23 August 2002

CAPABLE AND COMFORTABLE, BUT

BUYERS HAVENT COME IN DROVES

Subarus Forester has had

an update. Geoff Ashcroft

liked the changes but

bemoans the lack of a

diesel option

YOULL have to look hard to spot the differences between Subarus current Forester and the new model that goes on sale in October. Aside from a few cosmetic changes that include new headlights and grille, flared wheel arches and a revised rear end, theres little externally to differentiate the old model from the new.

But inside much has been done to brighten and enlarge the interior to eradicate the acres of dull greys and plastic trims much favoured by Japanese makers.

Occupants get more interior space, better legroom, more storage space and the driver gets a greater range of adjustment for the seat and steering wheel.

However, many of the new Foresters improvements have been made under the skin. A greater use of aluminium components keeps weight down, a limited slip differential is part of the cars full-time all-wheel drive system and 20mm wider front and rear tracks combined with larger diameter anti-roll bars and stiffer suspension mounts now contribute to improved handling.

And for the first time, the firm has put rebound springs on the shock absorbers to reduce pitch under heavy braking and contribute to lessening body roll during hard cornering.

The Forester is built around a modified Impreza-based chassis, which combined with the low-mounted boxer engine, results in a sure-footed entertaining drive on twisty roads.

Subaru is bringing two models of Forester to the market: The entry-level car, badged as the Forester X comes with a 125hp 2.0 petrol, while the livelier Forester XT gets a 177hp 2.0 turbocharged motor.

Both cars get the usual creature comforts such as climate control, electric windows, heated mirrors, anti-lock brakes and self-levelling rear suspension.

Either car can be specified with five-speed manual or four-speed automatic gearboxes. All manual versions get Subarus innovative hill-holder clutch, but only the non-turbo manual model gets a low ratio transfer box.

Disappointingly, the Japanese maker has no plans to introduce a diesel version. It claims that a horizontally opposed, flat-four boxer type diesel engine would be required to maintain the Foresters low centre of gravity and sporty handling characteristics.

Although not a dedicated workhorse in the same way that a pickup or LR Defender is, it seems a mystery why such a capable and comfortable vehicle hasnt enjoyed greater sales successes than the 2300 or so currently sold each year.

Latest version of Forester has brighter interior and a limited slip diff.

Models: Forester X, XT

Engine: Four-cylinder boxer, 16-valve petrol, 1994cc

Outputs: X – 125hp @ 5600rpm/135lb ft @ 3600rpm, XT – 174hp @ 5600rpm/180lb ft @ 3200rpm

Transmission: five-speed manual, four-speed auto (X manual gets low ratio box)

Drive: Full-time all-wheel drive with rear LSD

Brakes: X disc/drum ABS, XT disc/disc ABS

Unladen weight: X manual 1375kg, X auto 1390kg, XT manual 1450kg, XT auto 1470kg

Payload: 480-505kg

Towing capacity: 1500-1800kg

Combined fuel consumption: X auto 32.8mpg, X manual 33.2mpg, XT manual/auto 28.8mpg

CO2: X – 204g/km,XT – 235 g/km

Warranty: Three years/60,000 miles, plus three years paintwork and six years corrosion

Prices: TBA