Against the Grain


Words by Andrew Middleton Photograp hs by Andrew Middleton, Bronwyn Todd and Jannah Ruthven.

When I was ten years old, my idea of nirvana was thrashing a fire-spitting Subaru through a field of pixels on my Sony PlayStation. The four-cylinder Boxer engine would growl, hiss and backfire its way to rally victory, time and time again.

These days, I’m not entirely sure that Subaru still has what it takes to excite me, and I have to wonder where the thunder’s gone. The Forester is a perfect example of this: previously, this model featured a truly unique identity that combined ‘station-wagon’ appeal with terrific off-road ability; lately, however, the Forester has followed the same hum-drum approach as the rest of the compact SUV segment, with a high roofline and bulky proportions.

But, admittedly, the Forester does a damn good job of challenging its opposition, even if a few niggles do threaten to spoil the mix.

There’s nothing particularly special in this department – ‘nice’ is probably an accurate word for it. It’s understood that the Forester comes from a line of utilitarian vehicles, but, at roughly R530k, low-rent plastics just don’t cut the mustard in this segment. In fact, many cheaper, smaller hatchbacks outclass the new Forester when it comes to fit and finish.

But, on the plus side, there’s no melodramatic fussiness overcrowding the Forester’s form and function; it’s all business in this cabin, and I love the Forester for that.

Its austere nature seeps right to the radio/CD unit, which is hugely basic, but it works – and darn well, too! The dash is also modestly designed, featuring an onboard computer that displays everything – such as the reversing camera, accelerator position, fuel-consumption log and turbo-boost pressure.

Summer lovers will also be pleased to hear that the Forester has one of the largest sunroofs on offer, and it doesn’t make a noise when driven on the freeway, even when open!

One of the advantages of the Forester’s gradual size increase is its generous boot volume (288- or 1 240-litres). Despite having a fullsized spare in the boot, we managed to cram three passengers into the Forester, along with a ton of camping gear. However, our commuters did complain about the Forester’s lack of rear-seat ventilation – a sore oversight for a vehicle that costs half a bar!

One of my disillusioned friends said that the Forester looks like a Peugeot; a short while later, a long-winded and mildly aggressive argument ensued, but I wonder now if he might have had a point. Either way, I’ve grown to like the Forester’s new look, and believe its starry-blue badge can stand proud on one of Subaru’s best-looking creations.

Overall, it’s an unpretentious style that hasn’t fallen prey to chintzy chrome and fake air vents. The Forester is still an honest and straightforward vehicle that doesn’t follow many fashion trends.

The Forester is not designed for bundu bashing; it’s a gravel-travel machine that performs as well on dirt as it does in sand. In the latter instance, the Forester’s CVT gearbox proves highly effective with its smooth operation, its ability to keep the revs up, and its seamless ratio transition through its infinite gears. At 350 Nm, the 2.0-litre turbo engine has more than enough torque to get the job done, too!

With a 60 / 40 torque split, most of the Forester’s drive is transferred to the front wheels. Subaru purposely designed the Forester this way in order to induce understeer through emergency situations.

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