“Subaru, nice choice!” shouted the Impreza-driver in the multi-story. Subaru buyers stick together it seems. I’m making an effort not to fall into the fan club and become biased toward a brand, but they unavoidably appeal to lovers of bold, solid, unfussy vehicles and the Forester’s little touches of luxury make it more than just a practical off-roader.

Only about 10 percent of Forester buyers go for an XT but the top version costs 50 percent more in Mexico. The Forester X has one of the lowest starting prices in the premium compact SUV class but jumps from MX$415,900 to MX$615,900 for the XT Navi. But getting 70hp more is probably worth the cost of the direct-injection turbo. A 170hp 2.5L flat four comes as standard but XT models upgrade to 250hp from a 2.0L turbo flat four.

As always, the 4-cylinder Boxer engine feels right, though the sound isolation is so complete you can forget the Forester has a boxer if you spend too much time off the straights. It starts to feel like a normal large family car, until it emerges frustrated from the bottleneck and tiny roads, the Forester XT accelerates out of traffic in a burst of excitement. More than just fun, this responsiveness is practical – to overtake slower drivers and get onto safer open road for such a large car power is essential.

The shifts give the impression drivers need a bit of muscle to manage a Forester, and the front end has the same themed look. Hollows below the geometric headlights guide air into the intake and set the XT Navi apart visually from the other specs. The xenon lights are an attractive square C shape too and provide perfect visibility.

While the SUV will probably mostly be bought by people who drive their fully-grown families around cities, convinced by the enormous back seats, the four-wheel drive “X” button provides the extra traction needed to get over steep bridges and streets, and down and up-hill assistance to pull off, nonetheless the clear target audience is off-roaders. The rarity of standard all-wheel drive sets this Subaru apart from competing brands, but this does mean it suffers from below-average fuel economy at 12.5/10.5 L/100km. The suspension is also suited to an off-roader, McPherson of course makes potholes near-on disappear.

The interiors are simple, unfussy and discrete enough to be classy without being ostentatious. The materials don’t stand out but subtle austerity is good behind the wheel to minimize distractions, and the luxury can be felt in the sturdiness of the gearstick, steering wheel and the extremely comfortable seats, rather than seen. The driver’s seat has adjustable lower-back support making it one of the most comfortable vehicles to drive. Most impressive for the Mexico Automotive Team was that the Forester has the highest cargo capacity in its class and oodles of space in the back seats. This is the biggest advantage if cozy isn’t a selling point, nor is spending more than 20 minutes with someone’s knees pressed up against your back as you drive your idea of bonding.

In terms of connectivity, we had no complaints regarding Bluetooth, USB connection. The responsiveness of the system when changing tracks or radio stations was not the fastest ever seen, however. The touch screen is large enough to be useful for the rear-view camera, music and navigation on the X at 4.3in but the 7in screen on the top spec XT makes all the difference to usability while driving (ahem).

Pros

  • Spacious front and back seats
  • Desirable power and speed
  • Standard four-wheel drive

Cons

  • Fuel-economy
  • Basic exterior design
  • No manual option on XT Navi
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