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What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For The Forester drives well for a 4x4, with decent handling and a supple ride

Against There's no diesel engine, and the cabin is not as practical as some rivals'

Verdict The Forester's fine drive is let down by its cramped cabin and poor economy

Go for… 2.0 X

Avoid… 2.5 XTEn

Subaru Forester 4x4
  • 1. Clutches and driveshafts can give out after 60,000 miles
  • 2. Legroom is tight in the back, and it's a bit of a squeeze for three people across the rear bench
  • 3. The boot is sufficient for most families' needs and the seats split and fold for extra luggage capacity
  • 4. The driving position is good and the seats are comfortable
  • 5. Every engine is good, but the 2.0-litre is the best and most economical
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Subaru Forester 4x4 full review with expert trade views

The Forester is usually compared to 4x4s such as the Toyota RAV4 and Land Rover Freelander, but it's not quite the same sort of car. In fact, the Forester is more of a four-wheel-drive estate than an outright off-roader.

It sits a little lower than a conventional 4x4, for a start, which helps to make it such a good drive. None of the engines are short of performance, and the suspension does a fine job, providing an excellent blend of a smooth ride with enjoyable handling.

The driving position is good, too, as are all-round visibility and the space up-front. However, it's not quite as good in the back: legroom is a bit tight and it's quite a squeeze to fit three adults across the back seat. The boot is big enough for most families' needs, and the split/fold rear seats are a big help.

Trade view

John Owen

Good country car, especially with high spec - strangely looks best in police livery

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

This version of the Forester arrived in the UK in the middle of 2002, was face-lifted three years later, and had a variety of different engines, but our favourite has always been the most basic model, the 2.0 X, which has all the equipment you need.

To begin with, the engine had 123bhp, but an all-new 2.5 156bhp was introduced as part of the 2005 face-lift. That made the car much quicker, but consumed more fuel, so stick to the less powerful original version, which was no slouch.

When the car was launched, the only alternative was the turbocharged 2.0-litre engine that made the Forester as quick as most hot hatches. It was discontinued in 2005, so the only alternative was the 2.5-litre six-cylinder, which made the Forester almost as quick as the Impreza WRX. However, it's expensive to buy and run, and best avoided.

Trade view

James Ruppert

2.0 GLS with all-weather pack is the pick of the early models

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Although many used Foresters are still within the Subaru network, prices are not too high. If you're looking at it as an alternative to a Land Rover Freelander or Toyota RAV4, the Forester is generally the cheaper option.

There's no worry about fuel economy, either, with the original 2.0-litre engine returning better mpg than the equivalent RAV4 or Freelander. And, although the more powerful 2.0-litre unit is more thirsty, it's only by a little.

Of the two high-performance engines, the turbocharged 2.0-litre is the better bet, as it returns almost 29mpg. However, even the 2.5's 26mpg is respectable for such a fast car.

Routine servicing costs are a little higher than a RAV4's, but insurance costs are fair as long as you steer clear of the quick versions. However, unscheduled work is dear: Warranty Direct says that average repair bills on Subarus are among the most expensive of any make's.

Trade view

John Owen

Good country car, especially with high spec - strangely looks best in police livery

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

Subaru has consistently performed well in customer satisfaction surveys, and this Forester has continued that trend, finishing joint top of its class in the 2006 JD Power survey.

The good news for potential buyers is that owners report virtually no problems with either the reliability of the car or its build quality. The only common complaint was that the stereo wasn't up to much.

Similarly, owners have posted generally positive reviews online, and no recalls have ever been issued on the Forester.

You may be concerned that Warranty Direct says that claim rates on Subarus are very high, but that's more a reflection of the number of Imprezas on their books than any weakness on the part of the Forester.

Warranty Direct's only words of caution with this car are that clutches and driveshafts can give out at 60,000 miles, and that spare parts and some repairs can be expensive.

Trade view

James Ruppert

2.0 GLS with all-weather pack is the pick of the early models

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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