Road test: Welcome to the Chelsea ride-on mower!

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Subaru's Forester


Subaru cars have delivered us some fun motoring over the years and not because of those rally car lookalikes that kids use to perform donuts in supermarket car parks.

We’re talking the four wheel drive, go-anywhere, don’t worry about breaking it variety although, strangely, with the latest Forester we had for test we really thought it had broken under the onslaught of the Beast from the East and the Storm from the South’s combined efforts.

Driving it through copious amounts of axle deep slush resulted in a serious vibration from the front end that shook the whole car, so much so that it had to be stopped to make sure it wasn’t running a flat. But when the weather warmed slightly the vibration evaporated, suggesting that maybe there had been some sort of ice build-up on transmission parts.

It’s almost 40 years since Subarus were first imported to the UK by International Motors, which simultaneously launched and established Hyundai as a serious player. If ever there was a car brand that’s underestimated it’s Subaru; its fortunes have been the reverse of Hyundai’s although this year the decline has slowed, thanks to a healthy rise in sales during February.

But that health still needs a check over from the equivalent of car industry medics because the brand underperforms. It’s a shame because apart from the one glitch mentioned above we’ve never had a problem with any Subaru.

In fact these are cars that have been well educated in the school of hard knocks from day one. The first Subaru 4×4 saloon we ever drove starred in its own snowy scenario to match the recent stuff.

We were descending a steep slope from the Cotswolds when we passed a former traffic cop we knew struggling to ascend in a Ford Cortina stuffed with kids keen to go sledging, preferably not in the car as it slid backwards! We swung the Subaru round, attached a rope to the Ford and pulling with all its 1.6 litre petrol might the little Japanese car completed its rescue mission.

Going back to when the Forester launched about 20 years ago, an unbridled sense of adventure led to trying it across the stubble field we can see from the office (spare bedroom) window. It shot up and over the crest of the hill at about 40 mph when fresh furrows loomed large in front. After braking hard to 25 mph, the Forester ploughed across them with a lot of shaking but no damage.

Seems the farmer, as well as giving us permission to off-road when we wanted, had also let a ploughing enthusiast the chance to shine his equipment and sent it up before a match!

Back to 2018 and the latest Forester, revised last year and bang up to date thanks to its “Eyesight” technology which might, if it had existed 20 years ago, have helped avoid those furrows! Anyway, it’s all about lane departure warnings and other bits of trickery much of which we tend to avoid in the interests of staying alert. After all, is something that lets old people pay less attention really a safety aid? Possibly not! (Only kidding!)

It was a long time before Subaru ever got round to installing a diesel engine in its cars so petrol power has always been the norm. An average of 30-35 mpg has always been the norm, too, showing that advances in engineering are being strangled by advances in emissions control equipment so at least as we stand still with regard to fuel consumption we are not choking on bigger clouds of fumes (although CO 2 levels are rising in the UK as drivers move away from diesel).

Inside the Subaru Forester

The Forester is a pleasant family car, sufficiently roomy for five outdoor types and their gear. It’s also able to haul a couple of tonnes of trailer so what won’t fit inside can hang off the back. The two litre petrol engine, still with the delightful horizontally-opposed or flat-four layout, never sounds thrashed even when worked hard, and doesn’t get so audible that you can detect the auto transmission is a continuously variable set-up that Subaru calls Lineartronic, albeit with manual override via flippers behind the wheels.

It’s pleasant to ride in, firm but not unforgiving. The test car’s leather seats were reasonably supportive despite being slippery. It also has good ground clearance but isn’t too high, providing an ideal solution for those who want an SUV’s off-road attributes but not necessarily its physical presence. It’s less Chelsea tractor, more Chelsea ride-on mower!

Maurice and Annette Hardy

Car: Subaru Forester 2.0i XE Premium Lineartronic with EyeSight

Does it fit your ego…

0-62 mph: 11.8 secs

Top speed: 119 mph

PS: 150 @ 6200 rpm

Torque: 198 Nm @ 4200 rpm

…and your wallet…

Price: £31,495

Combined: 43.5 mpg

CO2 emissions: 150 g/km

 

Best bits: capable, but not vast, 4×4

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