Subaru Forester 2019 review


The new car’s chunky looks are distinctly Forester and major on practical considerations rather than wannabe-coupé style, and that translates to a spacious interior.

An extra 30mm of wheelbase improves rear leg room, while at 1003 litres with the seats up, the boot all but matches the larger Subaru Outback’s, and it has what’s claimed to be the widest (1300mm) opening of any tailgate in the class.

There are no surprises in the major controls, but you’ll be glad that you only have to set up the switchable Driver Focus system once.

At a Canadian launch event, we drove the new Forester extensively on paved and unpaved winding roads, rocky forest tracks and smooth major routes. That a manufacturer is willing to submit a new model to demanding roads is usually a sign of confidence in the product, and overall, Subaru’s high hopes for the newcomer are well founded.

There is a little road noise from the 18in rims and 225/55 tyres, but the Forester is otherwise quiet at a cruise, with good isolation from both the powertrain and the outside world.

It rides well, too, with a nice comfort-and-handling trade-off to the damping that makes surprisingly smooth work of lumpy shoulders on winding country roads. The ride is less convincing over harder edges, but we’d have to try it in the UK on summer tyres, rather than the Canadian-spec all-season rubber, to make a proper judgement.

For a high-riding SUV, the Forester corners pretty flatly; indeed, Subaru claims it rolls 50% less than the outgoing model. Fluid, accurate steering adds to the driving experience, although, in line with many modern electrical systems, there’s not much feel.

Brake pedal feel is good, however, and the Forester stops impressively quickly and straightly when asked.

The new engine is smooth and torquey enough in a slightly old-school, naturally aspirated way. The seven-stepped CVT – which has 10% greater ratio coverage than its predecessor – and accompanying paddle shifters are some compensation to drivers missing the now-discontinued manual gearbox option.

Less successful is the Sport Sharp (S#) mode on the Forester Sport. This is designed to add a little excitement to a trim level that targets younger buyers, but we struggled to notice the promised more aggressive throttle mapping compared with the regular Sport mode.

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