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Subaru Forester 2.0 diesel review

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    The new diesel offering from Subaru has 'some solid pulling power' and is 'a comfortable drive around town'. Photo Gallery

David Fitzsimons road tests and reviews the Subaru Forester with the new 2.0-litre diesel engine and six-speed manual.

If you're going to produce a four-cylinder diesel-engined car with only a manual transmission you have to expect to have a narrow spread of customers. Such a situation faces Subaru which has just unveiled the new Forester 2.0D all-wheel-drive following the earlier release of the diesel Outback.

On the negative side the noisy chatter of some diesel engines is a turn-off to many motorists. And the manual gearbox's days of dominance are well and truly gone with most people today driving automatics. Not only do they simplify driving they also have performance levels today virtually as good as a manual.

On the plus side, diesels are more economic. They dominate the European landscape where, unlike in Australia, fuel pricing strategies actually encourage people to buy them. Here, diesel economy is still a winner even though diesel prices are usually higher than petrol.

In Subaru's favour though is that the Forester is the stand-out smaller AWD on sale in this country. With its high-stance on 16-inch wheels, solid off-road capabilities, roomy interior, practical boxy shape and noted reliability and performance the Forester is as good a place as anywhere for Subaru to stake its claim in diesel sales. And it says the Outback diesel is doing well.


Priced from $35,990, there are two specification levels for the diesel Forester. For an extra $4000 you can get the top-of-the-range Premium, which scores tinted glass, pockets behind the front seats, a better CD player, 17-inch alloys and a full size alloy spare, an electronically adjustable driver's seat, leather rather than cloth trim and Xenon headlights with their own pop-up washers. You also gain a sunroof which I generally find is the least-used feature in most cars, although other drivers swear by them.

Like the petrol version, the diesel Forester has DataDot security to discourage theft and has an extended first term of life as the first service is not needed until 12,500km or six months are reached. Adding to the mix is a suite of five-star safety features including dual front, side and curtain airbags and stability control as standard. It has a three-star pedestrian safety rating.


The Forester's two-litre flat boxer turbodiesel engine has 108kW of power and 350Nm of torque, driving all four wheels with a six-speed manual. Subaru is claiming just 5.7L/100km fuel economy on the open road and an average of 6.4L including around town.

Our week with the car, largely around town, has produced slightly higher fuel use, but with a good-sized (64 litre) tank the range between fill-ups is long, If you can maintain the average you should get 1000km per tank full.

It comes down to whether fuel economy (the petrol version is about 3L/100km thirstier) and the enjoyment of manual shifting (particularly out of the city limits) are important enough to you to opt for the oiler.


That torque level starts way down, producing some solid pulling power in the low gears. Around town it is a comfortable drive, that torque gets it away from the traffic lights impressively. With six gears on hand you will find yourself with a couple to spare at city speed limits such is the mid-range power. The shifting is quite light, particularly from 2nd to 3rd and the car has a hill-start assist feature to reduce any chance of rolling back when starting on an incline. It's actually a pity more people don't like manuals as this is a neat little box.

The sound of the diesel engine is loudest at low revs and fades away when you're cruising. It's not as bad as some diesels we have driven but you do notice it. We didn't hit the dirt or tow anything but reports from its recent launch event suggest it is a winner there.

Poor rear vision is a problem in many cars, particularly big off-roaders today, neccessitating rear vision cameras. The high stance of the Subaru and a wide rear window gives better rear visibility than many other vehicles.

Inside there's an overall black feel. The seats are black, the dash is black and the dials aren't particularly bright. But, there's plenty of leg and head room in both passenger rows. The sound system though is good for the price and there are steering wheel controls to change the volume etc.

At the rear the hatch is opened manually while the level of the boot is at a good height for average sized motorists. There's plenty of storage space in the back even with the second row of seats in place. We loaded a full-size folding bicycle into the rear with ease, although there wasn't much room left for anything else.

The diesel Forester won't appeal to everyone. The petrol version of the Forester is a fine car already. It’s the fuel economy that will be the decider for some.

RATING: 80/100

THE BOTTOM LINE: Solid, practical and versatile car that with a diesel powerplant and manual-only transmission is restricted in its appeal. And there's nothing wrong with the petrol version.


Price: from $35,990
Engine: 2L/4-cylinder 108kW/350Nm turbodiesel
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Economy: 6.4L/100km (official)


VW Tiguan 2.0 TDI from $36,690
Hyundai ix35 2.0 diesel from $34,990
Nissan x-Trail 2.0 diesel from $37,740
Land Rover Freelander 2.3 TD4e from $45,590
Subaru Outback 2.0D from $40,490

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 14 comments

  • Because Diesel engine cost $4000 more to make.

    Tristan benson of Melbourne Posted on 18 December 2013 3:05am
  • I just bought one. I test drove a Jeep Compass, Mazda CX5 Maxx Sports and lastly the Subaru. It was a tough call between the Subaru and Mazda. Ultimately it came down that leather and sunroof swayed me away from the newer Mazda model. I also got a great price which brought it within range of the Mazda. In the end it was an easy decision for me.

    Andrew of Brisbane Posted on 16 March 2012 7:29pm
  • I have a 2006 auto Forrester turbo and I am still waiting for a new style Forrester not a revamped makeover with a 2.5 or 3.0 liter turbo diesel auto. I don’t want to have to buy a 3 tonne suv to go to the shops, the Forrester is ideal, so come on Subaru, listen to your customers!





    Up wit








    John Shipard of Ramsgate Beach nsw 2217 Posted on 15 March 2012 1:55pm
  • Oh how our requirements change. I’m comtemplating getting out of my 1994 Land Rover Discovery Tdi300 with 280k on the clock for one of these babies. Don’t know why there is a big price difference in petrol v diesel engines compared to other vehicle makers.

    Floyd of SYDNEY of Sydney Posted on 02 September 2011 8:47pm
  • No auto box? oh boo hoo, whats wrong with peoples legs these days? Are people only born with one leg or something?
    Autos are rubbish, I much prefer the manual

    matt of fairfield Posted on 03 March 2011 1:46am
  • Why can?t Subaru produce a diesel Forester with the normal 5sp gearbox and low range suitable for Australian conditions? The lower the low gear the better for sneaking around in steep and / or rough terrain.  A higher air intake would be handy for minor creek crossing too! We were thinking of purchasing a diesel Forester to lightly travel around Australia’s coastal regions.

    Robin Halton of North Hobart Tasmania Posted on 29 January 2011 4:20pm
  • Traded my 2009 petrol for my Diesel last August. Have towed caravan 10,000km already She hasn’t missed a beat. Fuel consumption 10.6l/100km with 1300kg towing and kayak on top of car. 6l/100km unloaded. I am very happy with her. Reason for trade was extra torque and fuel economy, and she has met my expectations.

    Jenny Campbell` of Umina Beach NSW Posted on 11 January 2011 11:10pm
  • I’ve no doubt the new Forester is a great car, especially in diesel. Shame about no auto just yet but personally I think I’d quite enjoy the manual version anyways. As for towing a caravan, probably not what it’s best at with a tow ball limit of 160kgs, unless of course it’s a camper trailer or something super light weight. Don’t get caught-up in the diesel hype. Do the maths & think about the petrol too. Remember the cheaper petrol model will save you an aweful for fuel for the holidays.

    Blinky Bill of Bellingen NSW Australia Posted on 30 December 2010 2:47am
  • Towing limited to 1600kgs max. with a downball weight of 160kgs

    As to a caravan be towed safely, that all falls down to the driver,
    how he/she drives on the roads reflects in the way they will tow in safety.

    Should you need to overtake a slower vehicle, you must have several hundred mtrs to accomplish manouvre,when travelling in wet, allow double the distance for stopping, practice reversing in a shopping complex car-park after hours, when reversing for park. have only one guide, not half-dozen family members, this way-that way etc etc

    Have the proper mirrors attached to vehicle towing, keep air pressures up on van, get a spare, make sure lights working,indicators too, measure height of van when attached to tow vehicle-look-out for signs showing height of structure, car may go under but not van.

    1600kgs max. load, that includes all liquids, towels blankets food utensils plates cups saucers bins fridges eskys clothes shoes jackets load up with most stuff, only trip away will show, what-not-to-take-next-time.

    most liquids are 1ltr = 1kg, ie 50ltrs water = 50kgs weight, dont forget those under van tanks, try and keep weight over axle, spread rest evenly

    CarlMc of Taree Hinterland Posted on 31 August 2010 5:53pm
  • They just need to add better thigh support and an auto box and I’ll be trading up my existing Forester X.

    Steven Posted on 25 August 2010 7:26pm
  • Purchased one 16/7/10. It’s my third Subaru and already I love it! Terrific driving position and the diesel is a cracker. If this one is as reliable as the other two it will see me out!

    rob eggers of cairns fnq Posted on 24 July 2010 6:38am
  • Tested the new diesel today and was blown away with it’s power and performance. I have owned a 2001 2ltr petrol model and thought the new Diesel (to my suprise) was going to be a dud. “No way”, will be seriously looking at buying one. In regards to towing a small van or boat, I say no problem. Tested on a 16 foot Jayco.

    Greg Whittle of Busselton WA Posted on 06 July 2010 1:27am
  • Unfortunately for those of us in the US, we don’t have the option of buying the diesel models. Subaru of America won’t sell them to us. Those of us that want diesel have a Facebook fan page [Bring Subaru Diesel to the US!] and we’re hoping we can get SOA to see the market that’s waiting and waiting and waiting. At some point, folks are going to give up and buy diesels from the competition.

    Subie Lover Posted on 03 July 2010 1:26am
  • Can a caravan be towed easily and safely.  Lorraine

    Lorraine Howard of Gold coast Qld Posted on 02 July 2010 1:14pm
Read all 14 comments

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