble alternative. And while a number of manufacturers offer credible examples of the emerging genre, Subaru – with its virtually original Forester – have led the pack. Now they have a brand new one, and it has plenty to offer.


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Firstly, don’t be dismayed by the looks. It may be all new, but the design is clearly an evolution of what went before. Though it lacks the lines of a sportscar – or even some of its more shapely rivals, preferring a more lived in, purposeful look – the Forester still cuts a handsome profile. It benefits from a distinctive grille, is pleasantly high sided and has a well incorporated roof-rack all of which helps its credibility in the most important stakes – how it looks on a gravel road, or navigating an alpine pass.

There are four variants on offer. The entry level X, the XS and XS Ltd all come standard with Subaru’s well-proven 2.5 litre ‘flat four’ that develops a solid 126kW, and 229Nm of torque at a respectable 3200rpm. It does a good job of hauling the Forester’s mass, but works best with a manual transmission. If you want real performance, you’ll need to set your sites on the XT, which makes things a little more interesting through the addition of a turbocharger. Subaru have plenty of experience in this space, and the 169kW and 320Nm of torque ensure the XT will complete the 0-100km/h dash in a not too shabby time of around seven seconds.


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Just as importantly, it feels grounded while doing it. Based largely on the underpinnings of the latest Impreza, the Forester does an excellent job of feeling ‘car like’ most of the time, meaning new SUV roaders won’t find themselves intimidated. Handling is stable and predictable and doesn’t appear especially compromised by the higher ride height. 4WD is a permanent fixture which means traction isn’t an issue in most everyday situations, and it has the added bonus of low ratio gearing – essential if the Forester (in any guise) is going to cut it as a workhorse on the farm or at the beach.

On the inside, the feel is reasonably utilitarian, but is nevertheless generally pleasant and the fit and finish is to the usual Subaru high-standard. The range is pretty well equipped too. Entry level models get six airbags and plenty of other safety features, as well as fog lamps, stability control and the aforementioned dual range transmission. A CD player and leather bound steering wheel completes the entry-level picture, while the XS adds climate air, and a better stereo with CD stacker. Leather and sunroof are on offer if you opt for the XS Ltd, but it’s a $3k premium over the XS. Further on the plus side, the Foresters 450 litres of luggage capacity and general versatility make it a great candidate for all manner of duties that might be thrown its way.


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Fuel economy – a key buying consideration these days regardless of disposable income levels – is good and akin to what you might expect from a medium sized wagon. Subaru quote a combined cycle of 9.3 litres/100km for the normally aspirated models rising to 10.5 litres/100km for the turbo XT.

A manual ‘X’ Forester will set you back a smidgen under $37k while a whiz-bang XT with auto transmission is a slightly pricier $45,990.

Initially inspiring it may not be, but take the time to get to know the Forester and I suspect you might be pleasantly surprised. It’s good to drive, versatile, generally well equipped and certainly not afraid of a bit of hard work. And let’s be honest, flashy only gets you so far wouldn’t you say?

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