Car Test   R0284
December 2002
  Subaru Forester
Printer Friendly Page Featured model: 2.0X 'All Weather'
We recently sampled Mazda’s all-wheel-drive 6 estate car. Now, is the Forester its counterpart or is it a Sports Utility ‘soft-roader’, to be compared rather with the likes of Honda’s CR-V and a Rover Freelander?
   The truth is that it’s somewhere in-between. With a 1.6metre roofline and seat cushions set 53-56cm off the ground (an ideal H-point for the less spry), the Forester is halfway between your average estate car and a fully-fledged SUV.
   Inside, it lacks the ultimate space and adaptability of some alternatives, but makes up for this with some clever detailing. For instance, the load deck is high, limiting height beneath the load blind to a mere 40cm, and only double that dimension to the tailgate top. However, it has the (full-size) spare wheel beneath, as well as some really useful lined stowage areas; this also results in a superior tailgate opening and a shorter overall length than most SUVs’ – just like an estate car’s, in fact.
   Up front, the oddments spots should also be soft-lined, but the foldable but otherwise fixed back seat is comfortable and nicely trimmed – even where it doesn’t normally show.
   The driving position is commanding, but not so lofty as to exaggerate cornering roll angles, so the Forester feels as go-anywhere-wieldy on tarmac as on meadow.
   Off-road driving is greatly eased by the extra ‘gear lever’ that can be put into low-range (even on the move) to step up the revs by about 50 per cent – in any gear, at any time. This is a feature unique to the manual X version. The result is the ability to keep plodding, just so long as the car's modest ground clearance is sufficient.
   Our car had the All Weather pack, which adds a significant Ł1800 to the X’s competitive price. This does provide a very large electrically powered glass sunroof (which is nice), but the car already has climate control, albeit one that revealed glitches. There’s also painted instead of plastic-finished bumper shields in this option pack – again a dubious advantage if you’re a serious off-roader.
   The cruise control doesn’t hold the speed precisely but here, we’re more inclined to blame the engine, which displays mild hesitancy of response to small accelerator variations – a typically ‘flat-four’ characteristic, in fact. In normal, more assertive driving, this isn’t a problem, however, but the lower rev vibrancy is a nuisance when pulling strongly.
  considering size, price and rivals
Overtaking Ability
Fuel Economy
  • discrete parking lamp switch - on steering shroud
  • spare wheel isn't on tailgate
  • 'hill holder' - prevents roll back (mostly)
  • front wipers heated with door mirrors
  • lots of space (and a bucket) below load deck
  • sharp projections (at ankle level) behind short driver
  • various oddments spaces mostly inclined
  • no nearside door keyhole (for alarm-free locking)
  • fiddly radio with no satellite stalk
  • uneven heating creates domestic friction
The Forester isn’t without its minor irritations, but it’s an unusual solution to the disparate demands of off-road and on-road driving. It makes an impressively versatile attempt to tackle both tasks well. Obviously, costs are higher and its performance more modest than some ordinary estate cars, but it looks good against other soft-roaders – particularly as Subaru has an excellent reputation for reliability. Perhaps its most serious estate car rival is called ‘Legacy’.

engine 1994cc, flat 4cylinder, petrol; 125bhp at 5600rpm, 136 lb ft at 3600rpm; belt-driven double overhead camshafts, 16 valves   transmission 5-speed manual plus dual-range, permanent four-wheel drive; 21.3mph/1000rpm in 5th, 17.0 in 4th, with 33% reduction in low range
suspension front: independent damper/struts with integral coil springs.
rear: independent struts, integral coil springs, trailing arms; self-levelling gas/oil dampers
  steering hydraulic, variable-rate power assistance; 3.1 turns lock-to-lock; 10.8m diameter turning circle between kerbs (16.7m for one turn of the wheel)
brakes ventilated discs front, solid discs rear, with standard anti-lock control (electronic brake force distribution on XT only)   wheels/tyres 6in steel with 205/70R15H (Bridgestone) all-terrain tyres (6in alloy wheels on test car); full-size steel spare

size and type upper-medium (mid-priced) SUV-style estate car   trim levels X, X 'All Weather', XT
engines petrol: flat 4 cylinder/2.0 litre/125bhp, 4/2.0turbo/177bhp
diesel: none
  drive permanent four-wheel drive via central viscous-coupling/differential. 5-speed manual or 4-speed stepped automatic; dual-range with lever (giving 10 ratios) on non-turbo manual only

HOW THE FORESTER 2.0X COMPARES engine (cyl/cc/bhp) revs at 70mph (rpm) 30-70 through gears (sec) 30-70mph in 4th/5th gears (sec) fuel (mpg/CO2) brakes from 50mph (kg/m) maximum legroom - front (cm) typical leg/kneeroom - rear (cm) steering turns/circle (m) overall length (cm)
Subaru Forester 2.0X 4/1995/125 3280 10.9 18.0/25.9 31/204 18/28 109 96/69 3.1/10.8 445
Honda CRV 2.0SE Sport 4/1998/148 3350 9.5 16.4/25.3 30/216 12/27 108 106/80# 3.3/10.8 457
Land Rover Freelander Td4d 4/1951/112 2880 14.7 16.9/22.3 38/205 30/26.5 104 107/75 3.2/11.8 439
Nissan X-Trail 2.0 4/1998/138 3280 12.1 22.8/33.3 28/221 14/27 107 105/72 3.1/11.2 451
Toyota RAV4 2.0 (5dr) 4/1998/147 3350 9.5 16.6/24.2 29/211 18/26.5 110 98/73 3.0/11.4 426
Renault Scenic RX4 4/1998/140 3260 12.8 20.3/28.9 28.5/224 n/a 106 102/76 3.5/10.6 444
  # back seats fully rearwards  d diesel

Tidy (if optimistic) displays and good, supportive driving position. Easy gears (both shift levers!) and medium-weight clutch. Some unusual (and useful) minor controls, but some switches too small or obscure.
For an off-roader, steering imprecision from straight-ahead is acceptable and cornering prowess on tarmac is very tidy - only the all-purpose tyres' grip limits the fun. Will tackle soggy grassland easily - ground clearance permitting.
Surprisingly composed secondary ride - just sharp-edged faults on the road create a thump. Air temperature is nicely stratified vertically, but isn't consistent, with cooler air to front passenger - OK if the driver is the cold mortal!

Modest acceleration, but pleasantly smooth, muted progress from 1500rpm upwards; some tremendous vibes below that. Cruises without fuss at motorway rates. For real performance, think Turbo.
  acceleration in seconds through gears 4th gear 5th gear
  20-40mph 3.6 9.2 12.5
  30-50mph 4.3 8.9 12.2
  40-60mph 5.2 8.9 12.9
  50-70mph 6.6 9.1 13.7
  30-70mph 10.9 18.0 25.9
  max speed in each gear (* using 6000rpm for best acceleration)
     gear      1st*      2nd*      3rd*      4th*      5th
     speed (mph)      32      54      77      102.5      113.5 (5325rpm)

Not a bad result, when you compare it with SUVs, but a two-wheel drive estate car will do better. Take the 'extra-urban' mpg with a pinch of salt. Good range and reliable low-level warning. No filling problems, either.
  type of use (air conditioning off) AA test (mpg) 
    urban (17mph average/heavy traffic) 22
    suburban (27mph average/6.4 miles from cold start) 26
    motorway (70mph cruising) 30.5
    cross-country (brisk driving/20 miles from cold start) 32
    rural (gentle driving/20 miles from cold start) 36
    overall mpg 31
    realistic tank capacity/range 53/360
    official mpg (urban/extra urban/combined) 24.4/42.2/33.2
    CO2 emissions 204g/km
    car tax band E

Excellent child seat facilities, including two points plus roof tethers. Front head restraints 'active' - move towards occupants in a rear impact. Brakes progressive and consistent, but tyres limit best stop.
  from 50mph (with standard ABS)
This model has not yet been
tested by EURO NCAP
pedal load     stopping distance
unhurried 10kg     39.5m
sudden 18kg     28m best stop
+ 4kg 22kg     29m
fade resistance/consistency    
Euro NCAP = European New Car Assessment Programme: independent crash safety tests evaluating protection for occupants and pedestrians in an offset frontal collision, side impacts and pedestrian strike conditions
click here for more NCAP details/test results etc.

Not particularly adaptable or roomy in the back (for passengers or luggage), but comfortable and nicely trimmed. Decent turning circle, but rear head restraints stick up, when reversing. Intermittent rear wiper used a lot.
  in centimetres (5-door SUV)
  length 445
  width - including mirrors 198
    - mirrors folded 174
  height (with roof bars) 159
  load sill height (inside/outside) 1/66
  turns lock-to-lock 3.1
  turning circle (metres) 10.8
  easy to park/garage?
  front - legroom 86-109
    - headroom 89-94~
  rear - typical legroom 96
    - typical kneeroom 69
    - headroom 94~
    - hiproom 129
  load area(all seats in use)
  load space
(litres/cu ft)
  load length 86-162§
  load length to facia 254
  load width 94-137
  load height (to shelf/top of aperture) 40 81
~ sunroof  § rear seat folded

'After thought' alarm not as foolproof as some - it's too easy to fire it up inadventently. You can lock up by key to avoid it - but there's only one keyhole. No NCSR result yet; insurance is Group II.
central locking  
remote control  
remote window closing  
alarm (perimeter + interior)   
self-locking (static + drive-off)   
two-stage unlocking   
attack-resistant glass   
AA load area security rating
=standard    =option    =not available
NCSR - "theft of" not available
NCSR - "theft from" not available
NCSR = New Car Security Ratings: a 1 to 5 star system which rates anti-theft protection, both of the car itself and the theft of valuables from within the car
Visit for more details
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