As old school as they come, unpretentious, practical as you like
Tiny hybrid range, disappointing interior, not the cheapest
What is it?
This is the Subaru Forester e-Boxer. In the past, TG has been a big fan of the Subaru Forester. Previous versions were honest, able and reliable – favouring substance and actual off-road ability when so many others went in pursuit (often fruitlessly in this crossover SUV segment) of style points. However, although it may not look like it at first glance, big changes have come for Scooby’s fifth-generation SUV.
Like so many of its rivals (think Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail, Toyota RAV4, VW Tiguan) the Forester has gone hybrid. At the e-Boxer’s heart is still a Subaru classic: a 2.0-litre four-cylinder Boxer engine. When combined with a small lithium-ion battery and electric motor, power stands at 164bhp and torque at 193lb ft. There’s also permanent four-wheel drive and a CVT automatic gearbox to get said power to said wheels.
IT'S NOT THE MOST EXCITING LOOKING, IS IT?
You’re not wrong, though the Forester did receive a mid-life facelift in early 2022, with a redesigned front fascia, grille, headlights and fog light colours. The headlights are the biggest giveaway, but it’s hardly the best looking SUV on the market.
Underneath it’s based on Subaru’s new Global Platform, which not only simplifies production, but also means body strength is increased by around 40 per cent and rear legroom by 30mm over the old car. The mid-life facelift also saw improvements to the suspension for improved ride comfort and more agile handling, says Subaru.
HAS HYBRIDISATION CHANGED THE FORESTER’S CHARACTER?
The good news is the Forester is still a very capable thing, but there’s no doubt it’s lost some of that old school charm that we loved about the previous generation.
The e-Boxer powertrain just feels like an oversight, or at the very least a missed opportunity – depending on how you view hybrids as a whole – and at odds with the rest of the car’s honest, unpretentious nature.
That one mile of electric range just isn’t enough to justify the extra development and thus purchase costs for buyers, many of whom would be better off with a full plug-in hybrid. Click through to the Driving tab for more.
IS THE INTERIOR ANY BETTER?
Well, that depends what you’re after. There’s no doubt that it feels dated in here compared to some of its rivals, but on the other hand it offers a robustness and practicality that they cannot match. Plenty of hard-wearing plastics, in other words.
Indeed, there are few surprises at all inside. It’s ergonomically laid out while on the tech front you get a 6.3-inch multifunction display that sits atop the dash plus an 8.0-inch infotainment display. Otherwise there’s plenty of space for passengers front and rear plus a good sized boot. Full details on the Interior tab.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Prices start from £37,990 in basic EX trim, rising to £40,990 in top spec Premium trim. Head over to the Buying tab for the full lowdown.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
The Forester e-Boxer is a tricky one to sum up. The Forester part is still an extremely loveable, practical SUV that has been enhanced with updated safety systems and interior tech. It retains the chunky, reliable feel of the old one and is bigger and thus more practical than it has ever been. It also keeps its off-road abilities without compromising the on-road ride quality.
But we just can’t get on board with the e-Boxer powertrain and its pointless electric range. Couple that with the dated cabin, slightly dozy gearbox and poor economy figures, and there are better, more desirable options available.