1 Nov 2012

2014 Subaru Forester - Reasons to be cheerful

Subaru haven't done themselves any favours in recent years.  It's a cliche to say it but in this case it's true - during the nineties Subaru had two distinct customer bases.  The Impreza driving boy racers and the Legacy owning rural types.

Since then the company has successfully diversified their customer mix.  They've gone from a company operating in two distinct niche markets to a global manufacturer of quality cars.  They don't have the resource or scope of a Ford or BMW to diversify across segments but they've spread their wings to an extent.

The trouble is in trying to shake off the farmer and youth tags they went too far and in doing so alienated a lot of the people who made them successful in the first place.

The first case in point is the Impreza.  Once a focussed, all wheel drive, fire-breathing rally car for the road it was steadily diluted until the car and it's name were so far removed from the original as to be mere pastiches.  In 2000 Subaru's designers tried to design a more socially acceptable car, and failed.  2002's facelift gave us a disastrously ugly Impreza.  2007's redesign gave us a hideous blob of a hatchback.  In 2011 Subaru finally gave us a car that deserved the Impreza name - but didn't call it Impreza.  The WRX STI is priced at £27,000 which makes it a great alternative to the BMW M135i but no-one's buying it because it isn't called an Impreza WRX.

Then we turn to the Legacy and, specifically, the Outback.  It was such a good car that Jeremy Clarkson called it the best car in the world. The Outback was a jacked up Legacy estate with permanent four wheel drive, a bodykit and either a 2.5 or 3 litre flat six engine.  It was a fabulous car to drive and to live with.  But the Legacy was redesigned in 2009 and the Outback created as a separate car.  During this process some of the je ne sais quoi of the original was lost.  It fell into the background and fell out of favour with the rural set.  Now it is just another estate that happens to have four wheel drive.

Other cars have come and some have gone.  The Tribeca has now thankfully disappeared from the UK.  Planned to sit alongside a sister Saab (the 9-6), it's first incarnation was a strange looking animal that was meant to tempt previous Outback buyers.  But it didn't and now it has been removed from sale in the UK - but lives on in the US.

We also have the malignant XV, which is vastly bland and expensive and no-one wants to buy, and the brilliant BR-Z which is utterly fantastic - but Subaru cannot hope to match Toyota's massive marketing campaign for the GT86.

You may note that we haven't yet mentioned the one car this article pertains to be about - the Forester.  Throughout all the tumultuous events of the past decade the Subaru Forester has remained rock steady. In it's first and second incarnations the Forester was basically an Impreza with a bigger, taller body and a plastic bodykit (like the Outback).  It even used the Impreza's engine.  The 200bhp 2 litre turbo was massive fun.

In 2008 a third generation Forester was released.  As with other Subarus it was watered down from it's utilitarian roots but the essence of a good car remained.  It was, and remains, a decent rival to other soft roaders - but, unlike most soft roaders, it will go off road.

In 2014 Subaru will replace the Forester with the model you see in the pictures. Engines will be a 170bhp, 2.5 litre, four cylinder and a turbocharged 2. 0 litre unit that pumps out 250bhp.  Aside from the fact it will be slightly bigger than the outgoing model and gets permanent four wheel drive that is pretty much all we know at the moment.

But, for us, that turbocharged 2 litre and those looks are reason to be pretty excited about the new Forester.  Finally Subaru seem to have come to their senses and designed a car that is both close to it's roots but also absolutely modern and up to date.

Instead of ploughing the bland furrow Subaru have changed course and seem to have found the path marked 'character'.  Thank goodness.

We'll bring you more information about the new Forester as and when it becomes available.