If you have read more than a few of my columns, you will know my stance vis-a-vis the so called Soft Roader. The Little Engine that couldn't. The off-roader that can do anything but make it off road. They also make bad passenger vehicles due to their increased running costs, higher fuel economy and the extra weight and wheel travel make them unpleasant road cars. Station wagons for those who don't want to be caught dead in Mom's Taxis.
The Subaru Forester is an anomaly in this wood pile. It is a station wagon looking station wagon that wait for it, actually has a transfer box and a working four wheel drive system. Subaru's reputation for reliability doesn't go amiss either. They have always been considered a little thirsty, and this one is no exception. It is no longer a monster in the fuel consumption stakes and it can safely be removed from a permanent hook up to an oil pipeline. Around 9-11 litres per 100km's should be achievable depending on your driving style. This is worth noting as Subaru, due to its schizophrenic history and nature, attracts two wildly different customer bases. You know who you are too. The WRX Playstation crowd will see the higher end of the fuel range while the conservatives who have always gone for Subaru's low key look and bulletproof build will see the lighter numbers. Both are realistic. For a vehicle of this size the 9.3 claimed is a good number and easily achievable with normal driving.
In fact it must be said, that this is what this model is all about; Solid, if unsparkling performance. The 2.5 126kw naturally aspirated mid-range model comes in a shade under 320k with its old school 5 speed manual gearbox that works well. The low range transfer is a lesson to other manufacturers in both simplicity and ease of use. So easy, that if you aren't used to the car, transferring to low range is as easy as pulling up the handbrake, and is a similar operation. The engine will get you to the ton in a respectable 9.2 seconds. About the only high tech-iness to it is the hill hold function, which lets you pull off on a hill without going to the trouble of using the handbrake yourself.
The XS model brings some extra speakers and a couple of enhanced finishes, including a wood finish for which you can tell from space, no tree died for. It looks bad. For my money, leave R23,000 in the bank and buy the lesser 2.5 X MT and the only real sacrifice would be air-con in place of climate control. That or get some really dark sunglasses.
This is a car that does everything kind of well, is brilliant at nothing but ticks all the boxes for those who want the great outdoors sans ego, trouble or fuss. I say another good product from Subaru that will, sadly and undeservedly, probably go unnoticed by the average motorist.