NOW on its fifth generation, Subaru’s Forester has always successfully straddled the line between an out-and-out off roader and a well-appointed, yet always more than capable, estate car. The Forester’s other notable feature has always been its flat-4 or Boxer engine, be it petrol or diesel. Never the most economical, but a unit that delivered refinement of power and performance.

In a first for Subaru, the latest model can now be had as a mild, self-contained petrol electric hybrid, with a small electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack adding 16 horsepower and a far greener approach. 

Does it work? To a degree but at least it keeps people happy, something every manufacturer has to take into account. And the added bonus of the self-contained hybrid system is that you won’t be seen at the motorway services, charging cable in hand, staring at a row of out-of-use chargers.

Forestry Journal:

Ostensibly little has changed from the preceding Forester apart from a marginally larger, more upright grille, an obscure fashion that seems to be gaining momentum. The usual large, swept-back bi-xenon lights, driving illumination and chrome embellishments complete the front whilst stylish contouring along the sides makes effective use of the vast side profile and high-cut arches culminating in a deep, full depth tailgate, useful low rear sill and longer rear overhang and a detachable 1,870 kg towing hitch.

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The cabin is Subaru’s familiar combination of functionality, logical layout and ease of use. Ample head, shoulder and leg room for five along with a maximum 1,779 litres of rear-seats-folded cargo capacity, the heated all-round leather upholstery is of the durable variety whilst providing more than sufficient comfort for extended journeys. Clear instrumentation is complimented by large and small central screens whilst the usual Bluetooth, apps and usual other must-have electrical sundries are all in place awaiting those who simply can’t live without them.

Equally, the multi-function leather steering wheel has a mesmeric selection of controls and functions guaranteed to keep most drivers fully occupied when passing time in traffic delays. And for those needing to keep their devices fully charged, USB outlets abound along with sizeable cup holders, cubbies and commodious door bins that will accept bottles and other sizeable items. Well done, Subaru!

Forestry Journal:

Beneath the bonnet – visually, at least – little has changed. The flat 4-cylinder petrol-fuelled unit sits low in the engine bay, the electric motor suitably out of sight. Developing 150hp, 16 of which is electrically generated, and 196 Newton metres of torque, the power is sufficient for the Forester’s needs. 

Mated to the now familiar Subaru Lineartronic AWD transmission, this modern take on CVT, the seamless gearing translates to seven actual ratios complimented by the various on-demand off-road settings, a simple rotary switch allowing for precise, description-orientated selection. Economy-wise, while Subaru claim a factory average of 35 mpg, a mixed 200 miles resulted in, at best, 30.2 mpg, translating into a 300-mile range per 48 litre tank of unleaded.

Forestry Journal:

Like all Subarus the latest Forester is silky smooth, the quality of ride equal to the most fastidious passenger’s requirements. The power steering is extremely well weighted, the assist still allowing for more than sufficient feedback, highlighting Subaru’s diligence to off-road driving requirements. Visibility is excellent, complimented by useful onboard camera placement, meaning the new Forester’s on-and-off road credentials are more than equal to those of the preceding models.

If a negative had to be found, its the SUV’s lacklustre acceleration. 0-62 mph appears in 11.8 seconds with a max speed of 117 mph. The 30mph-to-50mph sprint doesn’t sparkle. Resorting to the semi-automatic manual paddle change or switching between the various electrical assist boosts doesn’t overly improve matters. My advice, unless you’ve adequate space to build up speed, is take your time and enjoy the scenery. The other annoying feature is the driver monitoring system that tracks the eyes. If like me you wear dark glasses, the system determines that you aren’t paying attention, endlessly informing you to look where you’re going.

Forestry Journal:

On the positive side, once momentum has been generated, apart from mild understeer that the 4x4 system quickly corrects, the new Forester’s handling puts other larger 4x4s to shame. In fact, it shows many smaller SUVs how it could and should be done. 

All round on-or-off road, the Forester is impressively relaxing and undemanding to drive, the car more than able to take care of itself with recourse to the driver.

Price-wise the XE is all yours for £36,335, while the accessory-rich XE Premium as tested is on the road for £39,335. As always, the choice is all yours but where the Forester wins out is that it’s as much a car as it is an SUV as it is a hardcore 4x4. Whether the self-contained hybrid facility is enough to make you want one remains another matter.

Subaru Forester E-Boxer

From £36,335

2 litre 4-cylinder Boxer 
with mild hybrid assist

150hp + 16hp 


Average economy 
as tested
30 mpg