The Subaru Forester SUV is Subaru’s top-selling car in the UK and the all-new fifth generation model has improved on the conventional Forester model in almost every respect.
Based on the Subaru Global Platform architecture which also underpins the Subaru XV small SUV, the e-Boxer starts at £32,810, almost £4,000 more than the outgoing, conventionally powered Forester - a car you can still buy new in the UK at the time of writing.
Compared with the outgoing, albeit recently refreshed, Forester, the all-new model e-Boxer feels far more like a car worth its price tag. Additional space for passengers, massively improved interior quality, new advanced safety technology and improved fuel economy are among the improvements drivers will notice. One of the biggest steps forward for the Forester model is the introduction of a 2.0-litre petrol/electric hybrid engine.
Overview and Vital statistics
The hybrid set-up pairs a 150bhp boxer petrol engine with a lithium-ion battery unit to facilitate around a mile of EV-only driving at speeds of up to 25mph as well as improved performance at medium speeds.
The battery unit also has benefits for off-road driving and towing, providing additional torque in X-Mode, Subaru’s selectable driver assistance mode, for extreme conditions.
Sadly, or thankfully depending on your outlook, I tested the Forester e-Boxer during an unseasonably mild Christmas break so extreme conditions were not forthcoming.
The damp, dull conditions and quiet roads were no impediment to putting the car through the trials of a mix of B-road, motorway and suburban driving and testing how accurate the claimed fuel combined fuel consumption figure of 34.7mpg is.
Driving the Subaru Forester e-Boxer
With only a mile or so of EV-only range, buyers shouldn’t expect the e-boxer engine to have a huge impact on their fuel bills. In fact, during an extended test I had to visit the petrol pump a little more than I expected due to a reduction in the size of the fuel tank compared with the old model by around 12 litres. During the test I averaged 32.4 mpg which is an 8 per cent improvement compared with the petrol-powered Forester I test drove last year.
The ride is much improved on the older Forester model. It’s still supple and soaks up lumps and bumps with ease, but the wicked lean in the corners has gone, replaced by balance, stability and excellent grip. The brakes are much better as well, and this further improves the experience when cornering.While you get very little time in EV-only mode, the hybrid system changes mode seamlessly and power distribution feels smooth, if a little pedestrian, on the motorway.
Like other hybrid models running CVT gearboxes, the noise from the engine isn’t especially pleasing but the cabin at least is generally well insulated from it.
Interior and technology
The cabin is a quantum leap forward compared with the outgoing generation of Subaru interiors. The usual build quality is there and it feels like it would take a sledge hammer and an iron spike to make the slightest dent. Now though, the plastics and other materials match the quality of the ironmongery fixing the dashboard to the chassis.
We’re not quite talking premium materials on a par with BMW or Mercedes, but the e-Forester stands up very well against high-spec Toyota models and feels better than any Mitsubishi, Nissan or Kia models slugging it out in the same segment.
The hybrid e-boxer powerplant isn’t the only thing that’s high-tech about the e-Forester and the car is packed full of driver assist and convenience technology. The addition of a wing mirror-mounted, kerb-angled parking camera is a particular highlight that makes a real difference to city parking.
The driver monitoring system takes some getting used to and chirps a warning if it detects the driver looking away from the road for more than a few seconds and helps guard against distraction or the risk of someone falling asleep at the wheel.
Tech like the driver monitoring system, combined with 40 per cent increased body strength has led to the e-Forester achieving a ‘Best in Class’ award from Euro NCAP.
Taken in isolation the e-Forester is the best new Subaru in some time, but the investment in hybrid technology that only yields an extra four miles to the gallon over the standard two-litre petrol feels like an awfully conservative step. For that reason the e-Forester, like many a Subaru before it will likely remain a niche concern.
With the old model only available on forecourts until stocks run out, anyone looking for a new Forester in 2020 will get a car that’s a lot better than the old one.
Subaru Forester e-Boxer 2.0i XE
Price: £32,810 as tested
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, petrol with ISG motor and lithium ion battery
Transmission: CVT automatic
Top speed: 117mph
0-62mph: 11.8 seconds