Subaru's staple SUV maintains its cred with suspension upgrades and a quieter cabin. Marcus Craft reports.

Facing a wave of new rivals, Subaru has given its stalwart Forester SUV a mid-generation tweak that includes a quieter cabin and suspension upgrades to boost stability.

Pricies are unchanged, starting from $29,990 for the Forester 2.0i-L manual and climbing via $39,490 for the 2.5i-S CVT auto. Top of the range is the $47,990 2.0XT Premium auto.

Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior describes the changes to the Forester, now in its fourth generation, as "extensive" for a midlife update and cites "a raft of technical improvements".

Deft touches in the cabin of the 2.5i-S run to leather trim (including steering wheel and gearshift), colour multimedia screen and heated front seats. Premium variants get driver's seat memory function.

Exterior styling changes include a grille that has been tweaked across the range to fit in with a classier looking front end. There are new design 18-inch alloy wheels, re-profiled front bumper, LED headlights that turn with the steering and daytime running lights.

This model also has Subaru's comprehensive EyeSight driver assist, with safety features such as lane-departure warning, as well as an automatic tailgate and Siri compatibility.

Senior expects Forester to maintain its monthly sales average of 1000 examples despite the arrival of new or revised versions of the Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson and Toyota RAV4 in recent months.

He regards the reduction in cabin noise and vibration as among the Forester's most significant improvements. To achieve this, Subaru used thicker glass in the side windows, amended the body structure and door seals to reduce wind noise and even added cushioning to each end of the instrument panel.

Subaru claims a 5 per cent reduction in cabin decibels; we can't confirm that but it was impressively quiet. Over back-country bitumen, dusty backroads and potholed tracks, noise intrusion was not an issue.

The suspension and steering improvements are conspicuous. The steering feels well-weighted, light and responsive, allowing the driver to punt the Forester along dusty roads at some pace with no fear of overdoing steering inputs.

Subaru has been giving its SUV suspension the Aussie real-world treatment for ages, so it's no surprise that when you drive a Forester on a bush track here, the vehicle feels comfortable and compliant.

Thanks to the altered damping and spring settings, the Forester displays safe and settled behaviour at all times on test, through fast sweeping dirt-road corners, surprise undulations and with a few emergency braking tests (to simulate country kangaroo pop-ups) thrown in for good measure.

As the sun drops, we take this Forester, at more considered pace, on washed-out logging tracks. We go slow to avoid real kangaroos, of which there are plenty at this stage of the day.

The Forester ambles along, with X-Mode engaged, over numerous substantial obstacles with no wheel-slip, all paws smoothly in action. It's lots of fun.

Back out on the road and at speed, however, there's a lack of responsiveness in this petrol Forester as the CVT, while trying to save fuel, busily holds it back.