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First Drive

First Drive: Subaru Forester hybrid

The story: Subaru is embracing ‘self-charging’ hybrid technology to cut emissions, with the E-Boxer system installed in Forester and XV SUVs
Key rival:Honda CR-V
Efficiency:34.7 mpg
On sale:Now

Subaru is certainly a niche UK player, but the brand has carved its niche in reliable off-road models with excellent safety levels.

An absence of diesel has led the brand down the route of so-called ‘self-charging’ hybrids, mating a 2.0-litre petrol engine with a small electric motor capable of powering the car on its own for short periods, similar to that deployed successfully by Toyota among others.

The issue with the Subaru system sticks out immediately in that despite the hybrid system, it’s nowhere near efficient enough. The 185g/km emissions figure compares with 131g/km for the Toyota Rav4, and 166g/km for the Honda CR-V, both of which are more powerful and comparable in price and size.

On the road, the powertrain also lacks in refinement, with the noise seeming to significantly outweigh the forward momentum when acceleration is requested, much like early Toyota systems used to do. But it rides nicely, a sensation helped by comfortable front seats, and has a rugged and simple good look to it.

First Drive- October 2020- Subaru Forester Hybrid- Image 5

Interior space is also excellent, especially for rear passengers, while the 520 litres of rear space is plenty for most applications, although the Rav4 and Nissan’s X-Trail can offer more. The boot also has four hooks and a 12-volt socket.

Equipment levels are good, as is to be expected at a price point heading towards £40,000, with Subaru’s suit of safety systems helping the car achieve a claimed highest ever score in its category for child occupant protection.

The Forester is more likeable and appealing than its XV smaller sibling, but is let down by a powertrain that doesn’t offer enough in terms of performance or efficiency.

paul barker

The verdict

E-Boxer powertrain is behind the times in terms of hybrid capabilities, and doesn’t offer enough efficiency to bring the Forester into sensible consideration. Which is a shame for an otherwise competent and decent car.