In-depth reviews

Subaru Forester hybrid engines, drive & performance

Performance is a bit weak on the road, but once you head off it, the Subaru Forester e-Boxer hybrid is king of this class

Subaru Forester e-Boxer hybrid
Rating
Engines, drive & performance Rating
0-62mphTop speedDriven wheelsPower
11.8s117mphFour148bhp

If we were to give a standalone rating for off-road ability, the Forester hybrid would get five out of five. Unfortunately, we don’t and the e-Boxer's on-road performance is best described as lacklustre. It doesn't just have an underwhelming 0-62mph time, it's also slightly clunky making the transition from electric to petrol power.

Subaru Forester hybrid 0-62mph, top speed and acceleration

Needless to say, the Forester hybrid isn’t fast. In fact, you might find it mooing away rather noisily as the CVT automatic gearbox lets the 2.0-litre engine rev noisily when you try to build speed quickly. There can be a slight hesitation as it shuffles between the petrol and electric power sources, too. For all that, the Subaru does feel fast enough the majority of the time, and unless you ask for everything it’s got, it’s also quiet and calm. While the Forester’s on-road performance is just about adequate, it excels off road. The permanent four-wheel drive comes with two terrain settings: one for light mud and sand, the other for deep mud and snow (the latter allowing more slip). There’s also a hill-descent mode that automatically controls the car’s speed and traction when you’re crawling down a slope.

These gadgets, and ground clearance of 220mm, mean the Forester is better in tricky conditions than almost anything in its price range, short of dedicated 4x4s like the Land Rover Discovery Sport – and we suspect it’d even give that car a run for its money.

It certainly shrugged off the deep mud and steep, slippery slopes of our off-road track, dispatching them with casual ease that makes you feel almost secondary to the car’s progress. It does it all for you, and certainly feels as unstoppable as you’d ever expect a sub-£40,000 mid-sized family SUV to. It’ll tow a trailer or caravan weighing up to 1,870kg, as well.

Handling

You want a Subaru Forester to be stoically grippy, comfortable and easygoing to drive, and that’s just what it is. There’s a lot of sloppy body lean even in moderate cornering, but there’s also masses of grip and predictable steering response that makes it feel reassuring whatever the conditions.

Ride comfort is good, too, with the suspension soaking up the worst of the bumps and ruts in the road. The overall experience is one of an old-school SUV, despite the Forester’s very modern safety and electronic assistance systems. We rather like that about it, even if you can’t get around the fact that there are countless alternative SUVs that drive far better on road, including the Mazda CX-5, Skoda Kodiaq and Toyota RAV4.

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