The Subaru Forester's strengths have always been its off-road ability and spacious interior.
Unfortunately, its never been particularly great value for money or cheap to run. The 2013 Forester is aimed at changing all that with new, cleaner engines, more standard kit and more space.
Whats the 2013 Subaru Forester like to drive?
The Foresters suspension and body are both stiffer than in the outgoing car's, and this gives surprisingly good body control. Overall, the Forester is far more composed through a set of bends than taller rivals, such as the Honda CR-V.
The Foresters steering isnt ideal, though. Its light enough to make town work easy, but is inconsistently weighted at higher speeds. To make matters worse, the shortage of weight around the straight ahead means you end up making continual adjustments just to stay in your lane on the motorway.
The low-speed ride is also a little fidgety over broken surfaces, although things improve as the speed builds. Tyre and wind noise are also minimal, helping to keep things civilised.
The entry-level 145bhp 2.0-litre boxer diesel is surprisingly smooth and offers a healthy 258lb ft of torque from as little as 1600rpm. However, it sounds strained when you rev it. The unusual layout of the engine also means theres a lot of shudder at idle.
The smaller 148bhp boxer petrol is a more refined choice, being just as smooth but significantly quieter.
Adding the Lineartronic CVT gearbox which is restricted to petrol models brings CO2 emissions down to 150g/km, but causes the engine to transmit far more noise into the cabin when you accelerate.
Paddleshifters come on all automatic models, although these work best with the 237bhp turbo petrol. The six pre-set ratios give this range-topping Forester a 0-62mph time of just 7.5 seconds, although average fuel economy of 33.2mpg will put off a lot of buyers.
Choose an automatic version and the Foresters off-road abilities are better than ever. Select X-mode (via a button on the centre console) and the system works effectively with the auto gearbox to deliver optimum traction when things get slippy. Unfortunately, manual models dont get this useful feature. Cars fitted with X-mode also get hill-descent control.
Whats the 2013 Subaru Forester like inside?
As well as being longer, taller and wider than ever before, the new Forester also has a longer wheelbase. In addition, the front pillars and dashboard have been moved forwards to provide even more cabin space.
This has certainly done the trick, because head- and legroom in the front two seats is very generous, while theres enough adjustment in the seat and steering wheel to allow the driver to get comfortable.
Thanks to that extended wheelbase, two six-foot adults will also fit happily in the back, although shoulder-room is tight.
At 505 litres, luggage space is on a par with Mazdas CX-5, but some way behind the CR-Vs. The rear seats split 60/40 and can be folded by pressing a button in the boot compartment, but they dont go completely flat and the boot floor cant be adjusted for height.
That said the boot is a regular shape, with a flat entry-lip and a decent underfloor storage compartment. The materials in the back feel durable as well.
The dash is solid and functional, and the switchgear is easy to reach and understand, but the materials dont feel particularly classy. The standard stereo isnt great, either; sound quality is tinny.
Standard kit on the 2.0D X includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a CD player, Bluetooth, a USB connection, air-con, heated front seats and hill-start assist.
Pricier XE trim brings automatic lights and wipers, a rear-view camera, cruise and climate controls, electric front seats and one-touch folding rear seats.
Top of the range Premium models add sat-nav, leather seats and an electric tailgate, while all models come with a five-star Euro NCAP rating.
Should I buy one?
We think the entry-level diesel makes the most sense, because it offers the best blend of efficiency and standard equipment.
However, it isnt cheap at 24,995 thats 300 more than the cheapest four-wheel-drive diesel Mazda CX-5 and 285 more than an equivalent Honda CR-V.
The Foresters rivals arent only cheaper to buy, they also manage more miles to gallon, emit less CO2 and come with more standard kit.
Unless you really value serious off-road ability, then, the Subaru makes little financial sense.
What Car? says...
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Price from 24,995
Torque 258lb ft
0-62mph 10.2 seconds
Top speed 118mph
Fuel economy 49.6mpg
Engine size 2.0-litre petrol
Price from 25,495
Torque 146lb ft
0-62mph 10.6 seconds
Top speed 118mph
Fuel economy 40.9mpg
Engine size 2.0-litre petrol
Price from 30,995
Torque 258 lb ft
0-62mph 7.5 seconds
Top speed 137mph
Fuel economy 33.2mpg