Having loved the all-new Subaru Forester when it came out in 2019 I am pleased to see Subaru making a hybrid version and look forward to putting it through our BabyDrive testing and driving it with my family!
I am always VERY eager to test each new Subaru Forester for BabyDrive as we have one as our family car!! It's not as clean and modern as the shiny showroom car tested here though!! Ours, Gump, is old and battered and has carried us and our memories around Australia a few times since we bought him ten years ago!
Our pre-baby selves have cheered him over sand dunes, held our breath down slippery liquid dirt roads and slept on top of him in our roof tent in some of the most remote and beautiful locations!! He is also the one we brought our baby girl home in and the one she has peed all over the seats of during toilet training, has squished monster crackers into the seats and she also fondly calls him Gump too! Heart melt!!
Oh! Enough of the reminiscing!!!! Let's see how the Subaru Forester Hybrid gets on as a BabyDrive!!
The first thing I'm going to tell you about is the hybrid electric motor, which for me let the Forester down during our week of testing! It lacked a lot of the plus points that hybrids bring to family life, like the car starting quietly, driving your bub to sleep using majority battery and not fuel, sitting in the car with the aircon running while bub sleeps using majority battery rather than fuel and the obvious advantage of reducing fuel consumption.
Sadly none of these things was the case with the Subaru Forester Hybrid. The petrol engine is smaller than a regular Forester and this should in theory be compensated for by the electric motor however, the real-world result is that the car is very revvy, especially on motorways and up hills, so it feels like it's actually using more fuel than the regular Forester. The use of the electric motor also doesn't last long at all compared to other hybrid cars I've driven and the engine comes in almost straight away so you don't get that lovely quiet start as in most hybrids.
You can also really feel when the engine kicks in and it's not a smooth transition. In fact, on a few occasions during our week it was almost like a thump when the engine kicked in.
I normally love that I can do laps of my local block to get my daughter to sleep using predominantly battery but it just wasn't the case with the hybrid Forester and when I did come to a stop with her asleep in the back when I put the car into ‘Park' the engine kicked in with a rev and noisily chewed through the fuel while she slept.
I personally prefer the regular Forester and feel this is a missed opportunity with the hybrid to make it really work well to provide the same advantages as other hybrid cars for families.
The rest of the Subaru Forester is fantastic as usual! The facial recognition technology allows you to register a few drivers so that the car will scan your face automatically when you get in and adjust your seat, mirrors, aircon and digital display preferences to exactly how you like it. Which was perfect for us as I'm in the third trimester of pregnancy I like my aircon nice and cool whereas it is winter so hubby has his set to warm! Not forgetting it also gives you a welcome and leaving greeting!!
This is the comfort advantage of the facial recognition technology, it also scans your face for fatigue and concentration too while you're driving. If I tilt my head to see my little rear passengers or look away too long then I got some beeping and a “keep your eyes on the road” warning! Which is of course great technology but how about pop a conversation mirror in so I can see my rear passengers and I wouldn't have to turn my head??! Just saying!!
There is also the EyeSight technology in the new model Forester and this hybrid. It is a combination of a few safety features and when the cruise control is on it is constantly scanning the road in front of you and beeps constantly on motorways especially as cars come in and out of its range in front of you. It can feel a little harassing, especially when added to the usual cacophony of driving with kids in the car too.
So while talking about the cacophony of kids let's get onto those rear passengers… The Subaru Forester Hybrid is still practical back there.
Three child seats fit nicely in the back seats. There are three top tether anchorages in the seatbacks that are easily accessible through the boot and ISOFix points in the two outer rear seats. They are covered over with velcro fixed panels that I think over time will collect kids' dust, fluff and food in the velcro.
Legroom is really good in the Forester and even with rear-facing child seats installed, we could fit a 184cm driver in front of them. With forward-facing, you can easily fit a 184cm+ passenger in front.
Space has not been taken away from the boot in the hybrid model which is often the case. It is still spacious, however, the spare tyre has gone from underneath the boot floor in place of fitting in the battery.
We found fifteen shopping bags would fit in the boot of the Subaru Forester Hybrid from empty or a large dog. That's equal to the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and one more than the Toyota RAV4 hybrid. The boot floor is nice and flat good for dogs and suitable for an emergency nappy change and there are shopping bag hooks on both sides of the boot and a 12V socket on the left.
A twin side-by-side pram fits in the boot with six shopping bags as well as most other sizes of pram and stroller.
Storage is good inside the Subaru Forester Hybrid as well. All the door bins are well-sized to hold a large refillable water bottle, the cup holders in the front and back hold reusable and disposable coffee cups. The glove box and central console boxes are good sizes.
The rear map pockets have extra sections to hold more than just an iPad.
The media system is the same nice modern system that we loved in the 2019 Subaru Forester. It also has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as digital radio, which is excellent.
The sat-nav is easily navigated and the guidance is easily muted on the screen.
The reversing camera image is lovely and clear and fills the whole screen.
You can adjust the volume of the parking sensors in the screen in front of the steering wheel but I couldn't turn it off.
There is also the smaller screen, above the media screen, where you can see two extra camera views, one out of the front and the other is down the left-hand kerb, which I found really useful. There are two buttons in the central console to control these cameras.
I found the 2019 Subaru Forester a great car to drive but the Subaru Forester Hybrid a little disappointing. This is mainly because it is not as smooth as the regular Forester and the transition from electric motor to engine is not smooth.
Overall the new 2020 Subaru Forester Hybrid SUV is practical in terms of size and fitting everything and everyone in, but the hybrid is a missed opportunity.
The new Subaru Forester scored a five-star ANCAP safety rating in 2018 onwards and has seven airbags as standard.